Lionel Bringuier

Tuesday 4th October 2011

Lionel Bringuier received well deserved praise in French paper Le Monde.  Lionel is currently conducting Carmen at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm with sought-after dramatic soprano Katarina Dalayman in the title role.

The article, written by Renaud Machart is available at lemonde.fr and the English translation by Emilie Walker is below.


Lionel Bringuier lives up to the buzz he generated, ten years after being discovered at the age of 14

The little conductor all grown up

Stockholm, on a sunny and calm late afternoon. The air is crisp and fresh, and beyond the clouds is a backdrop of sapphire blue. Water all around, boats in the harbour, the architecture is splendid in its variety. On the night before and on the day of his 25th birthday, Lionel Bringuier, a french conductor whose popularity is growing around the world, lead his first opera at the Royal Swedish Opera. Carmen, no less.

We met up with the young man at the terrace of a café : he is simple, calm. For the past few months he has been growing a beard, which adds maturity to his juvenile features. Having said this, maturity is something this young man definitely does not lack (he obtained his baccalaureate at the age of 15). After he appeared on television at the age of 14, as the head of a symphonic group at the Victoires de la Musiques, he could have easily become a slave to the ample media coverage that followed, just like he could have delevopped an artist’s ego.

‘I focused on properly learning to be a musician’, he confides, ‘after studying the cello and the piano at the Conservatoire de Nice,  my home town, at 15 I started studying conducting at the Conservatoire de Paris.’

He then fell off the radar, until he won in 2005 the prestigious ‘Premier Prix’, at the conducting competition of Besançon. He was only 18 years old. Lionel continued to forge his discreet path, later becoming Assistant Conductor and then Associate Conductor at the National Orchestra of Brittany, and at the Orchestral Ensemble of Paris. His next move, however, came as a surprise. In 2006, instead of considering the many invitations he started to receive, he decided to become Assistant Conductor at the Los Angeles Philarmonic, under Esa-Pakka Salonen, who chose him amongst hundreds of candidates.

What does being an Assistant Conductor consist of? ‘One must prepare the scores, and must be ready to take the reins of the Orchestra, if for example the musical director wants to check the sound  balance in the room.’ For Bringuier, the job has added aspects of interest. ‘By being at the side of guest Conductors, as an Assistant you get the chance to closely observe the work of some great talents.’ He insists ‘You can’t imagine how much I learnt in that way.’

It’s also likely that as an Assistant, one has to conduct with very short notice; it fell onto Bringuier to replace the french Conductor Stéphane Denève, whose wife had just given birth, or Gustavo Dudamel, the current musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic who had injured his shoulder during the first part of a concert. Bringuier thereby became a sensation after conducting Tchaikovsky’s ‘Symphonie Pathétique’, which received a laudatory review from the Los Angeles Times.

With four seasons as Assistant Conductor in California, a rising fame (he is constantly re-invited by Orchestras with whom he performs) and his appointment at the head of the Symphonic Orchestra of Castilla-y-Leon in Valladolid, the Frenchman has surprised the musical world once again by signing with the Los Angeles Philarmonic, this time as a Resident Conductor, a position created especially for him. ‘I am still assisting Gustavo with certain programmes, but I am also leading five concerts per season, mainly concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as contemporary music programmes.’

So how did this first Opera experience go ? ‘I wouldn’t quite call it my first experience’, he admits. ‘I had already worked as an Assistant at the Rennes Opera, and had the chance to lead a performance of Rita by Donizetti. I also had the good fortune of being able to run through Bizet’s score with my Spanish orchestra, in a semi-staged production.’

The world of opera is attractive to this young man, but he is certainly discovering its uniqueness.  ‘In Stockholm, I am working with an orchestra split into three staggered ensembles, so that I never have the same musicians before me. I also have to lead two different casts. I take it as a strain which helps me learn. but  I have really enjoyed the preparatory work with the director, Vincent Boussard.’

As far as we’re concerned, we shall call Boussard’s work, refined and in modern costumes, is honnest and unpretentious. Ideas are flowing, but they are scarcely used. The decision to do away with most of the dialogue in this opera-comedy, and the lowering of the curtain almost in between every scene unfortunately gives the impression of watching frames which have come undone.

Lionel Bringuier did not benefit from a cast worthy of his talent – and of the score – with the exception of the tuneful and well-expressed Carmen performed by Katarina Dalayman. But what finesse in the subtle and invigorating leading by the young conductor, which reveals so much detail previously unheard of in Carmen. We can’t wait to hear him again, in concert or at the Opera!