Open and intense gaze, impassive face: one could mistake him for the actor Jean Reno. Underneath this silent power hides a passionate person. A journey in five languages – Spanish, German, French, English, Italian – that crosses continents and through which we understand what drives this man: learning and encounters. At the age of 43, Leandro Suarez takes over the management of the Neue Oper Friborg (NOF) on July 1st. Amusingly, his grandmother had bequeathed him a batch of opera programs from the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, a family holdover from a subscription from his great-grandfather. “My connections to opera date back long before I was born,” he laughs.
Born in Llavallol, not far from the Argentine capital, Leandro Suarez began learning music with the recorder, encouraged by his parents, including an “amateur guitarist with a very beautiful voice”, father. A few years later, love at first sight came with the clarinet. At 19 he became a volunteer for the first edition of the Festival internacional de musica de Buenos Aires organized by the Philharmonic Orchestra. An experience he repeated the following year, this time on the production team. The transition to the year 2000 brings changes. “If you really want to play with good technique, you have to go to Europe or the USA,” advises his teacher. The musician makes inquiries and finds out that the clarinetist François Benda, whose reputation knows no bounds, teaches a class at the Basel Conservatory.
From music to production
“I arrived in the snow at Basel Airport in January 2002, on a Sunday at 5 p.m. The shock was great,” admits Leandro Suarez. I knew Italy a little because I have family in Turin, but it was my first time going on an adventure. At the end of his studies, he became a clarinetist in the Delémont Musique des Lumières Orchestra, conducted by Facundo Agudin. The meeting takes place during a requiem from Mozart to Porrentruy, where the two men discover they are from nearby towns in Argentina. In 2010, the Musique des Lumières lost a partner for the first edition of the Jura Biennale Stand’été. “Have you ever done an opera production before?” Facundo Agudin asks Leandro Suarez. Neither one nor two, the latter imagines the video content for one Cosi fan tutte.
“That’s how I got my first opera production,” he smiles. All four performances are a success. Pablo Ramos, director of the Navarra Chamber Opera, is in the room one evening and spontaneously invites him to join his artistic team. Five years of effervescence followed: “I traveled back and forth to Spain, continued to produce the Stand’été festival and took part in the productions of Lyrica in Neuchâtel in collaboration with the singer Rubén Amoretti!”
Gradually, the musician drops the clarinet to switch to administration and production. He became administrator of the Musique des Lumières, a position he held until 2017. “This year I thought it was time to validate my skills with a diploma.” Shortly before becoming a father, he began studying cultural management at EPFL. “And since everything happens at the same time, in the same year I also got the post of administrative director at Nouveau Monde in Fribourg.” Installed in the Old Train Station, this multidisciplinary place, known for its varied program, is a source of inspiration: “I have started at the same time as artistic director Flavien Droux. The world of contemporary music is very different from that of classical music, but the goal is the same: to bring joy to the listener by demanding quality.
For three years, Leandro Suarez thrived in this new environment: “As a volunteer, I spent evenings listening to concerts and pouring beer. If this musical expansion was beneficial to me, I knew deep down that sooner or later I would return to classical music and opera. In September 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, he was appointed Managing Director of the Ensemble vocal de Lausanne (EVL): “I was enthusiastic about the development strategy for this historic choir. And we thought at the time that activity would resume. The following month, the announcement of the new detention is an explosion in the cultural world, the choir’s activity is suspended until May 2021.
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True to his positive spirit, Leandro Suarez invests colossal energy in building relationships with institutions and cultural partners to ensure EVL’s financial support. “As in the New World, our policy was to fulfill every contract 100%.” On the eve of his new post at the NOF, he is full of ideas and an irrepressible desire to forge partnerships with other institutions in the region in order to allow the institute to survive beyond Freiburg: “I am firmly convinced that we all love opera, you have to only have the revelation.
1978 August 31, Born in Lomas de Zamora, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2002 Arrival in Basel to study the clarinet.
2010 Visual producer at the Stand’été law festival.
2017 Birth of his daughter Lucie.
2022 Since July 1, managing director of the Neue Oper Freiburg.
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