Ioan Holender was born in Romania in 1935 in a family of Jewish origin. He studied mechanical engineering, but was expelled from university after taking part in a student uprising. After moving to Austria in 1959, he studied music and became an opera singer. In 1992, he became the director of the Vienna State Opera and served in this position until 2010, thus becoming the longest-serving general director in the history of this institution. At present, Holender is an advisor to the New York Metropolitan Opera and the Spring Festival in Tokyo, and is the artistic director of the George Enescu Festival in Bucharest. He is a lecturer at the University of Vienna and a jury member for several international singing competitions.
The Latvian poet Rainis was also a restless person. In fear of persecution after the 1905 revolution, he emigrated to Austria’s neighbouring country Switzerland together with his wife, the poet Aspazija. They lived in the little village of Castagnola near Lake Lugano until 1920. After his return to Latvia, Rainis became involved in Latvian cultural life again and served as the director of the National Theatre in Riga for several years. The #mindpower project is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of both poets.
In the 9th episode of the #mindpower project, Ioan Holender interprets an aphorism by Rainis written on 13 December 1921. This speaks about the monotony of a person’s external life despite the summits that can be reached. If a person does not develop his inner world, the achievements of the outer world become meaningless.
“We all live in small orbits: we see the same views, meet the same people. Even when thrown out of our orbit, we return to it again and again. Even the lives of those most blessed with good fortune or those who were quickest to break free are on the whole so drab, one would be loath to relive them. We live in too small an orbit – so life should be lived if not in breadth, then in depth,” writes Rainis.
The episode was filmed at the Vienna State Opera and at the Latvian National Opera during the “Golden Microphone” Latvian Music Records Award ceremony. There, Rainis and Aspazija (played by the Latvian musician Goran Gora and journalist Eva Ikstena-Strapcāne) had the honour to present an award for lifetime achievement to another excellent Latvian poet, Jānis Peters.
The #mindpower (#domasspēks in Latvian) project features a collection of 29 short films in which celebrities from all the EU Member States read excerpts from the works of Rainis and Aspazija in their native language and clothe them in images of their culture. The project is a part of the Presidency cultural programme.