Stage Director in Opera
Jorinde Keesmaat is a Dutch director of opera and staged classical concerts. From 2016 through 2019, she was Guest Director-in-Residence at the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York. At this moment she is director in residence at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. In her immersive multidisciplinary work, Keesmaat plays with the relationship between spectator and actor / musician. In her projects, she explores the possibilities of an individual approach to the public. The conventional boundaries between classical concerts, opera and theatre are of little import in her work. Instead, cross-pollination and the styling and abstraction of art disciplines play a central role. In addition to regular theatre and concert halls, her performances regularly take place in unusual locations. In creating settings where people are allowed to look at each other, Jorinde hopes to astonish and disconcert her audience. “In a chaotic and confused world, I want to create moments that quiet and endure, pushing the spectator’s buttons to guide them to a highly personal emotion place.”
After studying music theatre at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, Keesmaat studied at the ArtEZ Art School for stage direction. She graduated in 2003 with a performance at Vital Theater in New York. For several years, she focused on theater working for Toneelgroep Amsterdam and NTGent as a director assistant while also directing her own independent productions. Since 2009 Keesmaat has focused mainly on directing multidisciplinary classical music productions and opera. Jorinde Keesmaat was director of the monthly program TRACKS of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam for seven years. In addition, she directed semi-staged productions of Mozart Opera’s Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte and Le Nozze di Figaro for the The Hague Philharmonic. For the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, she made the opera production Hansel and Gretel in 2014 and in 2015 directed Mozart La Clemenza di Tito for Opéra National de Montpellier. Keesmaat also directed the opening concert – with Geert Mak and Andreas Scholl – in honor of the 125th anniversary of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. For the anniversary of Theater Carré in Amsterdam she directed the show 1000 voices in Carré, a concert with a group of one thousand singers composed by Merlijn Twaalfhoven. In 2015 and 2021 she created for the Grachtenfestival the opening open-air concert as well as the popular kickboxing / classical piano performance Slaande Ovatie. Jorinde Keesmaat directs and regularly creates projects for the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw, the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, The Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra and The Hague Philharmonic. In 2017 she created the successful the music theater piece What the waf, a performance about Nelly van Doesburg/De Stijl in collaboration with the Kobra Ensemble in the loading dock of Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ. The Dutch national newspaper NRC wrote: Dada in the basement (loading dock): What the waf, the most beautiful concert of the Grachtenfestival brought Nelly van Doesburg to life.
In 2016, Jorinde Keesmaat directed the double bill Odysseus’ Women & Anais Nin by composer Louis Andriessen for the Center of Contemporary Opera in New York with performances in National Sawdust NYC and in the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ Amsterdam. This work received extensive press coverage and a glowing review in the New York Times: “The Andriessen production may have stretched the definition of opera. But it was gripping music theater”
The Opera News praised her bold choices: “It unified the whole into an evocative meditation on femininity in its strongest sense. By the end of the evening the entire cast was fully nude. In the close intimate environment of National Sawdust, this very nudity itself took on a powerful directorial impact. This was a very fulfilling production of wonderful dramatic opera and a sensational beginning to the Center for Contemporary Opera’s season”. And the Wall Street Journal chimed in: “The directing which was honest felt like the right way to deal with this explicit, even repellent subject.”
In 2017, Jorinde Keesmaat won the GALA! Rotterdam Operadays Award. The jury wrote:“After studying in London and the Netherlands, she feels just as much at ease in the New York art scene, where her spectacular music theatre scores highly. Even more remarkable is her ability to connect the work of established composers such as Louis Andriessen with the makers and audiences of her own generation. The jury describes her as a highly motivated director driven by real passion, who has an appetite for adventure and always keeps an open mind, knows what she wants but is still capable of evoking deep emotion.”
As Guest Director-in-Residence for the Center of Contemporary Opera in New York, Jorinde Keesmaat created in 2018 a new direction of the opera To be sung by the French composer Pascal Dusapin. Opera Wire wrote about is: ’It was an incredible mix of movement and singing that shocked the audience and gave depth to Dusapin’s composition, while uncovering the core intimacy of Stein’s relationship to her lover.’
In 2018 Jorinde directed Fantastic Women, a consisting new work by ten international female composers, the piece was commissioned by November Music. She also directed Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges for the Belgium National Orchestra.
In 2019 Jorinde directed the drag queen opera Chimera by the composer Angelica Negron for National Sawdust in New York. The Zauberflöte for Opera Zuid in the Netherlands and for Teatre Principal in Palma de Mallorca. Jorinde created Shape shifters with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and violinist Pekka Kuusisto in Germany.
In 2021 Jorinde directed The mending wall with the PRISM Saxophone Quartet in Philadelphia and New York with a raving review in the Observer: ‘Jorinde Keesmaat’s rich, playful, and uncanny production is ideal for our re-emergent performing arts: something authentically different for our authentically different era’
Opera News about The Mending Wall: ‘Dutch director Jorinde Keesmaat—who has worked extensively with Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and brings a multidisciplinary approach to her opera and classical concert stagings—was a good fit for the evening’s exploration of such themes as the relationship between spectator and performer, and the inherent barriers existent within classical music’
Jorinde’s latest big project is the contemporary opera The Worlds Wife with the Ragazze String Quartet and Lucia Lucas for O festival, the Barbican Center in London and the Philharmonie de Paris, with an international tour in 2022/2023. De Volkrant wrote the following: ‘Guided by the warm baritone singing of transgender opera singer Lucia Lucas, five female performers explore their literary predecessors. Together, they undertake a journey that leads to a (re)discovery of a collective and individual female voice. In the […] final section the five women lay themselves down into wooden boxes filled with soil, from which they thereafter proudly rise and leave their self sacrifice and victim roll behind’
Other future directions include (opera) works as Sin Eaters from composer David .T Little with The Crossing Choir for Penn Live Arts in Philadelphia, the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ and November Music in The Netherlands.
The new opera La Luz Musical for the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Cuba and New York and the immense She/her/me opera project with and from Philip Glass for the Holland Festival, Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ and De Singel in Antwerp.Jorinde also directs the impressive work of Du Yun Angel’s Bone at the opera of Wuppertal in Germany.
Jorinde Keesmaat received a talent development grant from the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts and the Fast Forward Grant from the Dutch Performing Arts Fund in 2016 & 2019. In 2017 Jorinde was awarded the Operadagen Award from the Rotterdam Operadagen Festival. In 2020 she was awarded with the Horizon grant of the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.