Lore Binon sings outside the lines

Soprano Lore Binon is not one who likes to be pigeonholed. During the Midis-Minimes festival, the Schaarbeek/Schaerbeek resident will sing Baroque cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti and Georg Friedrich Händel, but she also doesn’t shy away from performing brand-new compositions or inside prison walls.

Opera with fewer resources, but more finesse,” that’s how the Brussels soprano Lore Binon describes the Baroque cantatas she will sing during her lunch-time concert at the Midis-Minimes festival. Lore Binon: “Alessandro Scarlatti wrote a whole series, often with a famous singer in mind. These mini-operas all have the same ingredients. They begin with a narrative section, the recitative. The aria then expresses a particular feeling. And there is a strikingly prolonged dialogue with the oboe in these cantatas.”

This is due to the driving force behind the Lingua Franca Ensemble. Baroque oboe player Benoît Laurent selects the repertoire partly in function of the music for his own instrument. Between the two cantatas, he is playing an oboe sonata by Giuseppe Sammartini, written for an oboe virtuoso who also inspired Georg Friedrich Handel. The oboe and a soprano often produce goosebump moments together. What is it like for Lore Binon to dialogue with the instrument? “Due to its concentrated sound, the oboe immediately opens an emotional register, often in a minor key.”

Lore Binon has sung with Lingua Franca often. She has likewise enjoyed a long-term collaboration with the Revue Blanche ensemble, pianist Inge Spinette, and lute player Sofie Vanden Eynde. What are the qualities she seeks in musical partners? “Putting two good musicians together does not necessarily result in a successful pairing. There has to be a rapport to get through the rehearsals and concerts. I look for people who are not set in their ways. There has to be space for experimentation. Benoît Laurent, for example, directs the ensemble, but he is open to input from everyone.”

Singers often get labelled very quickly, like a soprano for bel canto or one for lyrical parts. These labels do not appear to apply to Lore Binon. This spring, she sang the lead roles of Pamina in Mozart’s Magic Flute at the Flemish Opera and Mélisande in the chamber music version of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Have mindsets evolved? “I ask myself the simple question: do I have something to say in this music? Colouring outside the lines can be interesting, but it has to be tasteful. I try to listen to what my voice can do at any given time. I do not see myself singing Wagner, for example.”

The great escape

Lore Binon has lived in Brussels for six years, where she just “stuck around” after studying at the Conservatory. “Brussels is the only city in Belgium where I could live. My two children are automatically imbued with the richness of cultures and languages. And I only need to take the train for ten minutes to get to the airport.” She recently experienced the enormous diversity of performance spaces in Brussels during a show at the prison in Vorst/Forest. “It was very intense and emotional. All the things I sing about, like love and freedom, have been stripped from their lives. It was an initiative of Patrick De Clerck and the organization Escapades: to allow audiences in unusual locations to escape from their everyday routine through classical music. The prisoners’ reactions were euphoric. It was so different from my average audiences, who are sometimes only there because classical music fits their lifestyle. Singing for prison inmates made me think about my profession and how I can touch people’s lives.”

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