Royal Opera's Pappano says 'mathematician conductors' fail music

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 15, 2015 12:59 PM

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - The Royal Opera's music director Antonio Pappano said modern composers were ill-served by "mathematician conductors" who fail to find emotion in the music.

The comments appeared to be a pre-emptive defense for a new work by Austria's Georg Friedrich Haas that is part of the 2015-16 program that the opera house announced on Wednesday.

The new season also includes crowd pleasers such as "Boris Godunov", with Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel in the title role; "Lucia di Lammermoor" with German soprano Diana Damrau in the famous "mad scene"; and "Werther" with Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo in the title role and American diva Joyce DiDonato singing the role of Charlotte for the first time.

The premiere in November of Haas's "Morgen und Abend" (Morning and Evening), an opera based on Jon Fosse's novel about a Norwegian fisherman, promises to be a more controversial choice.

Haas has employed many techniques of modern composition in his works, plus offbeat effects such as switching off all the lights in the concert hall for one of his string quartets.

"There's so many mathematician conductors out there and that's not what the composers want, they really don't, and for somebody who can bring an understanding to that music and make it live, that is very, very important to me," Pappano told a news conference.

Pappano said he was not criticizing anyone in particular but felt that in some interpretations of modern music "there's sometimes a concentration to such a degree on precision and getting everything perfect rather than sometimes the spirit that is in the music".

Kasper Holten, the Royal Opera's director, said it had sold out 94 percent of its seats for the current season.

He said a mix of traditional favourites like "Tosca", which is coming back early next year, and "Nabucco", which will see the return of Placido Domingo in the lead baritone role, made it possible to mount works like the Haas opera, or the Polish composer Szymanowski's "Krol Roger" (King Roger), opening next month.

"It would be a sad day to say demand controls our program, but when we program we obviously think about it," he said.

The Royal Ballet said it would present a newly choreographed "Frankenstein" with music by American composer Lowell Liebermann, and a program of four dance vignettes, including the famous Jerome Robbins choreography of Debussy's "Afternoon of a Faun", that will be broadcast to cinemas.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)