Watch The Voice of Van Gogh: A synaesthetic exploration of the life of the painter through Michael Gordon’s opera Van Gogh

This event brings together experts in theatre, music, and art history to examine the internal world and perspectives of Vincent Van Gogh. In Part I of the conversation, using Michael Gordon’s opera about Van Gogh as a lens, the speakers will interrogate what the mindset and psychology of the painter might have been at various points in his life, but will also hypothesise that there was a synaesthetic element to his experience. In Part II of the conversation, the speakers will discuss how they will bring these academic insights to life on the stage: director Jonny Danciger and conductor Hannah Schneider relate their plans for a fully-staged production of the opera in June 2021. Finally, in Part III, there floor will be open to the audience to ask questions. 

This event is part of Van Gogh: A Synaesthetic Approach to Performance, a project led by Hannah Schneider and supported by TORCH as part of the Humanities Cultural Programme.


Speaker Bios:

Hannah Schneider: Hannah Schneider is the founder and music director of Oxford Alternative Orchestra, an ensemble dedicated to the intersection of music, social impact, and alternative performance practices. She is assistant conductor at The Grange Festival, UK, and of Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra. She is in demand as a guest conductor in Russia, the UK, the United States, and the Ukraine, including engagements with the Lviv International Symphony Orchestra, Yakutsk State Symphony Orchestra, Kaluga Symphony Orchestra, and in the US, the Wallingford Symphony Orchestra, So&So (New York), and Ballet Hartford. In response to the pandemic, she initiated the CHRYSALIS project, a global collaboration between choreographers, composers, and Oxford Alternative Orchestra to create short films that fuse these media and aim to instil hope. She was raised and trained in Russia, and is in the final stages of completing a doctorate in music at the University of Oxford, where she is a Rhodes Scholar, and is specialising in Soviet opera. 

Michael Gordon: Over the past 30 years, Michael Gordon has produced a strikingly diverse body of work, ranging from large-scale pieces for high-energy ensembles and major orchestral commissions to works conceived specifically for the recording studio and kaleidoscopic works for groups of identical instruments. Transcending categorization, his music represents the collision of mysterious introspection and brutal directness. Gordon’s recent works include Travel Guide to Nicaragua, a concert-length work for chorus and cello, written for The Crossing with cellist Maya Beiser, and co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia; a new chamber version of his opera Acquanetta, commissioned/premiered by Beth Morrison's Prototype Festival in NYC; "8" commissioned by the Amsterdam Cello Octet, the latest addition to Gordon’s concert-length music for multiples; Big Space, commissioned and presented by the BBC Proms; a concert-length work for choir, Anonymous Man, commissioned/premiered by The Crossing, and three new works for orchestra — Natural History, written for the 100th Anniversary of the United States' National Parks and premiered at Crater Lake in Oregon; Observations on Air, a concerto for bassoon for soloist Peter Whelan, commissioned by The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; and The Unchanging Sea, a piano concerto for Tomoko Mukaiyama with a new film by Bill Morrison commissioned/premiered by the Seattle Symphony and the Rotterdam Symphony. Gordon and Morrison's other collaborations include the Decasia, Dystopia, Gothamand El Sol Caliente. Gordon's discography includes Anonymous Man, Acquanetta, Observations on Air, The Unchanging Sea, Clouded Yellow, Sonatra, Natural History, Timber Remixed, Dystopia, Rushes, Timber, Weather, Light is Calling, Decasia, (purgatorio) POPOPERA, Van Gogh, Trance, and Big Noise from Nicaragua. He is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York's legendary music collective Bang on a Can. His music is published by Red Poppy Music (ASCAP) and Ricordi/Universal Music Classical.

Dr Lena Fritsch is the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Ashmolean Museum (University of Oxford), working on a wide range of exhibitions, displays and acquisitions of international art. She previously worked at Tate Modern and Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum of Contemporary Art Berlin. Together with Ingrid Fritsch, she manages the musical estate of her father, acclaimed composer Johannes Fritsch (edition johannes fritsch).

Jonny Danciger is a stage director, designer and composer from South-West London. He is currently the artistic director of the OSO Arts Centre in Barnes, and is the founder and artistic director of educational theatre company Barricade Arts, with whom he coordinates international tours. Engagements as director or assistant include work with the British Youth Opera (assisting Keith Warner), Royal Opera House, Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, Cumbria Opera Festival, Oxford Alternative Orchestra and Oxford Playhouse. He works frequently as a sound designer and audio engineer, with credits including the Birmingham Old Rep, Oxford Playhouse, Peacock Theatre, and most recently as audio engineer on Hannah Schneider’s ‘CHRYSALIS’ project. Jonny has also performed in the West End under the direction of Polly Findlay (Twisted Tales, Lyric Hammersmith) and Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, Victoria Palace Theatre). He read an undergraduate degree in music at St Peter’s College, Oxford, specialising in opera and musical electronics.