Antonio Pappano interview

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John F
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Antonio Pappano interview

Post by John F » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:51 am

Of local interest: he'll make his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2021-2 conducting a new production of Puccini's "La Fanciulla del West." I would have preferred almost any other opera...

Antonio Pappano: Why the maestro isn’t bowing out yet
Fiona Maddocks
Sun 4 Nov 2018

Padding around in socks, jeans and T-shirt, Antonio Pappano is enjoying a rare morning at home in north London. More familiar on the podium, in his maestro uniform of black trousers and mandarin shirt, the music director of the Royal Opera House is in off-duty, tousled mode. “I said I’m not going in to the Opera House on my day off,” he says cheerfully, flopping into a big armchair. Given that he’s been conducting Wagner’s Ring over the past two months, each cycle comprising four enormous operas and 16 hours of music, he’s hardly dodging.

In any case, it’s some day off. Oliver Mears, the ROH’s director of opera, is leaving as I arrive. Pappano has a Tchaikovsky score under his arm, grabbing any available moment to prepare. His American wife, Pamela Bullock, the distinguished voice coach, is trying to do her own thing while supplying coffee, as well as a taxi service to the nearest tube.

“I was due to leave Covent Garden in two years’ time, so had several things in the diary,” Pappano says, getting straight to the point. A compact force of energy, he’s a great one for focus. It’s why we’re talking. “Now I’m here for a while, a year out will be good for me, and good for the company to have a pause from me, after 17 years.”

The Royal Opera House will confirm on Monday that Pappano, 58, is to remain as music director until “at least” the end of the 2022/23 season. Appointed in 2002, he will become the longest-serving music director in its history. He will take a year’s sabbatical in the 2019/20 season. “For a conductor, a sabbatical means working on scores, thinking afresh,” he says. You can’t imagine him drumming his fingers, except to work out a particularly tricky rhythm in a piece of Harrison Birtwistle. During his year out, Pappano will work at La Scala, Milan, the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and the Staatsoper, Berlin. “I’m happy to guest conduct, which I’ve hardly done for the past decade. I’ll also work with young musicians. As a conductor, you are also a teacher. There’s no voodoo involved.”

This ends speculation, for now, about his successor. Rumoured front-runners have included the British-born Edward Gardner, 43, and the Latvian Andris Nelsons, 39, but a woman may enter the frame by 2023. An ROH spokesman says there’s “no active search” at the moment.

There’s some bluff here. Entrapping conductors is like tickling trout in slow motion. Negotiations with an unnamed candidate recently broke down at a late stage, which influenced Pappano’s decision to stay. Tantalisingly few details have leaked. “Once I realised the company would be rudderless, musically speaking, I had no choice. I couldn’t walk away having given so much blood, sweat and tears for so long, only to see all our collective efforts wither.”

Pappano’s own name had been linked with posts abroad, including Munich but, luckily for the ROH, none had come to fruition. He seems to have been in no rush to go. Increasingly popular with audiences – his applause is always louder than that of the singers – he has established a strong company ethos with the chief executive, Alex Beard, and, as of 2016, the youthful Mears, who replaced Kaspar Holten.

One of Pappano’s particular gifts is his understanding of singers. His musical charisma is central to to attracting world-class star singers to London, such as Anna Netrebko or Jonas Kaufmann, a priceless asset for the ROH given the low fees paid in the UK, compared with other global opera capitals.

Brexit is an immediate preoccupation. “Music doesn’t have borders. The ROH is an international institution, relying on a flow of talent which needs to be unimpeded. Just as British singers are used internationally, so it’s imperative the reverse is true.”

Costs of covering every role with an understudy are prohibitive. “In an emergency, we rely on calling singers in the morning and having them fly over from Europe to save the performance that evening. It’s fundamental to the way we work.” Lengthy visa applications would make that impossible. The ROH, via the Creative Industries Federation, is pressing the government to establish an express permit system. “But it’s a far bigger question. We don’t pay star singers competitive rates.” says Pappano. “With excess paperwork, we’d become even less attractive. The ROH’s world-class standing would be under grave threat. The idea of greater isolation, insularity, is worrying.”

Nor is it simply a case of employing more British singers. Many operatic roles can only be sung by a few in the world at any one time. “Yet musicians want to come here. It’s not just about the pay cheque. They appreciate the UK’s high standards and professionalism. British audiences are tough, hard-won, rewarding.”

Pappano is also concerned about the impact of the English baccalaureate on school music teaching. “Creative thinking has an impact on the brain, on emotional intelligence. That’s a fact, not just some touchy-feely opinion. And it’s the underprivileged, whose families can’t afford to pay for singing or dancing lessons, who will really suffer. How loud do we have to shout?”

Born in Epping, Essex, to Italian parents, Pappano lived in a council flat in Victoria, London, until the family moved to America in his teens. At the age of seven, he used to help his mother before school, “starting at 5am”, with her work as an office cleaner. By 10, already an accomplished pianist, he was playing for his father, a singing teacher. “I’m a child of immigrants. It’s helped me develop a work ethic, a sense of responsibility for myself, which I’m trying to apply to something I love: music and opera. My parents instilled in me a sense of family. I try to carry that through to the ROH.”

Pappano has presented two successful BBC Four series aimed at demystifying opera. “If you’re called the Royal Opera and you’re in a fancy building, the externals look elitist,” he says. “But theatre is about the audience, about sharing a visceral experience. And let’s not forget the huge number of seats at affordable prices.” More than half the seats last season cost £65 or less. Thirty per cent were under £35. He praises the ROH’s Open-Up initiative, giving access to the building’s newly revamped public spaces; these have welcomed more than 100,000 visitors since a three-year transformation ended in September.

Pappano is in his prime. Confirmation of his contract renewal comes after a singularly busy period. Usual limits of nerves or stress apparently do not apply. Last month, on top of Ring cycles including a live relay of Die Walküre to 880 cinemas in 23 countries, he conducted a shattering performance of Verdi’s Requiem to mark the ROH’s royal charter, and a 70th birthday concert for Prince Charles. What’s his secret? “The complexity of preparing four Wagner operas at once, darting between rehearsal rooms, guarantees you keep fit,” he chuckles. He usually loses several kilos during a Ring season. He also launched a CD, to mark the 1918 Armistice, with the British tenor Ian Bostridge. “Playing the piano is vital. It reconnects me with sound,” Pappano says. “That is, making it myself.”

He spends half the year in Rome as music director, since 2005, of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Italy’s preeminent symphony orchestra. “Italy has its issues with the EU financially. It’s in dire straits. My orchestra is working hard to maintain quality and artistic integrity.”

Normal limits of stress or stamina do not seem to be an issue. “I’m not that interested in career any more. There’s far more to it than thinking about the next job. It’s about living a rewarding musical life. It’s about probing the mystery of sound, the romance, the conflict, the hope. It sounds corny. But when you’re standing there on the podium, in the middle of it, you just can’t believe it.”.. ... london?CMP
John Francis

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Re: Antonio Pappano interview

Post by lennygoran » Sun Nov 04, 2018 9:15 am

John F wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:51 am
Of local interest: he'll make his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2021-2 conducting a new production of Puccini's "La Fanciulla del West." I would have preferred almost any other opera...
We just saw this opera HD style last Sat-Kaufmann was superb once he warmed up-the cast sang and acted well-it's a wonderful production we've seen several times-why is a new one needed! One big difference this time was that while Milnes punched Domingo right in the solar plexus whereas Lucic kneed Kaufmann! Regards, Len [fleeing] :lol:

Posts: 5652
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Antonio Pappano interview

Post by maestrob » Sun Nov 04, 2018 12:06 pm

Pappano is one of the world's great conductors, especially of opera. He knows how to get the bestout of great singers. I have his Verdi Requiem and his recent Aida on CD, and admire them greatly. Thanks for posting this!

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