We have scrambled eggs with the conductor Gianandrea Noseda in the Lincoln Center restaurant. Noseda is a tall man with an athletic look and he has very polite manners.
Live from the Met.
“I am in New York to conduct the new production of Prince Igor by Borodin and I am here for another production of Andrea Chénier in March.”
How long ago you did you start working with the Met?
I started in 2002 with another epic Russian opera, War and Peace by Prokofiev. Since then I have been coming regularly. I have conducted five Verdi productions. This year will be my longest visit to America, over three months. I will go to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and I am doing a seven concert tour taking in Naples, Florida; Houston, Texas and Washington DC with the Israel Philharmonic.
Your career started in Spain and then in England after your studies at the Conservatorio di Milano?
Yes, but I never lost my connection with my country through my connection with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi and The Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai – that was until 2007, when I accepted to become Musical Director of the Teatro Regio in Turin.
Which means what?
To have responsibility for an important opera house. My wish was to increase the international visibility of the Teatro Regio, starting by recording DVDs and CDs, and also by developing international activity with tours that have taken us as far afield as Japan, Germany, Austria and Spain.
How is the Teatro Regio orchestra today?
They have developed enormously and today they can compete on a world musical market because we can deliver very high quality. But we have to let people know this!
What about Italian orchestras in general?
In the last fifteen years their level has increased in a very significant way.
Is the Met orchestra superior?
I cannot say that. But it is certain that for fifty years they have given the highest quality, and even more. From Mahler and Toscanini up to James Levine have conducted it.
What is the job of a conductor?
To motivate, to involve people, so that they embrace the vision that the conductor has of a specific piece of music.
What is your favourite piece of music?
The piece I am conducting. Because I have to concentrate my love, my passion, my energy.
What about Italian opera?
Of course Italian operas have a privileged place in my heart. If I have to pick only one composer I will pick Verdi. The operas I would take with me to a desert island would be Macbeth, Don Carlos and Otello.
What is the most important opera you have conducted?
We have to understand which one of the operas has changed the history of opera. For sure Don Giovanni (Mozart), Don Carlos (Verdi), Tristan and Isolde (Wagner). These operas have changed the future development of the operas that came after.
Do you know who your public is?
Opera belongs to everyone. In the audience you can find people belonging to very different social classes and ages. Opera reflects all the possible emotions that a human being can experience. All palates are catered to in each opera. Opera is like a mirror where everyone can see himself or herself to be challenged by one of the characters. You may find your self on stage. Opera should not be considered a museum piece. Opera is alive.
What kind of a relationship does the conductor have with the singers?
When you take up the project of an opera as a conductor you try to detect who are the best singers for each character of that specific opera and you try to get them. What I personally try to do is to imagine a particular voice for the character and preferably I try to invite that singer, even if they have never interpreted that character before.
Today are there still any stars on the level of Callas, Pavarotti or Domingo?
There are very good singers today. In terms of the star system it is very difficult to compete with the ones you mentioned. To call them stars is difficult, but time will judge. There are several good singers coming from Russia and the Eastern European countries. There is a very good school in North America and also good singers are coming from Latin America and Spanish countries. In Italy we have very good talents but we do not market them well. All types of voices: soprano, mezzo soprano, tenor, baritone, bass, are equally important in every opera. In the imagination of the public at large tenors and sopranos were always the stars.
Do you sometimes fight with the singers?
No, I don’t fight, but if I don’t understand the particular interpretation of something I ask, “Why?” If they have a good reason I respect their ideas.
Which is the best orchestra today?
To name the Number One is difficult, a bit unfair and almost impossible. But, according to a questionnaire of Gramophone Magazine, in the top positions we have: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Vienna Philharmonic, London Symphony and Budapest Festival Orchestra.
What is your ambition Maestro?
My ambition is to conduct the best orchestras in the best theatres of the world, for the only reason that I want to be inspired and to learn what to do in order to raise the level of the musical institution that I am in charge of and to put it on the same high level. I want to bring my experience back to my country.
But your country does not invest much in culture and theatre?
We should increase the sponsorship of companies and single people, making them feel enthusiastic about opera. Italy is still regarded as a cradle of the arts and we should take advantage of that and take our work all over the world.
Is Torino a good city for music?
Yes, it is. There is a seriousness and a sense of responsibility and I really appreciate the city. What I think is still missing is the courage and the enthusiasm to present itself in a wider environment: the world. More courage to open doors.
Are there many good conductors today?
Yes, many, and coming from different countries. There is a new mid-generation of conductors.
What kind of a job is it?
Very rewarding in terms of emotional and artistic satisfaction when everything goes well.
What are the qualities that a conductor should have?
Very deep musical knowledge, a bit of psychological attitude, and first of all, endless energy to convey all the forces involved in a performance. To get the great goal that is serving the music and the composer.
What kind of a life is yours?
A normal life. But I need discipline and a particular ability to never give up, and also a childish attitude to be surprised. There is a lot of work, and most of the work is sitting alone with the score, spending time. One has to get a relationship. It should become part of your life. But the most demanding element is to listen with your inner ear what you read in the score, without recording. Then you have to convey this idea of sound to the orchestra and, when it is opera, also with the singers. The rehearsal process is compact and short compared with the time the conductor spends learning the score.
Where do you do your homework?
Where there is a table, a small desk, an eraser and a pencil.
February 18th 2014