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February 07, 2017

Carlo Rizzi On Working With The Symphony Orchestra of India

Text by Huzan Tata

After wielding his baton all over the globe, the renowned conductor joins the SOI for its latest season

From the operatic works of Mozart, Puccini and Tchaikovsky to those of the lesser-known Donizetti and Paisiello, he’s a master of them all. Debuting on local shores with the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), Carlo Rizzi — who will conduct performances of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and a production of La Boheme with the troupe — talks to Verve about his upcoming performance.

The SOI debut
“It is the first time I’m working with an Indian ensemble. We are doing three different programmes in nine days, so it will be a very concentrated and intense collaboration, which is always exciting. We will explore different styles in the repertoire; I am looking forward to both the experience and the challenge.”

Introduction to opera
“I would definitely suggest hearing La Boheme! It is a gripping story, and the beautiful music aptly describes the moments of youth, joy, sadness, anger, love and death that permeate our lives. Of course, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro is a wonderful choice for first-timers. Something completely different from the Italian opera but equally great is Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, that has comedy, love, and incredible music — things that are also present in almost every Bollywood film or live performance!”

A good ear   
“With music, there is a direct link between the composition and the listener. This is why it is universally popular and why people prefer it to reading a poem or flipping through an art catalogue. As in every art form, there are those who have more technical knowledge than others. Does this mean that they are able to perceive more details than the average listener? Maybe. Does it mean that they enjoy the experience more than the average listener? Absolutely not!”

Setting the tone
“In Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, he does not beat around the bush. It goes straight to business with a very powerful opening. Maybe it is this immediacy that has wowed listeners from the very first time it was performed. It is such an amazing experience performing and listening to it that the 35-minute set feels like five!”

A special venue
“I was born in Milan and all my musical education took place there. When I was a teenager I learned so much, watching performances at the Teatro alla Scala. So when I perform there, there is always that something extra. There are many other places where I enjoy working, but La Scala continues to be special.”

On Indian music
“Sadly, I have had only one direct experience of an Indian performance. My brother was the leader of the European Union Youth Orchestra in Rome, when Zubin Mehta was conducting a concert with sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. It was totally new for me, and really memorable. I hope this visit to India will offer new opportunities because I am certainly open to different styles coming together.”

On his playlist
“There is so much classical music that I rarely listen to other kinds, although jazz is my second favorite. My interest in pop developed when my children were growing up, but many songs seem to be based on two chords and a lot of percussion. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that when I listen to a good song I don’t appreciate it — several Beatles songs come to mind. But as a classical musician — just to be predictable — the two composers that are always present are Bach and Mozart.”

The Symphony Orchestra of India will perform at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai until February 11, 2017. Visit www.ncpamumbai.com for the complete schedule.

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