We are somewhat accustomed to the culturally engaging events the Italian Cultural Institute presents us with, but January 9 was a real treat. The special guest invited at 686 Park Avenue within the context of Italian conductors in New York series was Maestro Gianandrea Noseda.
Music Director at Turin Teatro Regio since 2007, one of the major leading conductors worldwide, Noseda has just been appointed Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, a position, which is but the cherry on the top of the cake, if we consider his life-long career of success and glory.
International Opera Awards Conductor of the Year 2016 and Musical America’s Conductor of the Year 2015, Noseda has also been selected as Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra beginning with the 2016-17 season — a position he plans to serve simultaneously with the post at the Kennedy Center in Washington. This January he is travelling back and forth from New York City as he is currently conducting the sumptuous score of the acclaimed Met Opera’s production Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod.
In conversation with musicologist Harvey Sachs, Maestro Noseda spellbound the audience at the Institute with his passionate speech and his immense musical culture. He was also very generous in the way he disclosed how opera works in the day-to-day activities. “In an opera all the elements have to be rehearsed separately. First come singers and conductors. Then conductor and orchestra. Then the Chorus Master and the chorus. And simultaneously, you have people on the stage working on choreographies, lights, costumes, etc… Slowly, slowly, everything comes together… It is very difficult as all these discrete elements have to be put together, harmonized and work. But when everything works well, it is a miracle. And this is how I call opera — a miracle. When it happens — and it happens one time out of fifty! — it feels simple. It is like touching sky with your fingers… There are no clear reasons why the other 49 times, it does not work — reasons are in fact numerous. What is crucial though, is the conductor’s presence all along the process. The conductor has to be there, and not from minute one, but from second one, in order to supervise everything and to make everything easy for the others.”
Encouraged by Sachs, Noseda elaborated far and wide by spanning from Roméo and Juliette’s tense and dramatic atmosphere since the very beginning, to the use of chromaticism after Tristan und Isolde, from Berlioz’ innovation end experimentation, to French composers’ unpredictability.
Noseda also pondered over the situation of opera in Italy today, proving to be a shrewd connoisseur of the current opera market dynamics. “We have to put up with a fact: nowadays there is not a request of opera comparable to the past. Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras filled theaters back in the 1980s and 1990s, just like Toscanini in the US in the first decades of the 20th century: they were performance-sellers. But times have changed. We need to face this new era in which artistic offers are numerous and diverse — it is like with television: if once there was just Rai Uno, think about how many channels there are now. People are not ready to subscribe for 25 operas a year: they rather decide for a last-minute single ticket. And audiences are getting more and more demanding. So we have to be creative, innovate, and offer different flavors: we cannot serve them the same soup over and over… For instance, La Bohème that we have just staged in Turin was very bold, very creative and modern. We need to find the way to make opera attractive,” and concludes, “We do not need to preserve opera: we need to revitalize it. We need new operas, and we need to take risks. After all, have Mozart, Bach, Beethoven with his Missa Solemnis, Verdi with his Falstaff, taken no risks? All this is of course very challenging.”
Talking about challenges as a conductor, Noseda admits that the most tiring opera in terms of energy, concentration and preparation level, and the stamina you need to face it, is, according to his experience, Prokofiev’s War and Peace. “It is actually one of the longest ever written; to keep control of the orchestra, and everything under control, while reaching some sort of performance freedom, is extremely difficult. Regarding favorites, on the other hand, I say I am always in love with the opera I happen to be conducting, so at the moment, Gounod’s Roméo and Juliette is my love.”
Noseda confesses at La Voce that the prevailing emotions he feels upon accepting the appointment at the Kennedy Center in Washington are happiness, responsibility and anticipation. “Being the Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra in the Capital is important: whatever you do in crucial places like this is going to be spread, and you are going to be exposed, so the responsibility is of course there. Yet I am really looking forward to starting! The Orchestra has a huge potential, the Kennedy Center is an incredible place, and spending time in DC will be nice.”
Having toured and lived the world extensively — Austria, China, France, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Japan, Russia, the United States — and questioned about the place he feels more at home in, Maestro Noseda comments, “I feel grateful I am Italian, but in every place I go — together with Lucia, my wife, who always travels with me — I feel at home. However, should I pick two locations, St. Petersburg and Jerusalem are a couple of places I feel especially connected to.”
To know a Maestro Noseda is out there, bringing beauty and talent around the world, and Italy with them, is something that can uplift souls and calm us down when Italy drives us crazy with the same old stories, the umpteenth complaints…
If you are in New York on January 21, 25 or 28, try not to miss the chance to enjoy Maestro Noseda wielding the baton before Roméo and Juliette at the Met Opera.