<b>The accent was very much on youth in the glamorous gala ceremony that honoured the mentors and protégés of the 2016 - 2017 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative in Berlin on 5 February.</b>
In the cream and red auditorium of the Berlin Opera House, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, gleaming after its recent restoration, an octet of musicians from the Orchestra Academy of the Staatsoper were the first to take the stage. They
played – at the beginning and close of the celebration – two movements from Mendelssohn’s Octet, itself a tribute to young talent since he composed it when he was only 16.
When the 550 guests later moved to a candlelit dinner in the gilded setting of the Konzerthaus it was their Youth Choir who began proceedings, their angelic, high voices soaring across the balconies of Karl Freidrich Schnikel’s famously
In between, the eighth cycle of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative came to an end in a noticeably emotional ceremony, charged with warmth and feeling. In his opening remarks, Bertrand Gros, Chairman of the Board of Rolex SA,
praised the way that individual personal interactions were the key to the success of this remarkable arts initiative.
“We believe that the personal and emotive relationships forged between mentors and protégés will make a lasting contribution to the art of our time and will reinforce cultural sharing around the world, which adds value to our civilization,”
The depth of the ties that were formed during the mentoring year were revealed as the mentors introduced their protégés to the audience. In the course of a stream of films and speeches, the value of the experience became very clear.
Film mentor Alfonso Cuarón welcomed Chaitanya Tamhane as “my artistic collaborator and my friend”. Mia Couto, literature mentor, talked of the “method of friendship” that he had adopted when working alongside Julián Fuks; art mentor Joan
Jonas greeted her protegée Thao-Nguyen Phan with a hug and the hint of tears.
Robert Lepage, the theatre mentor, explained that reaching the age of 60 and being childless “does not mean your parental instincts are dead” and expressed his pleasure and delight at sharing the act of communion that is theatre with Matías
Architect David Chipperfield said that in looking for a protégé he had wanted “someone to play tennis with”, who would hit the ball back to him across the net. In Simon Kretz he found the perfect partner.
Philip Glass said that the new generation of musicians represented by his protégée Pauchi Sasaki had something different to say from “what we have been saying for 30 to 40 years”, but he added smiling: “I told her to be a composer you
have to give up eating or sleeping. You simply don’t have time to do both. Luckily, we do have dinner after this event though.”
The dance mentor Ohad Naharin could not attend the ceremony due to a loss in his family. Former mentor Alexei Ratmansky read Naharin’s speech to Londiwe Khoza in his place. “If I were to dance instead of talking it would be a dance about
love, appreciation and a sense of amazement.”
The impression of a baton being held gently between two generations was also emphasized by film director Mira Nair who spoke on behalf of past mentors and Selina Cartmell, theatre director, speaking for the protégés.
Bringing the evening to a close Rebecca Irvin, Head of Philanthropy at Rolex, announced the next cycle. This time each pair will work together for nearly two years “to strengthen and deepen the initiative”. They are the architect David
Adjaye, who will be working with Mariam Kamara, from Niger; choreographer Crystal Pite who is mentoring Khoudia Touré a pioneer in urban street dance from Senegal; musician Zakir Hussain, tabla player and percussionist, who will be
mentoring drummer Marcus Gilmore from New York and novelist Colm Tóibín whose protégé is Colin Barrett, an Irish writer who now lives in Canada.
As these new mentors and protégés embark on “their journey of mutual discovery”, Irvin invited all mentors and protégés in the room to stand. An extraordinary array stood up, including former mentors Robert Wilson, Hans Magnus Enzensberger,
Tahar Ben Jelloun, Kazuyo Sejima, Walter Murch, Olafur Eliasson, and protégés Lara Foot, Josep Caballé-Domenech, Susan Platts, Celine Murga, Tom Shoval and Eduardo Fukushima.
They accepted the applause of the surrounding audience with a mixture of solemn pride and pure delight. It was a fitting conclusion to a memorable night, where the glamour on the outside was more than matched by the happiness within.