Q & A: Baritone & Producer David Serero on Breaking New Ground with Morocco’s First Opera CompanyBy Logan Martell
November 20, 2022, will mark the inaugural gala of L’Opéra Royal du Maroc, the very first opera company in the Kingdom of Morocco.
The company seeks to develop and promote Moroccan artists, as well as adapt and create operatic works in the national language of Darija. The endeavor is spearheaded by producer and artist David Serero, the company’s Founder and Artistic Director, whose prolific career has earned him recognition as BroadwayWorld’s Best Performer, Producer of a Play, and Producer of a Musical for the decade of 2010-20, as well as an Award for Diversity from UNESCO, and a Certificate of Recognition from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
OperaWire had the chance to speak with Serero about his groundbreaking effort to bring opera to a new country.
OW: What inspired you to establish a Royal Opera Company in Morocco?
DS: The fact that there was no official opera company in Morocco (not even a non-official-one), despite being a country of vocal traditions, pushed me to create an official one. I am blessed to have acquired so much knowledge worldwide that I wanted to bring something back to Morocco.
Everyone sings in Morocco! I also wanted to combine a few aspects to get the element of a Troupe, as there used to be in Europe; create new works in Darija; and train young singers, as there is no opera class in Morocco, so I started the first one. Creating something always brings people together and creates a human experience, which is so Morocco! I’m also up for any crazy challenges.
OW: What are some challenges you’ve had in starting the country’s first opera company? What have you found rewarding so far?
DS: To be featured on OperaWire is one of these rewards! Nothing seems challenging for me, as I’m so armed with passion and a desire to build. I have officially received the support and approval of our blessed The Minister of Culture, Mr. Mehdi Bensaid, who has dedicated his life to the future of Morocco and was so receptive to this new adventure for Morocco. After, as a producer, I always have the same thoughts “would the audience like it?”, “would they attend?” All these questions are what fuel me with the desire to improve the performances and knock on every single door to honor the trust I receive from everyone, as I’ve been doing for the last 25 years.
OW: Based on your personal experience working with local Moroccan orchestras and conservatories, how would you describe the current state of classical music in the country?
DS: The Orchestre Philharmonique du Maroc (Philharmonic Orchestra of Morocco), with whom we will collaborate in the season, is an important and prestigious organization. There were some opera performances performed in Morocco, but all the time with opera singers from Europe, especially Italy. My idea is actually to have Moroccan opera singers and to create a new generation of young singers so that we can plant seeds for future generations. Otherwise, we already have YouTube (laughs). I don’t want an opera company in Morocco, but an opera company for Morocco.
OW: The Darija language has several interesting conventions because of its Amazigh roots and French/Spanish influences. Using the upcoming production of “Carmen” as an example, what has your experience of adapting the work for Darija been like so far?
DS: I’m so glad you’re mentioning all of these origins and influences. Yes, ‘Carmen’ would be the perfect title to start with. But as much as I love how opera is portrayed in the rest of the world, I wish to bring a Moroccan color and its own identity. I’m a Moroccan, so I know how to bring this art to this exigent audience. So, therefore, I’ll do a ‘Moroccan Carmen.’ I always say, ‘You don’t go to McDonald’s to eat Sushis,’ meaning that you’ll come to see a styled production and live an experience you can only have at the Opera Royal of Morocco.
OW: In a time when access to the arts is at the forefront for so many organizations, how do you plan to balance accessibility with the prestige and standards of a royal opera company?
DS: It’s important for me to make opera accessible and break with the barricades that “opera is only for the high class” while it’s people’s music. In Morocco, we do not have low, middle, or high class, but we only have Moroccans! So I put the rate of our first gala at $10 and $25. After that, there are no excuses for anyone who wishes to come.
But overall, I believe in inviting audiences by making them taste the product I’m bringing to the stage. Big perfume companies do offer samples, so why not opera? I also believe in using new technologies, such as filming productions. So I went to knock at the door of the #1 national TV and radio of Morocco to have them broadcast the performances later. I also pair the performances with an after-party, so audiences always get something more than if they had remained home. That’s my 2.0 version of opera.
OW: What are some of the international collaborations you hope to establish with ROCM? How do you envision the company growing over the next decade?
DS: I will always welcome any collaboration, but my goal is to make it a national collaboration! We have fantastic craftsmanship in Morocco in the fashion world, who could do costumes and decor, and great local voices that we could make unique talents in the high standards of the opera world.
Over the next decade, I will impose that my unique brand, created explicitly for that important opera national company, will combine its unique authenticity with modernity, accessibility, discipline, and exigence. I can assure you that Morocco will have its place in the opera world!
OW: Do you see a possibility for more opera companies to emerge in neighboring countries?
DS: When there is a will, there is a way! I’ve already been contacted to build new opera houses and companies in Arabic countries, which is part of my plan for 2024, such as the Emirates, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. I’m working on it. I had meetings in Dubai recently to create an operatic and a musical season, and we are moving well but are careful to understand the audience first and their preferences. I’m also planning to create new opera seasons in Africa. I’m interested not just in doing but also in building for the long run. If you can’t go to the opera, the opera will come to you.