Camille Thomas talks playing Bach at Dubai Opera
Her cello has a soul says maestro
IF YOU ARE looking for a prime example of why classical music, often centuries after it is composed, remains so popular you need go no further than the enthusiasm French-Belgian master cellist Camille Thomas displays for her instrument and the sounds it produces.
Performing Bach's Cello Suite No. 1, 2, 3 and 5 at Dubai Opera on Thursday, February 6, we caught up with the vibrant artist in the new Paramount Hotel Dubai's private screening room, in conjunction with her outfitter Paule Ka, to find out why a musical artefact requires its own plane seat, the reason a Stradivarius can't travel everywhere and how Camille believes you will feel when you hear these pieces.
Can you tell us more about your famous cellos?
In Dubai I will be playing a cello made by Ferdinando Gagliano. It was made in Naples in 1788. It's on loan. A very generous man from France, Bernard Magrez, gave me this cello four years ago.
I also have a Stradivarius, from the Nippon Music Foundation in Tokyo. It's one of the most beautiful cellos in the world, but they are very strict with insurance and I'm not allowed to bring it to some countries like the UAE, so I'm very lucky to have the Gagliano that I know very well and it is also like my little baby.
What provisions did you have to make to get the Gagliano here?
I have to buy a seat on the plane. It sits by the window. The bad thing is the cello doesn't get more food or luggage (allowance), but it does get its own seat because it's very precious and a big responsibility for me to take care of it. It's a piece of art that was built 300 years ago. It's amazing people trust me to travel with it and it's not in a museum.
How different is a centuries-old instrument compared to a new one?
I feel there is a soul in this instrument. There is the soul of all the players and of the people who have listened to it for so many years. I believe when you listen to the music your heart opens and those vibes go into this piece of wood.
How does the responsibility of dealing with two priceless instruments play on your mind?
I have nightmares. I can't really sleep at night. Both cellos are such beautiful instruments and my responsibility is that nothing happens to them. I could fall on them on stage in my high heels, or a camera could fall - many things could happen! Sometimes I dream that I am just sitting on the cello, which would be awful.
What do you hope people in Dubai take away from your Bach performance?
It's my first time playing and visiting here. I have no idea how the public will react, but I love this in my job. Actually it is a passion more than a job. Every time I come to a new place I get to share this. It's a very intellectual, intimate and spiritual programme in a very big opera (house). I hope I can bring the people with me. I know, with the power of the music, something magic will happen. This music was composed 300 years ago and still speaks to the heart.
Are you ever nervous as a solo performer?
It's a lot of pressure because I want to give the music as beautifully as possible. Every time I am excited before going on stage, but it is natural and it's positive. It means you are respectful to the audience and the music. I don't know how the cello will react to the atmosphere and temperature in Dubai. It's wood, so it reacts to humidity and the sound changes. I have to be reactive and adapt because the cello cannot adapt.
How do you decide what to wear when performing?
I have worked with Paule Ka, a French brand, for a few years. I think it is important to arrive in front of an audience with a beautiful outfit. It shows respect for the audience and the performance. As I'm playing the Bach Suites, which are quite introverted, I didn't want to wear anything too big. You have to match what you wear to the performance.
Camille was nominated 'Newcomer of the Year 2014' by the French Grammys, Les Victoires de la Musique, and is an exclusive artist with Deutsche Grammophon international, becoming the first cellist signed to the prestigious yellow label in 40 years.
For tickets check out dubaiopera.com