LONDON, United Kingdom — Have you ever fallen asleep while attending a classical concert? Well, if that is the case, then you have not seen the performance of this talented violinist and artist,Amadéus Leopold. Known for his avant-garde looks, this Julliard educated and a protégé of legendary Itzhak Perlman, does not define himself as a classical musician:
“My story is rooted on the music but I do not try to define it too much. I am really a ‘free artist’, not a classical musician, not a pop musician.”
Having started playing violin at the age 5, his portfolio is impressive; a début at the Grammy Awards at the age of 11, a concert at prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York at the age 15 and a collaboration with Madonna. In 2012, the artist formerly known as Hahn-bin was reborn as Amadéus Leopold, (names from his musical heroes: Amadéus from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, meaning God’s love and Leopold from Mozart’s father and a famous violinist Leopold Auer, meaning ‘as brave as a lion’) and shares his story through music and performance art.
This past June, I discovered Amadéus on the brochure of Yoko Ono ‘Meltdown’ Festival while in London. I was blown away by his creativity, uniqueness and the beautiful melody his violin creates. To tell the truth, I was shocked to find a guy getting up from a coffin, wearing Gothic costumes and unique make-up. I immediately thought, Who is he? What is he going to do?
Somehow, my experience was not matching to the definition of a traditional classical concert! I was very surprised (in a good way!) and amazed by his performance. Therefore, I decided to contact Amadéus to better understand his art, performance and persona.
Amadeus Leopold Interview
Can you explain more about your performance ‘1987’ at the Yoko Ono’s Meltdown Festival?
‘1987’ is a love letter exclusively dedicated to Yoko Ono, who influenced me to become the artist I am today. ‘1987’ is the year I was born and it is about my life story: telling my darkest and brightest sides. It is my naked truth, my “musical X-ray”. Right before the concert, Yoko Ono came to me, hugged me and said, “You are much more than a classical musician. You are pop and rock”. It was a meaningful day for me.
For the audience, I try to create a mirror. When you look at it, it shows you absolute truth. We, humans are constantly being reborn and changed, we are like butterflies. I change many costumes throughout my performance as fashion tells many stories in my show – I use it as a tool as well.
You were rising from the coffin at the beginning of the concert. What does it symbolise?
In order to fully be alive, I need to be fine with death. By letting go of the past, I am living a brand new day. I want to wake up every day fresh. Rising from a coffin means reborn and it represents “absolute freedom” for me.
You have a unique style in your performances. Who or what influences your music and style the most?
Firstly, ‘Yohji Yamamoto’. For his 1999 Spring/Summer Paris fashion show, he used classical music as a background and fashion as performance art. Models were transformed with clothes and other accessories: those minimalistic acts were incredibly powerful. Even though I made my début at the Grammy Awards at the age of 11, until 2008, I did not have the chance to express who I am through music and performance art.
Yohji inspired me to communicate something greater than just music. Secondly, Yoko Ono. Her Book Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings by Yoko Ono definitely changed my life. She taught me to express myself without any limits or boundaries and to go deep into my soul. She is my ‘art mother’. Finally, my teacher Itzhak Perlman. He taught me not only the finest skills but also helped me to develop a great taste in music.
Who supports you behind your performance e.g.costumes, choreography, make up, etc?
Mostly, I do everything by myself. A lesson that I learned from life is, “ if you want something to be done right, you have to do it yourself”. I design the stage, the lightings, the set and the costumes and I even do my own makeup and hairstyle. I do not see the makeup, the hair and the fashion any different from paring the double octaves to a violin as it is another way of expressing myself and are equally important steps in the performance. As a true gypsy (I always moved around), I feel so much in control of my music. The stage is my home and I am my home.
Do you have any routines or superstitious rituals you follow before each performance?
I go into the coffin and take a nap for 1 hour. My day starts at 5am follow up by a stage rehearsal, a music rehearsal and a costume rehearsal, so I have only 1 hour before the concert starts. I tend to wake up straight with a loud beginning music when my performance is about to start!
Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Personality begins when comparison ends”. (Amadéus added that he stopped comparing himself to others).
Whether you like Amadéus’ performance or not, I think that his courage as an artist deserves applause. Amadéus is definitely opening up a new type of art, especially in the classical music. What is art and who defines it? For me art is anything that makes people explore deeper into their own thinking and own world. That is what makes art so powerful.