The Opus Dedicated to the Lipkes is a Story of Love – Arturs Maskats

The Opus Dedicated to the Lipkes is a Story of Love – Arturs Maskats
F64 . Composer Arturs Maskats
Una Griškeviča
Arturs Maskats’ opus “Midnight in Riga”, dedicated to Žanis and Johanna Lipkes, will have its Riga premiere at the Great Guild Hall on Thursday, the 3rd of July, at 7 p.m. The composition has already been performed at several chamber orchestra “Kremerata Baltica” concerts in Europe. This, however, is not the only work that the composer is preoccupied with, as Arturs Maskats’ opera “Valentīna” will have its premiere at the Latvian National Opera in December already.

We meet composer Arturs Maskats in Riga’s Old Town, right after his interview with the Latvian Radio, which dealt with this particular composition and the mega concert “Born in July” that will be on the 6th of July.

“My work does not carry any particular semantic implication or retell the events of the time. It is rather part of my inner “Atlantis” series, which deal with the Riga of the 1930s and, as I was saying to Ingrīda Zemzare, with the love of Žanis and Johanna. But it is certainly not a work about the Holocaust. It is rather about remembering, nostalgia and even romance, but definitely not about the horrors of World War II and the immense human contribution of the Lipkes in helping other people. That is something I did not intend it to be,” says the composer, adding that the best way to describe “Midnight in Riga” would be to say that it is a contribution to the Lipkes and their love, whereas the theme of Riga, a city very dear to him, has already been present in the Latvian Radio Choir’s performance “Čaks. Hotel “Atlantīda”. The composer admits with a smile that Riga and tango should certainly evoke parallels with Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris”:

“And yet, Riga is my favourite city in the world. And the time around midnight in Riga is always very special...” 

By the way, “Midnight in Riga” has already been performed, in a German town near Berlin on the 8th of May, where the “Kremerata” orchestra had its summer camp. “I was there and I participated in rehearsals and in the concert, therefore I really wish to express my gratitude for the great work by all these artists, and, of course, for the fact that the performance of the composition in Riga will have no conductor.” The composer goes on to say that, thanks to Gidon Kremer, the work has been performed several times in Germany and in Prague, and will now have its premiere in Riga.

The composition was commissioned by the Žanis Lipke Foundation and “Kremerata Baltica” orchestra, but the form of the composition was chosen by Arturs Maskats. “Of course, I have visited the Žanis Lipke Museum in Ķīpsala.

I consider the museum designed by Zaiga Gaile a masterpiece of contemporary architecture! There is a very special atmosphere there, and I absolutely recommend those who come to Riga to visit the museum.

And, of course, I will also be very happy if Rigans come to hear the composition,” notes Arturs Maskats. He goes on to say that there are new versions of “Midnight in Riga” being created thanks to the “Kremerata Baltica” musicians who are very enthusiastic about it.

After the concert on the 3rd of July, Arturs Maskats will have time again to work on his other major project, the opera “Valentīna”, which will have its premiere in December. “Finally Inga Kalna, whom I have entrusted with the title role, has the full version. In the meantime, I continue to work on the score, and at the moment that is all I can say about it,” explains the composer who has been working on the new production together with conductor Modestas Pitrenas and stage director Viesturs Kairišs.


“The opera is about one particular person – the outstanding film critic Valentīna Freimane. I agreed with Valentīna that her name would be kept in the title,” says Arturs Maskats. 

“We have agreed that all other names would be changed, including the names of the people associated with Valentīna Freimane’s family, because we do not want to create a documentary story. Anyhow, this would be impossible to achieve in opera, a genre full of conventions, besides, Valentīna’s book “Farewell, Atlantis!” is so rich that there is enough material in it for everything.

But we have our own focus to look at it.” The production’s creative team has been joined by poetess Liāna Langa who is working on the libretto. “Unlike the opus “Midnight in Riga”, here we will try to keep the story about the Holocaust and some very dramatic events, but throughout it all we will try to maintain the presence of the vital, positive spirit that Valentīna possesses.” Turns out, Arturs Maskats had a chance to meet Valentīna Freimane in Berlin, where she is awaiting for her book to be published in German. “I visited Valentīna and, of course, we were talking about the opera all the time. By now she must have got used to the fact that an opera about her is being created, and I hope very much that Valentīna Freimane will attend the premiere of the opera in Riga,” says the composer, adding that Valentīna Freimane is, as usual, lively and witty, and it is always a pleasure to meet and talk to her.

Tickets to the 3rd of July concert are available from “Biļešu paradīze” outlets and online shop.


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