Mitra is the true story of Iranian psychoanalyst Mitra Kadivar, who in 2012 was locked up in a psychiatric hospital in Tehran. Director Jorge León turned her incredible story into a hybrid artwork combining music theatre, documentary and installation. The libretto is based on the increasingly desperate e-mails Mitra sent from the institution in the hope of escaping her Kafkaesque situation. Composers Eva Reiter and George van Dam have written sensual music, with vocals by Claron McFadden. The text, music and film images, recorded in a psychiatric institution in France, show Mitra’s struggle as a poignant, cinematic experience – a cry from confinement and isolation.
True story: in the winter of 2012 and 2013 around 160 emails flashed back and forth between Paris and Teheran. The French psychoanalyst Jacques-Alain Miller was corresponding with Mitra
Kadivar, an Iranian psychiatrist who trained in France before starting a school for psychoanalysis in Teheran. From her own home she was providing support to addicts and people who were mentally ill. That dedication cost her her freedom: after complaints from her neighbours (whom she said had falsely claimed she was psychotic), Kadivar was forcefully committed to a psychiatric clinic in December 2012. During this hospitalization Kadivar sent a plea for help to her French colleague, who started off a barrage of emails and launched a petition to free her.
The Belgian film director Jorge Léon used these events as the basis for a documentary (Mitra, 2018), and also decided to take the harrowing correspondence between Miller and Kadivar and turn it into a libretto. Together with the composers Eva Reiter (electronics and instrumental music) and George van Dam (choral parts) he created a musical production about a woman who is held against her will in a medical-legal labyrinth. In a hybrid form somewhere between opera, film and installation, Mitra depicts a cry for help from a place of incarceration and isolation.
The musical aspect of Mitra is in the hands of the Brussels-based Ictus Ensemble and six young singers from the MM Soloists Ensemble of opera house La Monnaie / De Munt. In the production they can only be seen and heard on film. The title role, which is partly live, is performed by soprano Claron McFadden. During the process of creating Mitra, León and his team made multiple visits to the Centre Montperrin, a psychiatric institution in Aix-en-Provence, where they were in close contact with the residents and their carers and relatives. León: ‘I wanted to get them involved in the project. I wanted to record their reactions of film, capture their emotions when they heard Mitra’s cries for help translated into musical form.’
This method was also a way for León to examine the current state of psychiatry in the West: ‘The project is meant to draw attention to our psychiatric institutions. We must dare to make contact with those who have been labelled as ‘abnormal’ either temporarily or permanently and have been rejected by a society that regards psychological suffering as taboo.’
And yet, according to León, Mitra is more than a journalistic or documentary interpretation of a moving correspondence. ‘What interests me most is to go beyond the present of the event, to give it a universal scope, until you are deploying it in the timelessness of the myth. To transform a prosaic document, i.e. correspondence on the net, into a stage proposition that flirts with codes from opera. To extend the range of words by the magnitude of the singing.’
Director Jorge León studied film at the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle (INSAS) in Brussels, where he soon became interested in the practice of documentary-making. He has crossed
paths with many performing artists including Olga De Soto, Meg Stuart, Benoît Lachambre and Simone Aughterlony, leading to numerous joint artistic projects. His most recent productions, the films Before we go (2014), Vous êtes servis (2009) and 10 min. (2009) have been widely screened on the international festival circuit and have garnered numerous awards, including the FIPRESCI Prize, the prix de la critique internationale, in 2015, and the SACD/SCAM Prize for best documentary. Parallel to the screening of Vous êtes servis at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels León presented Deserve, a play created together with Simone Aughterlony. They continued their collaboration with the production UNI*FORM (2015, Theater Spektakel, Zürich) and Mitra, which premiered in May 2018 during the Kunstenfestivaldesarts. The script of his documentary film Mitra was awarded a prize by FIDLAB Marseille. Mitra was also one of the winners of the 2018 Music Theatre NOW competition.
Born in Vienna, Eva Reiter studied recorder and viola da gamba, first at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and later under Paul Leenhouts, Walter van Hauwe and Mieneke van der Velden at the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam. In 2006 she earned her Master’s degrees in both instruments with honours. Reiter plays regularly as a soloist and regular member of various early music groups and orchestras including the Nederlandse Bachvereniging, Ensemble Mikado and Le Badinage. In recent years Reiter has focused more on contemporary music both as composer and performer, working with ensembles such as Ictus, Klangforum Wien, Trio Elastic3 and Duo Band. Composers she has worked with in that context include Fausto Romitelli, Paolo Pachini, Burkhard Friedrich, Jorge Sánchez-Chiong and Raphaël Cendo. She has received a number of awards, such as the SKE Publicity Prize in 2006, grants from the City of Vienna (2008) and the Queen Marie José International Composition Prize (2008). Her work has been performed at international festivals including Transit in Leuven, Ars Musica in Brussels, the 2006 ISCM World New Music Festival in Stuttgart, Musikprotokoll Graz and Wien Modern. Her piece Alle Verbindungen gelten nur jetzt was one of the works selected for the International Rostrum of Composers (IRC) in 2009. She regularly performs at early and contemporary music festivals such as the Münchener Biennale, Grabenfesttage Wien, Tage Alter Musik Berlin and Tage Alter Musik Regensburg.
Born in Namibia, Belgian violinist, harpsichordist and composer George Alexander van Dam studied at the Brussels Royal Conservatoire where he was taught by Georges Octors and Arie van Lysebeth. In 2012 he took up his harpsichord studies again under Robert Kohnen. Van Dam is a passionate performer of contemporary music. He has worked with prominent composers including Thomas Adès, Georges Aperghis, George Benjamin, Peter Eötvos, Karel Goeyvaerts, Jonathan Harvey, Maurizio Kagel, György Kurtàg, György Ligeti, Steve Reich and Karlheinz Stockhausen. He works as a soloist and a member of several contemporary groups including Ensemble Modern, MusikFabrik and the Brussels ensemble Ictus, of which he is one of the founding members. Van Dam’s compositions include a concerto for violin and timbila orchestra, chamber music and various song cycles such as Melanchotopia Songs (written in collaboration with Claron McFadden for Witte de With, Rotterdam 2011). Van Dam also composes music for film, theatre and dance productions and he has worked with visual artists and film makers including Manon de Boer, Angela Bulloch, Trudo Engels and Jorge Léon. He recently created new music for Collegium Vocale Gent as part of Escorial, a production by Ghelderode/Josse De Pauw (Transparant, May 2013). Van Dam has also performed as a soloist in dance productions such as Rosa, Achterland, Kinok and Partita2, by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker.
Soprano Claron McFadden was born in the Unites States, where she studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. She made her opera debut during the 1985 Holland Festival, in a production of Hasse’s L’Eroe Cinese, was first seen at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 1990 in a controversial staging of Rameau’s Les Indes galantes directed by William Christie, and has built up an impressive career since then. McFadden performs a wide repertoire spanning early and contemporary music to jazz and cross-over projects. She has worked with leading conductors such as Kurt Masur, John Eliot Gardiner, Marc Minkowski, Neeme Järvi, Ton Koopman and Frans Brüggen, and large orchestra’s and ensembles including the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, The King’s Consort, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Arditti Quartet and the Nash Ensemble. McFadden is much in demand as an opera singer and has performed in productions of the Théâtre du Chatelet, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Salzburger Festspiele, the Bayerische Staatsoper, De Nationale Opera and Muziektheater Transparant. She sang in Claude Vivier’s Rêves d’un Marco Polo directed by Pierre Audi and in 2018 she received plaudits for her performance of the title role in the Muziektheater Transparant production Harriet. During the 2013 Holland Festival she performed in the 3D opera Sunken Garden by Michel van der Aa. McFadden has made various recordings for EMI and other companies and performed in many radio and television productions. In 2006 she was awarded the Amsterdam Prize for the Arts.
Ictus is a Brussels-based collective for contemporary music, made up of around twenty musicians including conductor Georges-Elie Octors and sound designer Alex Fostier. From its very first beginnings Ictus has presented itself an ‘electric ensemble’, with amplification, live and recorded electronics and electric instruments forming part of its everyday practice. Since 1994 Ictus has shared the same premises with P.A.R.T.S and the Rosas dance company. Headed by choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Rosas and Ictus have worked on fourteen dance productions together, ranging from Amor Constante and Drumming to Rain and, more recently, Vortex Temporum (which opened the 2014 Holland Festival). Ictus has also worked with choreographers including Wim Vandekeybus, Maud Le Pladec, Eleanor Bauer and Fumiyo Ikeda.
Ictus has released some twenty CDs on the label Cyprès, including two albums devoted to Fausto Romitelli. Their latest release, featuring work by composer Pierluigi Billone, part of the new collection Contra Naturam, was launched under the Sub Rosa label in 2018. Joining forces with its Brussels partners the Kaaitheater and Bozar, Ictus annually develops a new concert season for a wide audience of theatre, dance and music lovers. Since 2004 Ictus has also been the resident ensemble at the Lille Opera. In addition to the themed concerts and educational activities it organises with the Opera, Ictus also puts on a stage production every year (Georges Aperhis’s Avis de Tempête in 2004, Michaël Levinas’s La Métamorphose in 2011 and Wolfgang Mitterer’s Marta in 2016). An important aspect of its activities is exploring new forms: mini or maxi concerts, concerts with commentary, Blind Dates or concerts where the audience can circulate between various stages (such as the unique, location-specific Liquid Rooms, which were staged across Europe).
Muziektheater Transparant (founded in 1994) is an internationally active production company for opera and musical theatre based in Antwerp. The artistic directors are Guy Coolen and Wouter Van Looy. Based on topical artistic and social issues, Transparant engages in an intensive dialogue with artists from a range of disciplines. A special focal point lies in supporting contemporary musicians and composers in developing their work. This has resulted in long-lasting collaborations with artists including Wim Henderickx, Annelies Van Parys, Luigi De Angelis and Claron McFadden. Transparant has also collaborated intensively with Jan Van Outryve, Eric Sleichim van Bl!ndman and Liesa Van der Aa. With Translab Transparant brings a new generation of performing artists into contact with inspiring artists as coaches. Muziektheater Transparant stages productions with artistic and social relevance, for a wide audience. The company has performed at the Salzburger Festspiele, the KunstenfestivaldesArts, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Holland Festival and various European Capitals of Culture. Its regular partners include the Concertgebouw Brugge, deSingel (Antwerpen), De Vlaamse Opera (Antwerpen en Gent), OPERA21 (a biennial festival for contemporary musical theatre), De Munt (Brussel), Muziekcentrum De Bijloke (Gent), Grand Théâtre Luxembourg, Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ (Amsterdam), Théatre de la Croix-Rousse (Lyon) and the Beijing Music Festival.
- concept, direction
- Jorge León
- Eva Reiter
- composition choir
- George van Dam
- musical supervision
- Georges-Elie Octors
- Isabelle Dumont
- Thibault Van Craenenbroeck
- Silvia Hasenclever
- Mitra Kadivar en Jacques-Alin Miller
- Claron McFadden
- Jorge León, Aliocha Van der Avoort and Thomas Schira
- Laurenz Schäfer
- light design
- Peter Quasters
- Alexandre Fostier
- pre-recorded music | performed by
- Ictus Ensemble: Michael Schmid (flute), Gerrit Nulens (percussion), George van Dam (violin), Eva Reiter (Paetzold recorder & bass viol)
- Zangers van de kooracademie van de Munt: Hanna Al Bender, - Gwendoline Blondeel, Raphaële Green, Logan Lopez Gonzalez, Pierre Derhet, Kamil Ben Hsain Lachiri
- choir coach
- Polina Bogdanova
- thanks to
- Aurélie Deloche, Julie Chenot, Fabienne Moris, Jean-Pierre Rehm, Bernard Foccroulle, Paul Aron, Julien Englebert, Amélie Derlon Cordina, Anne-Lise Gobin
- Muziektheater Transparant en Ictus
- Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Les Halles de Schaerbeek, Théâtre de Liège i.k.v. IMPACT, De Munt/La Monnaie, Present Perfect vzw, The GMEM Marseille, Actoral Marseille en Les films de Force Majeure
- with support from
- Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles, International Film Festival Marseille FID, Camargo Foundation, IRCAM, CNC DICRéAM, Thank you & Good Night Production, Interreg V Euregio Meuse Rhin & Wallonia, Tax Shelter van de Belgische Federale Overheid en ONDA