Conductor  Claudio  Abbado

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


Claudio Abbado, who has died aged 80, was not only among the greatest of conductors; in his last decade, after suffering from very severe illness, he raised a superband of players all gathered together for his sake, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, to heights that many listeners have never experienced in other orchestral concerts. A recording producer defined his special gift as a sense of "absolute pulse" – more precisely, an unerring sense of the right and natural tempo relations in a piece that could give shape and meaning even to the most seemingly amorphous of works, and within that a supple life to the individual musical phrases that no contemporary has equalled. He also rejected what he called the "ghettoisation" of music and refused to make a special case for "modern" music as a thing apart: he was as ardent a champion of many living composers as of Brahms or Debussy.

Reserved and economical of gesture in rehearsal, frequently inspirational in performance, he regarded conversation about his profession as a poor means of communicating about the act of music-making. He was surely right; his achievements at the head of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras, which elect their chief conductors, and then of the Lucerne ensemble speak for themselves.

He was born into a musical family in Milan. His mother, Maria, gave him his first piano lessons when he was eight years old; his father, Michelangelo, was a violinist and teacher at the city's Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory, where Claudio followed his older brother Marcello, now a distinguished pianist and composer, as a student of piano, conducting and composition. Graduating from the conservatory in 1955, he spent the next summer at the masterclasses of Siena's Accademia Chigiana. There another promising student, Zubin Mehta, recommended him to his teacher at the Vienna Music Academy, Hans Swarowsky, whose mathematical approach Abbado was later to value for laying firm foundations and freeing him to concentrate on interpretation.


Abbado also benefited from the more general lessons of great masters in Vienna. In Milan, he had seen Furtwängler and Toscanini conduct; now he and Mehta joined the bass section of the Vienna Singverein exclusively to learn from the technique of Herbert von Karajan. In 1958, the year of his graduation from the academy, he travelled to Tanglewood in the US to participate in the Koussevitzky prize competition and on his own admission was astonished to come first.

Success, however, was still not immediate; after making his operatic debut that same year conducting Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges in Trieste and a first appearance at the Milan's Piccola Scala in a concert in 1960 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Alessandro Scarlatti, he turned to teaching – partly to support his new wife, Giovanna Cavazzoni, and their two children, Daniele and Alessandra. As the post was to take charge of chamber music at the Parma Conservatoire, he learned invaluable lessons about listening to other musicians and lost no time in familiarising his Italian students with scores by Schoenberg, Bartók and Stravinsky.

Then, in 1963, he returned to America for another competition given in the name of Dimitri Mitropoulos; this time, he later declared, he conducted badly, the award of (joint) first prize was wrong and the whole experience revealed the iniquities of the competition system.

The real turning point came not with his subsequent appearance with the New York Philharmonic but two years later, when at Karajan's invitation he chose to perform Mahler's Second (Resurrection) Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival.

The large-scale late romantic symphony was to become one of the pillars on which his reputation was established, and launched his last Mahler series in Lucerne; two others followed in the shape of a contemporary opera – Giacomo Manzoni's Nuclear Death – and Bellini's I Capuleti e I Montecchi, both of which he subsequently conducted at La Scala. Milan was not slow to offer him the post of principal conductor there, which he took up in 1968; the titles of music director and artistic director followed in 1972 and 1976 respectively.

abbadoStrengthening the backbone of the Scala orchestra with an injection of non-Italian players, he encouraged it to look beyond the confines of Italian opera to the wider symphonic repertoire and even to chamber music. Even so, he never lost sight of its essential Italianate singing quality and refused to record Verdi with any other orchestra – a conviction to which his 1977 recording of Simon Boccanegra is perhaps the finest testament [back cover of box-set shown at right]. At the same time, other opera houses were to benefit from his supremely flexible Verdi conducting; he made his debut at London's Royal Opera in 1968 with Don Carlos.

Establishment infighting took its toll on the conscientious and introspective Abbado; he resigned several times in the 1970s when La Scala politics threatened to overwhelm him. A shorter course in opera-house politics came in 1991 when he gave up his two-year post as music director of the notoriously difficult Vienna State Opera on grounds of ill-health (though he continued to serve as artistic consultant). Yet his achievements here, too, were outstanding – above all new productions of Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina and Berg's Wozzeck, both recorded for posterity – and his relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic, which also serves as the opera's orchestra, had been well established since 1971.

Three collaborations with younger ensembles brought out the best in Abbado, as they were to do in Lucerne when he conducted the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. He united the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and an outstanding roster of international singers in Rossini's effervescent but then-neglected Il Viaggio a Reims at the 1985 Pesaro festival; the resultant recording proved a bestseller and remains a desert-island set for many opera lovers. When he took over as music director of the European Community Youth Orchestra in 1977, the astonishing results they achieved together came from a training and dedication few other international conductors would be willing to offer. The orchestra's organiser, Joy Bryer, has spoken about his concern for the individual welfare of the young players and his tireless attempts to help them in their careers after their time in the ECYO. In 1986 he established another ensemble for whom no allowances of age and inexperience ever needed to be made, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra; their Mahler Fourth and Ninth Symphony performances are, happily, preserved on DVD.

Abbado would have been the first to place his concerts with the ECYO as equal in importance to his long-term work with three major orchestras. In 1979 he celebrated his appointment as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra with a typically electrifying concert of Brian Ferneyhough, Brahms – the First Piano Concerto, with his long-term concerto partner Maurizio Pollini – and Tchaikovsky, to whose symphonies he always brought a bel canto beauty of line. His programmes in the orchestra's Mahler, Vienna and the Twentieth Century series were both eclectic and logical; on one evening, the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony and Debussy's Nocturnes shared an elusive tonal incandescence that will never be forgotten by those who heard it.

Even so, the Vienna Philharmonic remained Abbado's ideal instrument for Mahler, and in 1990 he moved on to the greatest challenge of his career at that time – moulding the life of the Berlin Philharmonic after the Karajan years. On the face of it, the changes in Berlin were obvious – to extend the orchestra's repertoire beyond the late romantic core which had been Karajan's element. Although Abbado would voice his reservations about visiting conductors who expected to shine in the standard works for which the orchestra had become famous rather than to challenge audiences with anything new, he was in a unique position to do both. His intensive work with promising musicians continued in the Berlin Encounters concerts of the annual Berlin festival, created in conjunction with the cellist Natalia Gutman – who later, and surely uniquely for the finest of soloists, played in his Lucerne orchestra – to bring together young instrumentalists with established professionals.

Musical life in Berlin was not always plain sailing; Abbado was wounded, as ever, by critical campaigns against his integrity and his work with the orchestra. There was sometimes a feeling in his later performances and recordings that the old, familiar sense of challenge had gone gentle; his Mahler Eighth Symphony in Berlin, for example, proved a surprisingly soft-grained conclusion to a Mahler cycle on disc that had begun with a far greater sense of dynamism (it was the only Mahler symphony he would later fail to conduct in Lucerne, where an advertised performance was pulled and replaced by the Mozart Requiem). On the other hand, the Brahms Third Symphony that he brought to London with his orchestra in 1998 still revealed a masterly control of ebb and flow in a work which Abbado had always regarded as one of the most difficult to conduct from the technical point of view. His turning back to Beethoven at the end of a musically rich career was characteristic of the way he was able to blend a self-renewing personal vision of familiar music with a close examination of textual scholarship (in this case Jonathan Del Mar's painstaking edition of the symphonies).

After radical treatment for cancer, Abbado took on a new lease of life by recreating the ideals of a Festival Orchestra in Lucerne in 2003. Not only did this usually laconic figure speak eloquently about how music had given him a burning will to live and how he felt his approach had now deepened; the players he gathered around him raised the whole notion of orchestral solidarity, at a time when the structure was coming under question, to a whole new level.

There were string quartets starting with the Hagen Quartet, top players from the Berlin Philharmonic and other world orchestras and a core of the youth he valued so much in the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. When I met the MCO conductor Daniel Harding at the 2005 festival, he described the big orchestral collaboration as resulting in "not so much a concert as a love-in", treasuring its uniqueness while questioning whether such a situation could possibly last.

It did, through to a Mahler Ninth in 2010 which I cannot be alone in unhesitatingly naming the greatest concert that I have ever heard. There were also a concert Fidelio, and a Bruckner Fifth which the ensemble brought to London in 2011. Sadly, Abbado was too ill to conduct further concerts planned in London. I count myself lucky to have seen a collaboration between the Orchestra Mozart and the Orchestra of Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where Abbado wrought supernatural magic in Tchaikovsky's The Tempest and was warmly embraced at the end by president Giorgio Napolitano [shown in photo below]. It came as no surprise when last August Napolitano appointed him senator for life.


Abbado's breadth of interests and curiosity remained a constant: a start had been made on planting the 90,000 magnolias that he suggested for Milan in 2008; later, deeply impressed by Michael Haneke's film The White Ribbon, he earmarked him as the ideal collaborator for a putative production of Berg's Wozzeck.

The awards and honours garnered throughout the conductor's life would be as impossible to list as the number of truly outstanding performances with orchestras and opera companies throughout the world. What remains are the films and the discs, equalling in their mastery and outshining in their breadth those of his equals, Furtwängler and Toscanini.

Abbado's first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, Gabriella Cantalupi, and their son, Sebastiano; by Daniele and Alessandra; by Misha, his son with the violinist Viktoria Mullova; and by his brothers, Marcello and Gabriele, and his sister, Luciana.

• Claudio Abbado, conductor, born 26 June 1933; died 20 January 2014

--  Obituary by David Nice from The Guardian [Text only - photos added from other sources] 
--  Throughout this webpage, names which are links refer to my Interviews elsewhere on this website.  BD 


During my many years of gathering interviews, it has been my pleasure to meet with the famous and the not-so-famous.  All have been interesting
— at least to a certain degree — and the very well-knowns were almost always as gracious, or even more so, than would be expected.

Claudio Abbado was at the very top of the heap for many years.  As noted in the obituary above, he ran or was associated with the greatest soloists and ensembles.  We met in Chicago in February of 1985.  It was backstage at Orchestra Hall (home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), and he immediately put me at ease.  Indeed, it was as though we were sitting in overstuffed chairs in a comfortable drawing room with a cozy fire and sweet pastries.  The transcript that follows is simply the chat between old friends.

His English, as expected, was laced with Italianisms, and some of these have been smoothed out.  But I hope that the eagerness and genuine enthusiasm remain since this is how he came across to me, as he does to the public during his appearances.  He made a large number of recordings, and the images shown on this page were selected for their relation to the conversation, or for the photographs on the covers, or because they have some of my other interview guests.  No other judgment for inclusion or omission is to be implied.

abbadoHis repertoire was always expanding, and he had recently added some Wagner to the list, so this is where we began . . . . . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:    Let us start with a bit with Wagner.  Is Lohengrin the first Wagner opera you’ve conducted?

Claudio Abbado:    Yes, as a complete opera, but I’ve done acts of Wagner in concert performances.  I’ve done the second act of Tristan in Edinburgh and the second act of Lohengrin in a concert performance.  It works very well; perfect.

BD:    You’ve done Lohengrin on the stage and in concert.  What do you demand differently from your singers, and how does it work differently from the stage to the concert?

CA:    Normally when I’m doing opera concert performance I like to do semi-staged, like we played in Chicago with Boris, and especially Wozzeck which was done semi-staged with costumes and lighting.  Lohengrin in Edinburgh was very simple. 

BD:    When you first started thinking about doing Lohengrin, did you go back to the writings of Wagner or did you just study the musical score?

CA:    I studied the musical score, but there are different editions.  I found that when Wagner was the conductor he did a lot of corrections.  So there was a corrected score of Wagner himself, and it’s published now by Peters, I think.

BD:    Was Wagner right in the corrections he made?

CA:    Yes.  Oh yes, he was right, absolutely.

BD:    Should he have made any other corrections that he didn’t?

CA:    You mean for the orchestration?  Sometimes.  It depends on which kind of voice need to be helped.  For a light voice you need to reduce the dynamic in the orchestra, but normally it’s very well-orchestrated.

BD:    Did Wagner ever ask too much of the singers, or of the orchestra or the conductor?

CA:    If you have good singers, it’s not too much.  Also if you get good orchestras, it’s not too much.  If you play with the Vienna Philharmonic, it’s not a problem.  I just conducted The Second SymphonyLobgesang’ of Mendelssohn, and I realized how much Wagner took from this symphony.  It has really a lot of Lohengrin, and in a strange way Mahler later was so mad about Mendelssohn and Schumann.  Especially  at first, Wagner was a friend of Weber and Mendelssohn and Schumann.

BD:    When you’re first studying Wagner, should you go through Weber and Mendelssohn before coming to his music?

CA:    It’s always interesting to know what came before Wagner and after Wagner.  It all helps to understand Wagner.

abbadoBD:    Can you ever understand all of Wagner, or is it just too much?

CA:    I’d like to understand more and more.  There’s no limit to what you can understand.

BD:    Is there more depth in Wagner than in, say, Verdi?

CA:    It’s a different culture.  It’s difficult to say that Don Carlo is less deep than Tristan.  They are two completely different worlds, different cultures, the Italian and the German.  In some ways, the German culture is deeper, but you can find great, deep music in the second version in the last part of Simon Boccanegra or something of Don Carlo.

BD:    When you’re doing something like Don Carlo or Simon Boccanegra, how do you decide which version to use?

CA:    I’ve just finished a recording of Don Carlos... 
[The recording includes much music re-discovered by Andrew Porter, and the French language coach is Janine Reiss.]

BD:    [Interrupting, noting the change in title]  Oh, in French? 

CA:    [Smiles]  Yes.  We decided to make the last version complete, and an appendix with all the music of the first version that Verdi had to cut because in part they say you have to finish at Midnight, so you have to make it shorter.  So there is all the music that he didn’t change to make it better.  For example, there is a Fontainebleau scene with Carlos, a very beautiful scene that he cut almost completely later in the Fontainebleau scene.  Then after the death of Posa there’s beautiful music.  There’s a duet in the third act between Elisabeth and Eboli.  There is a chorus for the ballet.  There’s another duet between Elisabeth and Eboli at the end of the third act, and then the finale is completely different.  It’s almost one hour of music that they have to cut.  We added all this in the last record as an appendix because I thought it better not to mix the different versions.  He wrote four versions, but where he did something better we used just the last version with the same music.  You can’t just repeat it many times.  There’s already five records of that.

BD:    With all of the music he originally wrote, would it be simply too long in the theater?

CA:    I did it in La Scala!  Nothing is simply too short or too long.  It could be something short and very boring, and it could be something long and very exciting.  It depends on how you play it.  It depends who is singing.  It depends if it’s a good production or not.

BD:    But you could play Bohème twice in the time you play one Wagner opera!

CA:    Yes, but it’s not about time or kilos or pounds.  I found Tristan conducted by Furtwängler wonderful.  I didn’t count how many hours.  Sometimes you can give Bohème with a terrible conductor or terrible singers, and in ten minutes you’re bored.  It’s not about time, it’s just about being a good performance or not.

BD:    How do you as a conductor then make sure that a performance is not boring?

CA:    [Thinks for a moment]  Oh, I don’t know!  I love music.  I love the opera I’m doing, and I try to give all this love inside for the music in a performance.  I am lucky because I normally have got the best orchestra or the best singers.  Normally I work at La Scala or I work in Vienna with the best producers and so on, so I hope the performances are also good.

BD:    You’ve been Musical Director at La Scala?

CA:    Yes.  When I will leave in 1986 it will be eighteen years.

BD:    How much besides the music then does that entail?  You conduct a number of operas there each season, but how much beyond that is administration?

abbadoCA:    No, I never work for the administration, but I did for the co-ordination of the programs.  We did a lot of big cycles of works.  For example, we did a Mussorgsky cycle in 1981 for his centenary.  We played all the music of Mussorgsky, including an opera never performed there before, Salammbô.  We played Boris and Khovanshchina and The Fair at Sorochyntsi, The Marriage and a lot of music never performed there before for orchestra.  We also did an Alban Berg festival in La Scala, and in 1986 we’re doing a Debussy festival, with all the music of Debussy, including some that has never been performed before.

BD:    [Eagerly]  The Fall of the House of Usher?

CA:    Yes, that and another one, Rodrigue et Chimène.  We’re doing Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien and a new production of Pelléas et Mélisande.

BD:    Why don’t contemporary audiences like contemporary music, the way they like Verdi or Wagner, or Handel?

CA:    I don’t know.  I think nowadays the new generation likes modern music.  We have had in Milan for many years a society called Musica del nostro Tempo [Music of our Time], and they played a lot of modern music, but not only modern music.  They attracted a special audience that wanted something, so every time you have a new performance.  We like this audience.  It’s all a collaboration between La Scala and some of the radio orchestras all together.  It works very well.  Next month in London we’re doing a new festival called Mahler, Vienna and the Twentieth Century.  In each program there will be some Mahler
a symphony or songsplus music of Alban Berg, Webern and Schoenberg, and one modern composer like Boulez, or Nono, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Berio.

BD:    You’ve done quite a bit of modern music and conducted a number of modern operas.  Are these new works following a tradition set down by Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini?

CA:    No!

BD:    Is there no line, no connecting thread?

CA:    I find some connection in the Nono opera.  You have to go back to music of Gabrieli, but no, there is  absolutely no connection with verismo or with the music of the last century.

BD:    Have the composers purposely turned their backs on what has preceded them?

CA:    It could be that at the beginning of this century, in the same years you’ve got Puccini, Mascagni and all these great verismo composers, at the same time there was Schoenberg and Berg and Webern.  Wozzeck or Erwartung were composed almost in the same year as Turandot.  So it’s completely different culture.  It could also be that from Wagner and Liszt to Mahler and then to Viennese School was completely different development.  The Italian was more in the operatic way.  So there are two completely different languages, and today all the best composers follow this line of the Viennese School.  In the meantime you can say in Italy now there are a lot of very good composers following the Viennese School.  Today there are many including Nono, Dallapiccola, Petrassi, Berio, Manzoni, Castiglioni, Sciarrino.

BD:    But why are these modern operas not as well-known as the Verdi operas?  Why does the public always flock to Don Carlo or Aïda, whereas they don’t flock to Lulu or Wozzeck?

CA:    Well, it takes time, I should think.  It’s a new language.  In the meantime, Wozzeck in Vienna is as popular as a classical opera.  The audiences get crazy for Wozzeck.  I think it’s a masterpiece.  It’s not maybe so easy to understand the first time, but Wozzeck today is classical.  If someone who is Japanese or Chinese came here in this room, I would not close the door because we wouldn’t understand.  That’s wrong.  We have to try to understand, even if we don’t know the language.  I don’t know Japanese or Chinese.  I don’t know if you know these languages, but we have to try to understand if somebody asks.  It’s the same with new music, which is a new language.  We have to try to understand, so the best is to and listen and listen and listen many times.

BD:    Do you think the ghosts of Verdi and Wagner are pleased with the directions that music has gone?

CA:    [He thinks]  Maybe more Wagner.  I don’t know.  It’s difficult to say.  For example, if you take Elektra of Richard Strauss, it’s the most modern opera he wrote.  In the last years after that he didn’t compose anything more modern than that.  This was at the beginning of the century, and after that was not so much that was so modern.  So it’s almost impossible to say what was exactly right.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You’ve done most or all of the Verdi operas...

CA:    I would like to know them all.  [Laughs]  There are many, you know.

abbadoBD:    Now you’ve gone into Wagner.  It was said that towards the end of Verdi’s life, he was getting more Wagnerian in his writing.  Is that true, or is that a mistake on the part of the historians?

CA:    No.  If you take Falstaff, it’s a masterpiece, and the instrumentation is more rich.  He learned a lot when you think of Wagner, but they’re completely a different mentality.  The culture is different.  You can say that Wagner is more symphonic and Verdi is more dramatic.  In four bars you have Amneris or you have Eboli already there, but in Wagner you can have more from the music.  Sometimes it is from the orchestra more than from what is being sung.

BD:    Did Verdi really know how to write for the voice?

CA:    Oh yes, he knew.

BD:    Do the modern composers know how to write for the voice?

CA:    A lot of modern composers don’t know about singing.  They don’t know Verdi, and they don’t know how to write for voices, but it’s not because they write things that are too difficult.  If you take Mozart, sometimes the singers say it’s impossible to jump from a low note to the top.  Sometimes Mozart was writing something crazy
from the low A to the top E.  But there some composers who know about the voice, who compose vocally well.

BD:    How we can teach modern composers more about the voice?

CA:    You have to study more carefully their own music.  But, as I said before, for sure there are good composers.

BD:    When you’re conducting an opera, say at La Scala, how much do you get involved in the character and the drama and stage deportment?

CA:    Normally I like to start on the first day with the rehearsals, and I follow all the rehearsals of stage and piano and technical and lighting, because everything is in connection with the music.  Normally I like to work with the producer years ahead, not just months, as much as possible.

BD:    What happens if you get a producer who does something that you think is way out of line?

CA:    We discuss together.  I remember a big strong discussion with Strehler.  It was great, and Simon Boccanegra is one of the best productions at La Scala.  We had a discussion then I try always to convince people what is better for the music, not because of something egotistic.  If you find the right way to demonstrate what is better for the music, then there you go.

BD:    Which is more important then
— the music or the drama?

CA:    The drama is part of the music, or the music’s part of the drama [laughs at himself] depending on which direction.

BD:    Then what is the balance?  [Both laugh]

CA:    It’s always the music.  Take, for example, Otello.  If you take Shakespeare’s Othello, it’s a great drama, but it’s not the best Shakespeare.  It’s a wonderful play, but there are many other plays of Shakespeare which are even better than Othello.  But Otello is great because of Verdi, because he put this kind of music in the drama.  So the drama is the music that comes out in Otello.

BD:    Is Verdi’s Otello great partly because of Boito?

abbadoCA:    Ah, absolutely.   Boito was great.  Think of the first part Boccanegra without Boito, and then the part when he has done the Council Chamber Scene or the finale because of the text of Boito.  Boito was very perfect for Verdi.

BD:    Does that make Boccanegra a lop-sided opera because it’s from two different parts of Verdi
’s career?

CA:    No, no, no, Boccanegra is a great opera all together.

BD:    It meshes together?

CA:    It meshes together, absolutely.  If you look at the letters of Verdi, he speaks about ‘my poor, sick opera’, so we have two versions of Simon, two versions of Macbeth, and four versions of Don Carlos.  That was what he called ‘my sick ones’.

BD:    Is there any point, then, in doing the first version of Boccanegra?  [Abbado recorded a bit of the original version of this and other Verdi operas on the LP shown at right.]

CA:    No, first because there is a lot of music that was not composed yet.  How can you do it without the Council Chamber Scene?  It would sound ridiculous.  It’s very weak.  It could be interesting to listen, but why if you get better music done by some composer?  Macbeth has something like that, and that’s sometimes how it’s played.

BD:    It seems like there’s this urge by some conductors and some producers to go back and do original versions of this, and first versions of that.

CA:    That’s something else.  It depends.  I prefer to hear Fidelio and not Leonora!

BD:    Does opera work in translation?

CA:    I think it’s very essential to be in the original language.  Think of Pelléas.  The words in French are in connection with the music, and the sound of the words in French with the music is like Boris in Russian.  If you hear Boris in German or in English or in Italian, it’s terrible.  Take Bohème in another language, or Wagner in another language.  For me it’s essential to do works in the original language.  [Remember, this conversation was held just as supertitles were beginning to be used in the theater.]

BD:    So you lose more in the musical performance than you gain in the textual understanding?

CA:    Absolutely, absolutely.  It is more important not to understand exactly each word with translations, than to miss the sound of the word with the music originally.

BD:    It makes a subconscious impression on the audience?

CA:    Yes.  I remember once I saw a play in a theater in Czechoslovakia.  I don’t speak Czechoslovakian, but there was simultaneous translation on headphones.  Then I took it off and found it was must better to hear directly.  I knew the meaning of the text.  I didn’t understand word by word, but it was much more powerful.  And that was a play, it was not an opera!  In opera, absolutely there is much more communication.  The music is the first thing.

BD:    How much preparation do you expect on the part of the audience?

CA:    I find in Japan they’re terribly well prepared.  The Japanese is another culture.  They didn’t know anything about Europe years ago, and now they come well prepared for the performance.  There are a lot of conferences and they listen to the records and tapes, and somebody will explain the text.  So they are at the performance very well prepared.   With La Scala we spent one month there doing five operas, and really they understand because the people were really laughing during the Barber of Seville or waiting for the day of Simon.  There was really good attention and there was a lot of people who really understand.  So preparation of the audience there is important.

abbadoBD:    Then in Italy or in London or here in Chicago, where we have opera regularly, are we more lazy in not being as prepared specifically for each work?

CA:    It depends.  In Italy, for instance, they know opera by instinct
not because they’re well prepared and not because of the education.  Education is very low.  There’s not a good education in Italy, but they know opera by instinct.  They are so musical, and they know by the operatic form by tradition, so they follow very well.  For education in England, they are fantastic because they are very well educated musically.  Here in this country there’s some good educationstudying educationbut they don’t provide the audience that goes to the performance with the little conference or pre-audition.

BD:    At the opera there are lectures occasionally.

CA:    Aha, occasionally?

BD:    Lyric Opera provides a lecture on each opera for the people who wish to come.

CA:    That’s good, that’s good.

BD:    Something I’m involved in is at a restaurant where people will go and have dinner, and then I give a little talk about that night’s performance.  It is always a lot of fun to do, and everyone seems to enjoy it.

CA:    Very good!  That’s excellent, absolutely.

BD:    Are recordings a good way to study the opera?

CA:    For whom
the audience or the conductor or for musicians?

BD:    Let’s separate it
— the audience first, and then the performer.

CA:    For the audience it is good to listen.

BD:    I often hear singers and conductors complain that those in the audience will hear a recording and they listen to it over and over again.  Then when they go to a performance it’s a little different, and they say it’s wrong or it doesn’t make the same impact.

CA:    Right!  This happens if they’re fixing one edition of course, but if they can listen to more than one edition, that’s ideal.  Then they can hear already some differences between the two editions, or three or four editions.  Of course in a recording you can hear the singers better because the microphone is very close.

BD:    Are records too perfect? 

CA:    Sometimes!  I prefer live recordings.  It’s more spontaneous.

BD:    You have done a number of recordings in the studio.  How do you get this spontaneity then?

CA:    It is very difficult!  Normally I try to make the recording after a series of performances.  The idea is that first are all the rehearsals and then the performances themselves, so almost the same idea is there that it is not cold.  Until now I record only operas that I’ve done in the opera house.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    When you’re conducting a performance, are you conscious of the audience behind you?

CA:    I’m conscious, yes, and for sure it’s very important.  I don’t know at the moment, but it’s terribly important if the audience is warm and they like the music, and they can follow and feel this performance.  The Chamber Orchestra of Europe just played in Boston and New York to a very warm audience, and we played at one university where there was a big gap between the stage and the audience, and it had a very dry acoustic.  It was almost like there was no audience, and it was terrible.

BD:    Are your rehearsals a finished product for the performance where everything is done, or is the performance actually something much more?

CA:    The performance is always something more.  Then if you have something magic, that’s a special performance, but not always.

BD:    Did the magic ever happen in recording?

CA:    Sometimes!   It is very difficult!  [Both laugh]  That’s the reason I say it is better to have a live performance.

BD:    Is it good or bad that young students of singing and conducting are now listening to many recordings?

abbadoCA:    The difficult thing is to choose the right recordings, but for sure you can learn a lot.  Some by Furtwängler and some of the Toscanini are good recordings for sure.

BD:    We’ve talked about a number of operas which you say are masterpieces.  How can you bring operas to the stage which you know are not masterpieces, yet you still have to conduct them and bring your best to them?

CA:    One such opera of Schubert is Fierrabras.  If you read what
‘they’ say, it’s good music but not good for the stage.  But I’m sure that it’s a great opera, though it will be very difficult to stage, very difficult to find the right singers, very difficult to play also.  But one day I will do this opera; same thing for Viaggio a Reims [recording shown at right].  It was just neglected for so many years, for one century in fact.

BD:    So you’re saying these two are masterpieces?

CA:    Yes.

BD:    What about some of the lesser operas, say of Mascagni or Giordano, which are definitely not masterpieces.  Are they worth doing at all?

CA:    Yes, if someone likes verismo.  But you have to like verismo!  [Both laugh]

BD:    How much is it the responsibility of the conductor to bring the various cultures to different cultures?  You bring the Italian culture wherever you go, so how can we bridge that cultural change more?

CA:    First, it’s very important to know not just the music culture, but what is around the music, from literature, paintings and everything that is possible to understand.  For me it was very important to understand Russian music to know about, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, or some modern Russian writers. The same thing with the German, or now with Vienna.  Many years ago I didn’t know about Klimt and Schiller and Kokoschka.  Now today I’m reading many things that are new to me.  It’s terribly important to understand all this culture and then to bring this culture around.  For example, in London they don’t know enough about Vienna.  That’s one of the reasons I’m doing this festival starting next month.  They never translate Josef Roth... maybe Radetzky March, but not the other books!  It’s a regimen.  The same thing is to bring Italian opera and London.  They’re doing very well now in England.  Some years ago good English singers didn’t exist, and now there are many very good ones.

BD:    Are we getting too many singers?

CA:    Too many?  No, but I mean good singers.

BD:    At what point does a singer become good? 

CA:    For example, if I’m doing Verdi’s Requiem, only three or four tenors can sing it well.  If I cannot get one of them, I prefer not to conduct this work.

BD:    So you must have a performance up to a certain level?

CA:    Yes.  I’m doing the Verdi Requiem here next season, and if you perform the Verdi Requiem or the Brahms Requiem, you perform it just once in ten years or twenty years.  You can’t do it every season.  It’s not so easy.  So it has to be absolutely with the best singers.  Otherwise it’s better to postpone for one or two seasons.

BD:    Is the Verdi Requiem another opera?

CA:    No, I think it’s a Requiem.

BD:    [Gently protesting]  But it’s so dramatic!

CA:    Yes, absolutely.  It reflects this drama through Verdi, but it’s not opera.  Absolutely I don’t think that it’s an opera.  For Verdi it was drama of that Requiem, but not an opera.  It’s very deep music.  It was formed from the Italian tradition from Monteverdi to Verdi.  In a Verdi Requiem there’s a lot of great tradition that is not operatic.

abbadoBD:    Is there a point of bringing Monteverdi operas to the stage now?

CA:    Yes, absolutely!  They are great pieces.

BD:    Do they belong to La Scala or should they only be done at Piccola Scala?

CA:    I would play them at La Scala.

BD:    Do they work there?

CA:    Yes.  There’s a good production of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and Harnoncourt conducting.  There was a tour from Zurich and they played all three
Orfeo, Ulisse, and Poppea!

BD:    Speaking about producers, do some producers go too far?

CA:    Sure!

BD:    Is that good for opera?

CA:    No!  [Both laugh]  For some time now I’m with Ponnelle, and he normally comes with one hundred ideas.  That’s beautiful, that’s good better than a producer without ideas, but we have to cut down to fifty per cent.  But it’s easier to cut down than if you have somebody who doesn’t have any ideas to work with!  [Both laugh]  In any case, what’s important is to have a producer who understands and who respects music.  That’s the most important thing.

BD:    If you were instructing a producer, would you tell him to go first to the music or first to the drama?

CA:    For a producer, he has to read the text first and then to listen to the music to understand better.  But what is important, as I said before, after that is the respect for the music.  To understand the music you have to come first.

BD:    So you then, as the conductor, are the final arbiter?

CA:    [Laughs]  I never think that I’m the final arbiter.  The composer is the final arbiter, and everybody
including me and the producer and the singers and everybody who is playing or doing something has to look to the composer with respect and follow that through for performance.

BD:    Do the composers ever make mistakes?

CA:    Of course!

BD:    Do you play the composer’s mistakes, or do you try to fix the composer’s mistakes?

CA:    Difficult to say!  If it’s something that could be done better for the music that’s composed that time, I’ll change, but normally I change very little. 

BD:    Most of your changes then would be ease the singers?

CA:    Yes!  For example, we’re recording Don Carlos complete with no cuts.  Normally they do a lot of cuts, you know, too many.  But there’s one little cut with the band when they play on stage...

BD:    In the auto-da-fé?

CA:    Yes, in the auto-da-fé.  It’s not really a beautiful modulation, so if you cut this it is better.  That’s what I think, and everybody does this cut.

BD:    [With mock alarm]  But then you’re rewriting Verdi!

CA:    [Smiles]  No, it’s not really like that if you do a cut.  He cut himself a lot of music!  [Laughs]

BD:    Then if Verdi himself would cut and rearrange and paste everything, how slavish should you as a conductor be to his score?

CA:    I try always to stay as much as possible with the score, with the composer, but sometimes it would be too stiff, too square.  Music is music, and you have to be free in music.

BD:    So then it’s your job as the conductor to free the music from the score?

CA:    Yes!

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Given your choice to do an opera on stage or a concert, which would you choose?

CA:    [Thinks a moment]  On stage, sure, with a good stage, with good rehearsal and with good ideas of staging, yes, absolutely.  Opera is born to be on stage.  The Wozzeck we did here with the Chicago Symphony, that was good, very good.  It was very simple staging, but quite nice.

BD:    Should that kind of simple staging be done at La Scala, or should it always be more elaborate?

CA:    No, I think the idea was good.  Of course in La Scala it can played better with the lighting, and could add something because of the big stage... but not too much because the real drama was with the music, with the orchestra and singers, and with very, very simplicity.

abbadoBD:    Does opera work on television?

CA:    Sometimes, yes.  It’s difficult.  I saw only one really good film of opera and that was The Magic Flute of Bergman!  That was great, but that’s the only film I saw.

BD:    Not the Zeffirelli Traviata?

CA:    Oh yes.  Did you like it?

BD:    Yes.  Did you not like it?

CA:    Did you like the cuts?

BD:    No, I didn’t like the cuts, and I didn’t like the transition between the acts where they added some music to attend the coach going along. 

CA:    [Laughs]  I don’t like this kind of thing, either.

BD:    But it made a nice scene.  It made a nice totality.

CA:    Did you see Don Giovanni of Losey?  It’s a beautiful film but has nothing to do with Mozart.  Sometimes it’s against Mozart, and I don’t think that Verdi would like to hear his music treated this way.  That’s again a respect for the composer.

BD:    Is that not akin to making a small cut because a piece of the stage machinery doesn’t work?

CA:    No, it’s different.  To use sometimes noise or music is a commentary for the film.  There are beautiful things, but sometimes you hear the noise of the people in a film, or percussion or other things added to the music.  They cover the music, so that’s a pity.

BD:    [With a gentle nudge]  So the music should not be just background?

CA:    Exactly.  For The Magic Flute, the only thing you can criticize is that it’s in Swedish and not in German!

BD:    Didn’t they have the translation on the screen?

CA:    It was subtitled

BD:    Is that the ideal way to do it
to have it in the original language with subtitles?

CA:    With subtitles, yes, absolutely.

BD:    Does that work in the theater?  They’ve tried this with the supertitles over the proscenium.

CA:    No, that is terrible!  I find it distracting, but on television it’s different.  Then it is better because I understand it!  But I’m not the best person to judge this kind of thing.  I also feel for the audiences.  It is better if they read a libretto before the performance so they understand what is going on, and then listen.  [Bruce roars laughing]  I’ve just finished a book of (Alfred) Einstein published by Princeton University where Einstein was teaching.  They took some letters and script of Einstein, and he speaks about some musical topics and says some wonderful things.  They asked him once,
What do you think of Bach? and he saidVery great music.  You’ve have to listen and shut up!  [Both roar laughing]  Then they asked him, What do you think of Schubert?” and he said, Schubert, very deep music.  I love Schubert.  You have to listen and again shut up!

BD:    Is our society today, our electronic age in 1985, too complex for people to really enjoy music that was written a hundred or two hundred years ago... or even thirty years ago?

CA:    No, I would say it’s the opposite.  A few years ago there were not so many young people who liked to hear classical music.  Now they change from liking pop music because there was not enough to it; it was too empty.  In the end they realized the classical music had something deeper.

BD:    Is pop actually music?

CA:    Oh, that I don’t know.  I like some things like the Beatles. 

BD:    Is Rock really music?

CA:    No.  I think rock music is an expression of time, but real music is something else.  Rock is not real music, no!  It’s just an expression.

BD:    Is it a business?

CA:    Unfortunately you can find business in conventional things everywhere, and I am sorry, even in classical music.

BD:    Can we get rid of the commercial side of classical music... or should we?

CA:    Ideally, yes, but in the meantime you make a record and that’s good for some people that can’t go to the concert.  Or after fifty years it’s good to have a record because then you can hear Strauss conduct himself.  This is the same with Furtwängler conducting a great performance.  But in the meantime, there is something commercial.  It is used by a company to make money, and that you can’t do anything against.  That’s the world today, so you can’t change the world.

BD:    Should music try to change the world?

CA:    In some ways, but very little, very little.  This speaks to the work that’s going on in Europe with the European Community Orchestra.  When we play in the capitals, the ministers and ambassadors come to the concert, and then they congratulate us.  They say,
That’s the only thing that works in the European Community!  It’s only young people together who work fantastically, economically, and so good that it works.  [Laughs]  Others things don’t work so well!  For communication with eastern countries in Europe, that’s one of the best ways.

BD:    Should music be political?

CA:    It depends what you mean, but in some ways, some Beethoven is already is political. 

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Is it good that productions are shared amongst various opera houses?

abbadoCA:    I think it’s good.  Sometimes if there is a good production, it’s better to take a good used production back than to do a new one that maybe is not good because of the cost.  It might be better not to spend so much money for a new production when you can get another one, a really good one from another opera house. 

BD:    How do you balance the financial costs with the artistic richness?

CA:    Normally I avoid this kind of thing because I try to get the best people.  I have sought to get the best singers, and there’s always somebody else perhaps who will take of that.

BD:    So you let the administrator do that?

CA:    Yes.

BD:    Are singers paid too much?

CA:    [Thinks a moment]  It depends if they work well.  If they do the best, I don’t think they’re paid too much.  Sometimes a good singer will fill the house completely.  It can be sold out because Pavarotti sings or Domingo sings.

BD:    Are we in the age of the tenor?

CA:    No.  There are good tenors and there are good sopranos and mezzos.  There are a lot of wonderful light mezzos today.  Funnily there are not that many altos.

BD:    Somehow the art of the coloratura mezzo got lost, and then it came back with Marilyn Horne and now Valentini-Terani.

CA:    Yes, and Berganza!  Also von Stade, Ann Murray ...

BD:    Why does the public never seem to get excited over a bass?

CA:    Well, you think of Chaliapin, but there are great singers in the last years like Boris Christoff, then Ghiaurov to Raimondi...

BD:    Yes, but there’s not the clamor that there is for Domingo.

CA:    When we did Viaggio a Reims, there were eighteen singers, and twelve are big stars. 

BD:    Of course, in the theater there’s pandemonium, but there doesn’t seem to be the public outcry.  I’m wondering about star adulation.

abbadoCA:    You mean like Callas or Tebaldi?   It was the strong personality of Callas that was something special.

BD:    Did she help to revolutionize opera?

CA:    In some ways, yes, but she was a very serious singer, a great singer.

BD:    Are there great singers like Callas today, and are there great singers like Callas coming along tomorrow?

CA:    No, but there are many good singers that I like very much.  Many are very, very good, but the personality of Callas was something special.  But it’s different today.  I like Mirella Freni, for instance.  She’s a great singer, and I like her different colors, but she will not sing the repertoire of Callas.

BD:    Where’s opera going today?

CA:    I think it’s going well and going in a good direction.  We would like to have many more good conductors in the opera house.  That’s the big problem now.

BD:    Is there a place where a young conductor can train?  In the old days a conductor would be chorus master and then a repetiteur, and then finally take over a few performances.  Is there still that kind of opportunity?

CA:    The big problem now is if you find a good talent conductor, immediately after two years he has engagements everywhere.  So it’s a big problem to keep good conductors in the opera house.

BD:    Is this also the problem for the singers?

CA:    Yes.

BD:    I know the jet plane is ruining voices, but I wasn’t aware that it was ruining conductors.

CA:    We try in Vienna, we have a studio for singers, like a school, where we are trying to invite the best teachers.

BD:    But how does that help the conductor?

CA:    There we try also to get young conductors to be fixed, to work there four years. We try now in Vienna to do a lot for young musicians generally, not only for singers.

BD:    You becoming Music Director of the Vienna State Opera?

CA:    Yes, next year.

BD:    What are your initial hopes and fears for that opera house?

CA:    It’s not only the opera house that I’m involved in there.  When they asked me to take the position, first it was in connection with the Vienna Philharmonic, and that was terribly important.  It’s one of the greatest orchestras, but the invitation was from the Minister of Culture to take also the Academy and the musical life in Vienna.  Today, Vienna is the only capital in Europe where there has been no influence by Russia or America.

BD:    It’s completely independent?

CA:    It is independent economically, so they take more of the cultural life.  They don’t like to spend so much money for an army.  They don’t have to spend so much money for a motorway, like in Italy, so they put money really into theater, for music, for art, and that’s great.  So there are a lot of wonderful opportunities.  We like to invite the best musicians from Budapest, from Prague, and Bratislava, and Graz and Linz to come to Vienna to study there with the best teachers.  That’s for instrumentalists, for young musicians.  We have also the opportunity to invite all the best composers to come  and be resident to Vienna.  We are building a new stage, so there will be another revolution in the opera house.  We will keep the old great tradition, but we play modern opera in a new stage, and also we will play other things such as ballet and theater.

:    Then you’ll leave the Staatsoper to be a museum?

abbadoCA:    No, no, it will not be because we are playing a lot of operas that have never been performed there before.  There’s a long list of operas.  Can you imagine that Khovanshchina was never performed in Vienna?  I Vespri Siciliani and L’Italiana in Algeri were also never performed.  So we play all these operas that’ve never performed before, and also some new productions.  There are some very old
— really too oldproductions in Vienna, and also they’ll play modern opera, but just one modern opera in each season.

BD:    You’ll be involved then in all of this?

CA:    Oh yes.  [Giggles]  I’ve already been working for one year.  I started September 1986, and we are planning already to 1991.  But I have a very, very good staff.  The director is Dr. (Claus Helmut) Drese, who was working in Zurich for many years.  All the staff are very good, so sometimes I give new ideas to the people, but I have to take care of just the music.  I have to conduct and that’s enough!  I will conduct only in Vienna.

BD:    So you’ll stay there all the time?

CA:    Oh, yes.  That’s very important.  You have to follow the musical life in the city to see how it’s done.  There’s something special about music in Vienna.  It really is the most important thing.  I studied in Vienna, you know.  I feel Vienna.  I’d really like to meet all my many friends; they’re very, very nice people.  It’s not easy, I know.  It will not be easy but they have a great respect for music.  For example, a young musician one day to be in the Vienna Philharmonic is a great honor, so if somebody plays in the Vienna Philharmonic, or somebody is an actor of the Burgtheater, other people respect him then.  He’s a great man.

BD:    Can there ever been too much reverence for the art work?

CA:    [Thinks a moment]  No, they have a respect, but of course music is just one part of the life.  It’s not life.

BD:    Is music your life?

CA:    It’s part of my life.  I have many other things in my life, and fortunately not only music.  I love music, but my children, for example, are very important.

BD:    So you keep the music separate from your personal life?

CA:    No.  My children will come sometimes to listen to the performance.  They love music.  We talk sometimes about music, but we don’t speak only about the music!  We love sports, so we like to go to the mountains to ski, or we like to speak about the theater and other things.

BD:    So you try to make yourself and your family well-rounded?

CA:    When it’s possible, yes.

BD:    Is this maybe part of the problem is with today’s society that not enough people are well-rounded?

CA:    It could be.  I find it going worse and worse about people listening
not only about music, but generally when people talk.  When they teach at school, they teach a lot of things, and there are a lot of people who know a lot of things, but only a few people are really listening.

BD:    They know facts but they don’t understand concepts?

CA:    Yes, because they’re not listening!  There are a lot of people who can say a lot of words of nothing, and then there’s somebody who can say something deep with full worth, but people are not listening.  I found a book of (Elias) Canetti, who won the Nobel Prize (for Literature) in 1981.  He’s one of the best writers today and he was so astonished sometimes to find people who were really listening to what he had to say.

BD:    This is the difference between listening and hearing!

CA:    Yes!

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Is it good that singers and opera houses are booked so far in advance? 

CA:    Yes.  That is a big problem.  Sometimes it’s good because then you can get the best singers, and sometimes they’re just getting older.  You don’t know.  Mirella Freni is a big surprise because she’s getting younger and younger, and the voice is beautiful.  Then you have some other singers who suddenly go down and they’ve lost the voice.

abbadoBD:    If you find that the voice is really declining, can you gently ease them out of those contracts?

CA:    No, and that’s sad.  I try to keep the contract.  I try to keep the singers.  I don’t like to kick out somebody.  On the human side, it’s impossible to do.  It is better to try to help because if somebody lost the voice, normally they don’t lose it completely.  Then you try to keep down the orchestra and try to help by using different tempi.  Of course it’s not the ideal but ...

BD:    How much as you as a conductor can then help the singer on the stage?

CA:    When you work on piano rehearsals, then you have to demand everything possible from the singers.  I ask sometimes crazy things like very long phrases which are almost impossible.  I tell them just to try, and in the end sometimes they can do it.  But then when they are on stage and they are to act, and there is the tension of the first performance, the audience sometimes are like very critical.  Then really I’m in a position to help.

BD:    So then in the performance then, your first responsibility is to the performers rather than to the music?

CA:    Oh, no!  But the music comes also from all the rehearsal time.  You try to keep the music.  The music remains first, but in the meantime they are human  beings.  They are not machines.  You have to help them.

BD:    Is the public too critical?

CA:    Depends which one.  Sometimes  they just go there just to listen to one high note, or they don’t know anything about music.

BD:    How do you instruct those people that opera is more than vocal gymnastics?

CA:    In Milan we have meetings with the Friends of La Scala.  They like to know about all this.  For example, we played Don Carlos with this new piece of the first performances.  I played some tape of the rehearsal so that they can hear this music, and then they can follow the music better.  We talked about all these things so they are well-prepared.  They come to many, many performances ,these Friends, so they know better the opera.

BD:    What’s the role of the critic?

CA:    They’re all crazy!  I don’t read too many critics, but the ideal is to find the intelligent critic, not one who writes just good things or bad things.  It could be a bad review, but if he is intelligent I can learn something.  But most of the critics really don’t understand anything about music.  There are only a few who really know something, but most other musicians they didn’t get the chance to be a composer or a singer.  We did something funny many years ago in Milan.  They published the music of all the critics
the music they composed when they were youngand then we performed it in one concert with reviews the next day!  It was just awful!  [Both laugh]

BD:    That’s fun!

CA:    Yeah!

BD:    Ever have scenery collapse or anything weird happen on the stage?

CA:    Yes.  [Laughs]  That’s usual!  Something happens there sometimes, no not usually.  But sometimes, yes.

BD:    What can you do when you’re standing in the pit?

CA:    I remember once I made a long ritardando.  I did a very slow, a very long, big ritardando just because I saw there was something on stage that was too late.  Sometimes you have to follow what’s on stage.

BD:    Do you like balancing your career with opera and concert?

CA:    Yes.  It depends.  Sometimes I do during a season more opera or more concerts.  It depends.

BD:    You couldn’t live without one or the other?

CA:    Why should I have to?  [Both laugh]

BD:    Are there any operas that you’ve really wanted to conduct that you haven’t been able to as yet?

abbadoCA:    Tristan, for example, I would like to conduct, but I’m waiting for a good Tristan.  I hope one day.

BD:    Do you think Placido could sing it?

CA:    Placido can do everything he likes, but I don’t know if it’s better for his voice to sing Tristan.  I think it’s too much.  I don’t know.

BD:    Early in his career they said Otello would kill him...

CA:    Oh, well, that’s something else.  That is still Italian music for tenor.  He did Lohengrin in Vienna, and it was very good.  [Note: DVD shown at left is from 1990.]

BD:    Is Lohengrin almost an Italian Wagner opera?

CA:    In this way, yes.

BD:    It seems like many tenors seem to try it eventually.  Nicolai Gedda sang it once...

CA:    Really?  I didn’t know that.

BD:    There was one performance in Stockholm if I remember correctly.

CA:    Pertile was singing it in Italian, but Domingo was singing in German.

BD:    I hope the Tristan comes to pass.

CA:    I would like that.

BD:    Any other Wagner you would like to do?  Do you want to do a Ring?

CA:    One day, yes, but first Tristan.  I would like to do Tannhäuser, Meistersinger, and Parsifal.  So all really!  [Laughs]  And also Falstaff.  I will do Falstaff for sure.

BD:    [Very surprised]  You haven’t done it yet?

CA:    Never.  No, I wait for Falstaff one day.

BD:    Thank you for all you have given us, and for all that is still to come!

CA:    Thank you.  It
’s been a pleasure today.



To read my Interview with Hermann Prey, click HERE.

To read my Interview with Paolo Montarsolo, click HERE.


To read my Interview with Renato Capecchi, click HERE.


© 1985 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded backstage at Orchestra Hall on February 3, 1985.  This transcription was made in 2015, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.