Aiming for ‘a sense of pride and wonder’ | Sigmund Mifsud

Following the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance at the Milan Expo last week, we speak to its CEO, Sigmund Mifsud, about its participation at the international cultural event, as well as the drive to ensure that the MPO remains a vibrant and relevant entity

Sigmund Mifsud
Sigmund Mifsud

What have been some of your key challenges at Malta Philharmonic Orchestra CEO?

One of the greatest challenges that I encounter in my everyday job is the perspective of the public towards the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, mainly because the MPO is not always envisaged as a professional body. My aim is to develop appreciation towards the MPO and to enhance its credibility by investing in the quality of our musical product.

Changing mentality is hard work but I believe that together we can achieve this. By empowering and involving the musicians themselves in our decision-making processes, we are creating a positive environment and sense of belonging. Our next step is to encourage our audience to understand and support the MPO’s work with a sense of pride and wonder.

Were there some particular difficulties that you had to tackle head-on on assuming the role?

The orchestra needed a change in its artistic vision in order to expand its networks and its visibility. The MPO is presently benefiting from the musical expertise and expansive knowledge of our Principal Conductor and Artistic Director, Brian Schembri.
We are also currently re-structuring the Management and Administration team, which will continue to strengthen the work, efficiency and presentation of the entire organisation.

How would you say the MPO has evolved over the last couple of years?

We have been working hard on improving the musical quality, for example by performing more challenging symphonic repertoire. Not only is our Principal Conductor, Brian Schembri, continually striving to develop the musicians’ performance, but the number of guest conductors of great repute that have worked with the MPO has also been beneficial for the musicians’ development. 

This year we can happily say that the MPO has seen an increase in its audience, both locally and abroad. International networking has been a vital area of growth for the MPO, with two milestones being the very successful China tour during the last Christmas season and our latest performance at the EXPO in Milan.

We have also given the opportunity to local soloists and composers to perform and work with the MPO. We have had two professional CD recordings this year, featuring work by Maltese composers, with one of them being released under Naxos which is distributing our music worldwide.

How is the MPO responding to audiences in particular?

The MPO has been innovative and adventurous by selecting challenging symphonic repertoire for most of its concert series, which seems to have been very well received by our audiences. The MPO has the capability of adapting our programme and repertoire according to the needs of every occasion.

We are now in the process of launching a new Loyalty Scheme with the aim of strengthening and widening our support network. Through the different levels of Memberships, we would like to encourage individual people to form close associations with the MPO and become regular patrons at our concerts and other events.

Have audiences changed over the past few years, or does an active effort need to be applied to find new audiences from different age groups and other sectors of society?

The appreciation of classical music seems to have increased over the past few years, so yes, we are starting to see a wider vareity of audiences. Furthermore, the MPO is committed to investing in educational and outreach programmes in order to build a new, strong and loyal audience profile, which will slowly change the musical and cultural landscape of our country.

What are the benefits for the MPO and its musicians when performing on international platforms, such as the Milano Expo last week?

When the orchestra performs abroad, it enhances its profile and identity on an international level, while also greatly benefitting from team building amongst the musicians themselves. At the Milano Expo last week we showcased our traditional music by playing Charles Camilleri’s Malta Suite, while also providing a platform for the presentation of new creativity and innovation through the music of young Maltese composer Karl Fiorini, whose Symphony No. 2 was commissioned specifically for this occasion.

I believe that the MPO has been a true musical ambassador last week for Malta, and a living proof that Malta can be a cultural destination for those who seek to travel to attend concerts and other musical events.

And do you think touring is the only real way that Maltese musicians can professionalise their work further?

Touring abroad is definitely an eye opener as it enriches the MPO in a variety of ways. Having said so, we are also investing in making the MPO more visible in Malta itself and for classical music to be appreciated by many.

What’s next for the MPO?

The MPO has recently moved into its new premises in Floriana. We are currently exploring the possibilities for the MPO to have its own professional Concert Hall, which will not only develop the MPO’s capabilities further but it will also enhance the cultural identity of our country.

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