Lara Diloy, naturalness at the head of an orchestra

On the occasion of her debut at the Teatro de la Zarzuela with Don Gil de Alcalá, Brioclásica magazine interviewed conductor Lara Diloy. A journey through her artistic career and her vision of orchestral conducting in the 21st century.

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How and when did you decide you wanted to become a conductor?

In my case it has been a natural consequence of my dedication and passion for music. From an early age I discovered that making music together with other people made me very happy. The orchestra was my home, so when I finished my horn studies and felt that I needed to broaden my training to become a more complete musician, the option was to study conducting, as this discipline allowed me to deepen my knowledge while remaining linked to the orchestra. 

If I have to choose a key moment when I decided to dedicate myself professionally to it, it was when I took part in a meeting of the JONDE as a young conductor. The experience filled me so much that the following year I left my job as a teacher and my collaborations as a horn player in orchestras, and since then I have devoted myself body and soul to conducting.

The conductor is the only musician who does not make any sound, but gets all the others to do so. What qualities do you think a conductor should have?

It is true that we do not emit any sound directly, but I will point out that the baton sounds (and a lot). The orchestra senses our energy and our knowledge of the music, and as such transfers it to the performance. That is the magic of conducting.

The qualities needed are many, as our discipline requires mastery of many facets. But something that I consider fundamental is to have a deep knowledge of the music you have in your hands, to decide on your interpretative idea and, of course, to have the communication skills to transmit it to the group in front of you at any given moment.

She has been Assistant Conductor at the Teatro de la Zarzuela on several occasions, but this is the first time she has been called upon to replace the titular maestro in several performances. Sooner or later that moment may come, but what is it like, what went through her mind?

It was a truly unforgettable experience. Although as an assistant you are aware that something can happen at any moment and the teacher has to be replaced, this is not usually the case. It is therefore difficult to know how you will react in such a situation.

In Don Gil de Alcalá I had to take the helm in a few hours (I was notified at 15h and the performance was at 20h), and I can say that I only thought about doing what I had to do: to be calm and direct. I knew the music and the production perfectly, and I was also supported by the maestro from a distance and by the whole theatre. A fantastic energy was generated with the singers, the choir and the orchestra, and that energy reached the audience. I can only be grateful for this opportunity.

Although you have had the opportunity to conduct in important theatres such as the Auditorio Nacional de Música and Teatro Monumental (Madrid), Auditorio Alfredo Kraus (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) and the Teatro Arriaga (Bilbao), what has this first experience of leading the orchestra, chorus and singers in a production as important as Don Gil de Alcalá at the Teatro de la Zarzuela been like?

It is a very special debut for me for many reasons. Firstly, because making my debut at the Teatro de la Zarzuela is a dream come true. For years I’ve been attending as an audience member, participating in various productions and working with enthusiasm to direct from the pit.

I feel very fortunate that it has been with a title like Don Gil de Alcalá, an opera by Penella with wonderful music, in this production by Emilio Sagi that delights the audience (it’s a “candy”). If you add to that having worked hand in hand with Maestro Macías and an enormous cast in both professional and human terms, and making music with the Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid and the Coro del Teatro, ensembles of which I am very fond, it is pure emotion to have lived this experience, for which it will always occupy an important place in my memory.

The figure of the assistant director is not very well known. Tell us a little about it and its importance in a production. 

The work carried out by the musical assistant is fundamental within a production and, as you say, little known and recognised. It is the extension of the musical master in the theatre, and this is why this figure acquires importance for all the elements that make it up: production, stage management, technical team, orchestra (archive, inspection, musicians), chorus… The assistant conductor is in charge of issues such as preparing materials in coordination with the orchestra’s archive, giving notes to the singers, the chorus and the orchestra, listening to the balances in rehearsals, replacing the maestro in stage rehearsals (readings, ensembles and functions if necessary)… Together with the repeating maestros they form the musical team and facilitate the conductor’s work. 

When there are internal bands, you take charge of conducting them, something that in my case I have had to do in theatres such as the Maestranza or the Palau de Les Arts. The workload increases when you are the musical assistant for a Season. Since 2021 I have taken on this role at the Ópera de Oviedo, where I also carry out musical coordination tasks that have to do with the long term (staff forecasting, cuts, orchestra arrangement and a long etc.).

The work of the assistant conductor is not only important in productions, but also in symphonic concerts or lyric galas. Recently I was assistant conductor at the Teatro Real with Maestro Rovaris, in a gala with Lisette Oropesa, and the coordination with the theatre’s archive and the maestro to prepare the materials was fundamental to optimise the rehearsal time to the maximum.

In addition to conducting the orchestra, you are the conductor and founder of the Sinan Kay white voice choir, which we have been able to hear these days participating in Bizet’s Carmen at the Teatro Monumental with the Orquesta y Coro de RTVE. How did this project come about and what does it mean to you?

Sinan Kay is a very personal project. It stems from my time as a teacher, where I took charge of the children’s choir at the school where I worked. The group disappeared from the programme and the parents and pupils wanted to continue with the activity. It was constituted as an association in the 2015/2016 academic year and since then we have always sought a balance between artistic and pedagogical excellence. 

As well as having a multidisciplinary teaching team, we have participated in numerous competitions and festivals, winning prizes on several occasions. In terms of collaborations, we have sung in productions at the Teatro de la Zarzuela with the Orquesta y Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid and the Coro del Teatro, including titles such as Pinocchio, El Gato Montés and Mirentxu, and with the Orquesta y Coro de Radio Televisión Española in the Concierto de Reyes de 2020 and in this Carmen. Next season we will again have commitments with both institutions.

Your knowledge of the symphonic and operatic repertoire is very broad. If you had to choose between the two, do you prefer to conduct “only” symphony orchestras or do you prefer opera?

I have played in orchestras since I was 12 years old. The symphonic repertoire has always accompanied me and has made me grow as a musician. I could not conceive of dedicating myself to conducting without that repertoire. Even so, I believe that in the lyric world I am finding my space. I feel comfortable and my high dedication to it in recent years is paying off. In a production you work for several weeks, there is more time to go deeper into the music and to get to know the people with whom you work, and that part makes me lean towards opera and zarzuela, although I would like to combine both.

You have said that women come to orchestra conducting to give it another point of view, to enrich… what is yours, what does Lara Diloy propose, baton in hand?

Of course, I consider the inclusion of new profiles in any field to be enriching. Although perhaps my contribution is not new, I do believe it is rare: to treat the profession naturally (we are people prepared to do complex work, but not “divas” or anything like that), with a leadership based on teamwork and making others shine, and seeking excellence from the love of music and respect and affection for the people who accompany me in each project.

Carlos Kleiber is a reference that I always have in mind. And also women like Marin Alsop or Susanna Mälkki who have been pioneers and have paved the way for us.

Is there a director you particularly notice or are inspired by?

In the last year I have been fortunate to work with wonderful teachers: Yves Abel, Corrado Rovaris, Ramón Tebar, Gianluca Marcianó, Lucas Macías, Iván López-Reynoso, Danielle Callegari… I have learned a lot from them and they are my greatest source of inspiration on a daily basis. 

I also have a lot to thank Óliver Díaz, with whom I have been working for a long time, who stands out for his professionalism and human stature. I also follow Spanish conductors or conductors who are making a career in Spain, such as Pablo González or Dima Slobodeniouk, as they are very talented musicians.

As for great names in history, Carlos Kleiber is a reference that I always have in mind. And also women like Marin Alsop or Susanna Mälkki who have been pioneers and have paved the way for us.

Is there a composer or work that you particularly enjoy conducting and why?

I feel very comfortable conducting Spanish repertoire, both lyrical and symphonic, and also music by composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. Perhaps because they have been the pillars of my training as a musician and they stick in my DNA. Even so, I am incorporating more and more repertoire and, although it may sound cliché, I try to ensure that the work I am performing or studying at any given moment is the most marvellous in the world.

Where would you like to see yourself in the near future, what do you dream about?

The most important one is being realised, which is to be able to make a living from conducting. From there I would always like to keep improving and improving, to consolidate my career in Spanish theatres and orchestras, and to take off with an international career.