When cellist Camille Thomas travels, she always has two adjoining seats — one for her, the other for her cello. “I am always afraid that something [could] happen [to my] cello, because I love it [just like] a baby. I feel also a big responsibility, because it’s not mine, it’s on loan from a foundation,” she tells Gulf News tabloid!
The 31-year-old who has won a number of international plaudits, including being nominated as Newcomer of the Year 2014 by the French-Grammys ‘Les Victoires de la Musique’, is playing Dubai Opera on February 6. And when she does, she will hold the stage — as a solo act — a thought she says is both daunting and exciting. “I will play Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, 2, 3 and 5 which will be Cello solo, I think it’s a very special and intimate experience. You have only one player, one instrument on this big stage, and the music of Bach [which] was composed 300 years ago, but I think it’s still so actual,” she says.
The performance, she explains, is a journey into topics both understood and appreciated by the common person; there’s a dive into “human feelings, like love, humanity and death”.
The promise then of one storyteller unencumbered by a sea of players. “Very often I play with orchestra, I play with people accompanying me, so to be alone for me is also a challenge but I really also like it, because I’m completely the master of the time. I can do everything I want and I can recreate something special,” she says.
Thomas speaks of the cello as a human voice, one that will be exercised to its limits when she takes the stage come Thursday. “One of the challenges of playing solo is that often when you are playing in a group someone is playing the middle melody and someone is playing the base but in this case when I play I have to do everything myself, which means — it’ technically very difficult music to play, because you have many chords — the instrument is used to its full potential,” she says.
Thomas has worked with well-known conductors such as Paavo Järvi, Mikko Franck, Marc Soustrot, Darrell Ang, Kent Nagano, Stéphane Denève and with orchestras such as the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Academia Santa Cecilia, Sinfonia Varsovia, Staatsorchester Hamburg in the Elbphilharmonie. She also played muse for a piece scored by Turkish composer and pianist Fazil Say; he wrote his cello concerto Never Give Up for her. Perhaps that’s why she makes for an interesting figure for a documentary. This year, a TV crew is set to follow her — and her instrument — across the globe, to capture the magic.
This cast will come to Dubai, where Thomas — who’s never been before — plans to explore the desert a day after her concert. “And on free day I will go to the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, but otherwise I’m just extremely curious to discover Dubai. I have no precise ideas and I love to just discover how it comes. Just walking in the street and seeing the people,” she says.
Asked about travel troubles that seem to surround the current aviation industry, which is suffering a hard hit because of the new coronavirus and which has affected a number of people in Japan where she’s headed next, she speaks in shrugs. “I think when you think too much you have too much fear you just don’t do things. I’m not very stressed about travelling,” she says.
But she is worried about her cello. “Because it’s very old and very precious and for that, I’m very, very careful,” she says.
First up, a seat on the plane just for her musical guest.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to see Camille Thomas Live at the Dubai Opera start at Dh150.