Musical magic: interview with Robert Fienga, the Orchestra Conductor at Disneyland Paris

After winning first prize at the National Higher Music Conservatory in Paris, Robert Fienga followed a very comprehensive training course in the United States before playing with prestigious orchestras, such as the Paris Opera, the Paris Orchestral Ensemble, and the Ensemble Intercontemporain. He then immersed himself in jazz, primarily with Michel Legrand’s Big Band, and took part in the recording of many film scores and classical, light entertainment, or jazz works, before joining Disneyland® Paris as its Orchestra Conductor.  Inspired by sources as varied as Stevie Wonder, Ravel, Mozart, Chicago or Miles Davis, to mention just a few, Robert Fienga talks about his various assignments with passion.

You hold the musical responsibility for the musicians and singers who perform in the Parks. Can you explain what the job of Orchestra Conductor at Disneyland Paris entails in more detail? However, can your first and foremost say a few words about your career?

I joined Disneyland Paris 23 years ago, even before the opening. I was part of the Grand Opening Team. Music has always been my vocation, and I was lucky enough to follow a very comprehensive academic training course at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in the United States. This dual French and American cultural background has served me throughout my career, and has been a precious source of inspiration, since being an Orchestra Conductor means being versatile, and taking an interest in all existing music trends. When I began working at Disneyland Paris, I was responsible for managing the Marching Bands, i.e. the orchestras that paraded in the Disneyland Park. Then, each Land set up its own orchestra in keeping with its story as from 1994, i.e. 1920s music for Main Street U.S.A., Dixieland music for Frontierland, and music inspired from fairy stories for Fantasyland… The musicians were selected depending on the theme of the location.

My day-to-day role as an Orchestra Conductor primarily consists in working with the Producers in order to set their shows to music. This is an adaptation and harmonization task that I particularly like. Among the productions that have had the most impact on me, I would mention the Winnie the Pooh show on which I worked with Katy Harris, as well as the annual celebrations for Mickey’s Magical Party, or High School Musical for three seasons, as well as The Lion King or Playhouse Disney – these are wonderful musical memories that are completely different from one another.

You are permanently working on new arrangements and orchestrations together with the creative teams. What are the main challenges that you face from the beginning of an idea to the recording or the live performance?

I have been working since the opening with a group of 36 passionate and professional musicians, most of whom work at Disneyland Paris; they make up the orchestras of the Lucky Nugget Saloon or Studio 1, among other musical groups. Other additional participants are added depending on the seasons. Being an Orchestra Conductor naturally implies being very flexible. You need to be able to adapt to very varied requests, juggle between the styles dictated by the Lands and the seasons, as well as master the specific features of each instrument. All this sometimes requires calling several months’ work into question, and changing everything at the last minute, as happened to me with a Mickey’s Magical Party show last year. However, the other major challenge involves human factors, i.e. managing sensitivities, harmonizing musical sensitivities within an orchestra, and dealing with unforeseen events! This is what makes this work so diverse!

Music is at the center of the Guest experience, since each Park, every Land, and every attraction, restaurant or boutique have their own musical identity. Can you tell us about the projects that have had the most impact on you and your proudest achievements since you joined Disneyland Paris?

I particularly like to write for singers, with the musical arrangements that it implies. You should know that every musical production at Disneyland Paris is based on several key stages: preparing the outline with the Producers, orchestration, recording, and then adding the finishing touches, including the final musical arrangements. It is this highly detailed work, this artistic challenge that is fascinating. The aim is to find the musical solution for an artistic requirement, including essential work on the length, since the length is the structural cornerstone in the music.

One experience that made a profound impression on me was the International “College Band” program between 1997 and 1999: we had organized worldwide auditions at Disneyland Paris in order to form a jazz orchestra, and I was able to witness the emergence of extraordinary talents!
I also really like working on putting the seasons into music with the Producers, in order to write the music for the Parades and the Shows. For instance, I had the honor of conducting the Orchestra that played at the Castle Theatre every day for Swing into Spring, working together with Christophe Leclercq, Kat de Blois and John Berrick; I was in charge of the Jingle Bell Boys for the Christmas 2013 Season, and I also worked very closely with Emanuel Lenormand where the staging was concerned.

The Halloween Season was also very interesting. We wanted to create a new musical identity in keeping with the determinedly festive tone that Disneyland Paris wanted to set for this season with its vibrant colors and merry ring, by adding an old-fashioned introductory tune, “Shine on Harvest Moon”, which was originally sung by Ruth Etting in 1931, and that we re-arranged for the occasion.

In essence, what I really like about my work as an Orchestra Conductor is the fact that I still learn something every day! There is constant creativity at Disneyland Paris and the scope for musical possibilities is endless!

0 thoughts on “Musical magic: interview with Robert Fienga, the Orchestra Conductor at Disneyland Paris”

  1. Hi, there! I’m from Brazil, and I’ll be at DisneylandParis on my 40th birthday with my family (a husband and 3 daughters). May I have my “magical birthday ever”? This include a character? How I order it? We’re ordering a 1day/2parks ticket, and we have a doubt about the time of Paris Express. It leaves Disnenyland at 8pm, is that time AFTER the fireworks and night parade? We’re very excited with this family travel,and we’ll be waiting ansiously for your reply

  2. Wonderful article, please more like this!

    I’ve never seen that castle elevation artwork before, could you post it in a higher resolution? Would love to thoroughly investigate the details of it.

    Kind regards
    Disneyland Paris Treasures

  3. Greate post. Keep writing such kind of information on your blog. Im really impressed by your blog.

  4. Appreciating the time and energy you put into your site and in depth information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.|

  5. What’s the point of attracting adults and “reconnecting them with childhooh emotions and memories” if once they’re there you’ll treat them like they’re not welcome?
    Maybe the problem is not our perception is wrong. Maybe the problem is you really don’t want us to go.

  6. There’s a Santa Fe style hotel? Oh my! Will have to go back and stay there! Only hotel I had time to see on my first visit was the Disneyland Hotel on my way into the park to see Captain Eo after it re-opened in June 2010. I was on a one-day visit via the Eurostar from London (on holiday there from Australia) so very limited time – too limited. But I loved it.

  7. I’ve been 4 times to Disneyland Paris in the last 3 years and each time the service has been absolutely dredful and not even apologetic – would love to see how this changes.

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  12. Also my question:-) Is there a way to buy something although i’m not working at Disneyland Paris?

  13. So, so sad to see this icon show close! I first saw it in California in 1987 and was blown away by what was then incredible 3D technology, as well as Michael’s performance. When I visited Disneyland Paris for the first (and thus far, only) time on 24 June 2010 I was on a EuroStar day trip to the park from London which I was visiting for Michael Jackson 1st anniversary events with his UK fans. When I heard that Disneyland Paris and other Disney Parks were re-opening the film as a tribute to Michael, I HAD to make the journey across the channel to see it again. Needless to say, I made the most of the opportunity for repeat screenings on that day. And though I’ve since seen it repeatedly in Anaheim and Tokyo (shortly before it closed there last year) I’ll never, ever forget seeing it on the big screen for the first time since the 80s at Disneyland Paris. I’m not sure I want to go back now. 🙁

  14. It’s a shame this classic has to go, really!
    I’m glad I got the chance to experience it once again with the tribute performance.

    It was not quite the same since many of the original effects and the look and feel of the cinema were missing, still the old 3D glasses/technique and and analogue! print/and projector was used, which was and is kind of lazy from Disney. Also, the print was very worn out the last time I’ve seen it and should have been replaced long ago.

    But, still better than no Captain EO.

    Since Captain EO will never return to the Disney parks, please release a worthy blu-ray of this classic masterpiece (in 3D and 2D). I’m sure plenty of Disney-, Michael Jackson-, Anjelica Huston, Franics Ford Coppola- and George Lucas-Fans would buy it in an instant!

    I sure would!

  15. Why oh why is this closing?

    Have seen it several times at Disneyland Paris in the last couple of years and and each showing was packed out! Judging by everyone’s reaction on the way out, the audience clearly loved both the film and its effects.

    Bad decision, Disney 🙁

  16. The reason it has closed is that jardly anyone watches. Figures have dwindled and have been for years. It has been declining in the mast few years. Everyone moans and groans but it costs Disney to keep it running and if the audiences ain’t coming, who can afford to keep it.

  17. between Oxford and CambridgeONSet the price of a $268look on approximately $358 and buyers will flip away. While you are it true the quick gladness in a bestthe states in the nation with such as AC Milan red and black

  18. Would it be possible to meet with some one in hr on the 2nd idecember2015 to discuss student placement with you. Students would be 18 plus studying travel and tourism funded via Erasmus
    Kind regards

    Sue

  19. We used these just after Christmas. Such a vast improvement since our last visit in summer 2014. Well done! I still had to wait from about 9am to get a good spot in the queue, but then we only waited about 10 minutes in the actual pavilion, as opposed to 70 minutes last time!

  20. We had a wonderfull new years evening at euro disney 2015 – 2016!!!!
    It was fantastic!!
    Thank you!

  21. Will the foliage be refurbished? Many leaves and small branches are missing and spoil the attraction so hopefully these will be refurbished.

  22. Hello We are a family of 4 with my husband and 2 children.I am 32 weeks pregnant.With the easy access card will I have access to attractions with my family.

  23. would changing the perception around DP to attract adults or a particular age groups not be at the expense of other age groups eg kids, teenagers.

  24. What a shame that they cast aside the park’s heritage, people’s memories and their love of DLP by destroying the named stones and replacing them with bland slabs.
    There were a few broken and loose ones, but surely they could have been kept and relayed to a better standard than they had previously.
    It has really dampened our DLP experience. What next? Removal of the castle?

  25. it’sasmallworld is more beautifulthan before.

    I will ride to it’s a smallworld during go to disneyland paris.

  26. i come to disney land for 20 years every year 2or3 times
    i am a real disney fan i collect it also but my complain is this year
    when y order to stay in the hotel why did they not mention
    that there is so many attraction close in the park you mention about the hotel but let also know about what happen in the park
    i hope you understand why i writhe this
    i hope that you will reply
    thanks yolande

  27. I want cast menbers . business chaienge back stage new shw works
    my challenge .
    U.S.A I want art work project menbers.

  28. Hello, I am staying at the Hotel on 9/23/16. That day is my daughter’s birthday. Do you have the opportunity to purchase a cake?

  29. Can anyone help with getting in touch with photopass for Disneyland Paris. Tried sending email through contact us but email keeps coming back undeliverable. All photos are not coming up and need them to find my photos.

  30. Not Impressed! Big Thunder mountain is one of my favorite Disney Rides! Shut! Simlarly, the Star Wars events are apparently unavailable.No mention of these attractions being shut when my booking was made in June. My grandson, for whom we arranged this trip, has extatically reached the height limit, and a star wars addict/devotee will now be denied these pleasures. Will there be a refund/discount offered?

  31. What’s up,I log on to your new stuff named “Disney Announces Transformative Multi-Year Expansion for Disneyland Paris – Disneyland Paris News” like every week.Your writing style is witty, keep it up! And you can look our website about proxy.

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