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. From 2020 to 2022, Jorinde was appointed the same position at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. Currently, she is Director in Residence at the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ in Amsterdam. “In her multidisciplinary work, Keesmaat seeks out an immersive experience which lifts the boundaries between performer and spectator, creating a highly individual and active approach to the traditional ‘passive’ role of the audience’.
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 the Vital Theater in New York. For several years, she was connected to Toneelgroep Amsterdam and NTGent as a director assistant while also directing her own 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’s operas 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 und Gretel in 2014 and in 2015 directed Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito for the 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 Amsterdam. For the anniversary of the 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. Since 2015 she regularly directs 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 recent years, Keesmaat’s productions have extensively been reviewed and acclaimed by the international press. 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 new work written by ten international female composers and commissioned by November Music. She also directed Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges for the Belgian National Orchestra.
In 2019, Jorinde directed the drag queen opera Chimera by the composer Angelica Negron for National Sawdust in New York. That same year, she directed Die Zauberflöte for Opera Zuid and for the Teatre Principal in Palma de Mallorca. Moreover, she created the production 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 equally picked up on 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 was the contemporary opera The World’s Wife with the Ragazze String Quartet and Lucia Lucas for O. festival, the Barbican Center in London and Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ with an international tour in 2023/2024. 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’
Recently Jorinde created the Pulitzer Price winning opera Angel’s Bone by Du Yun for the opera in Wuppertal, Germany. The opera had a revival at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam. The German press was very lyrical: Stage director Jorinde Keesmaat pulls out all the stops to show captivating music theater that gets under your skin…..and if word of the success of the premiere gets around, it could even happen that younger people are attracted by the total work of art opera.”
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.
Jorinde Keesmaat at work