© Aviya Wyse

Dutch Peruvian director Lisenka Heijboer Castañón is fast making a name for herself as one of the most important young directors to emerge in Europe in recent years work. Her work has been hailed as “an important contribution to the renewal of the genre of musical theatre: away from the museum right into the middle of social actuality.” (Bachtrack). In 2020, she was named on NRC’s definitive list of talents that will shape the future of their disciplines in the next decade, and she was named by Dutch newspaper AD as an important talent to watch in 2021, following the widely acclaimed successes of her recent productions, one of which, Faust [working title], opened Dutch National Opera’s 2020/21 season.

Her work is characterised by her love for music as a tool for storytelling and community building with a strong instinct for physical theatre. Her philosophy, which forms the foundation of all of her work, is that theatre is about shared experiences, and this starts during the process of creation, where she creates her work in radical collaboration with her team. She immersed herself in the creation of opera as an assistant director, and later as co-director in collaboration with Lotte de Beer. Besides her work with De Beer, she has assisted a star roster of stage directors including Pierre Audi, Krzysztof Warlikowski, Monique Wagemakers, Laurent Pelly and Zack Winokur, in houses including Dutch National Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Oper Köln, in a broad range of repertoire from Stockhausen to Puccini.

In 2020 Heijboer Castañón was asked by Dutch National Opera to create an alternative season opening, in response to the demands created by the pandemic. She assembled an artistic team, and set up an atelier of composers who worked with her in creating Faust [working title]; a production about sharing, space, and knowledge in order to build a future. Faust [working title] received great critical acclaim, and was widely received as an example of what the future of opera could resemble.

Heijboer Castañón was appointed the prestigious Directing Fellow for the Vocal Arts Department at The Juilliard School in New York during her 19/20 season, where she worked within the Artist Diploma program on acting techniques, and furthering the understanding of the physical aspects of operatic singing. During her time in New York, she created a movement theatre piece with the 15 musicians of Ensemble Connect at Carnegie Hall. Through Movement was a piece about life and loss, wrought through chamber music, movement, and light.

As a young artist, Heijboer Castañón worked at The Royal Concertgebouw and Dutch National Opera, and created new work to critical acclaim for the NJO Muziekzomer, and the Grachtenfestival. In the spring of 2019 she directed a concert staging of Parsifal at the Bochumer Symphoniker, and was invited to direct the International Young Patrons Gala at Dutch National Opera & Ballet. In the summer of 2019 she premiered a new opera for which, with her company Operafront she was responsible from inception through commissioning, producing, funding, creation, and delivery. The work, Vrouwenstemmen, was created for the Grachtenfestival and reflected upon 100 years of women’s voting rights in the Netherlands. The production involved two visual artists creating autonomous work for the performance space, and the founding of a community women’s chorus to star alongside the soloists.

A truly multi-disciplinary artist, through her work with Operafront, she recently collaborated on and coproduced a short film titled An die Ferne with Opera Zuid about isolation and imagination, celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

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