La Traviata and a concert in Bologna

My 2022 on the podium will end in a city that I love very much: Bologna. I would like to be able to add, in a magnificent theatre, the historic Teatro Comunale, but because of the restoration work that is being carried out there, I will conduct for the first time at the Teatro EuropAuditorium and at the Auditorium Manzoni. At the first venue, we are staging a new production of the opera La Traviata (from 16 to 19 December). At the second venue, I will conduct an orchestral concert; not exactly a “Christmas concert”, because it includes Respighi’s Trittico botticelliano. the Vier letzte Lieder op. 150 by Richard Strauss and the Tchaikovsky Symphony no. 5 in E minor op. 64, with the orchestra and chorus of the Teatro Comunale and, in the Letzte Lieder, soprano Aleksandra Kurzak.

“For Venice, I’m doing La Dame aux Camélias which will probably be called La Traviata [The Fallen Woman]. A subject for our own age. Another composer wouldn’t have done it because of the costumes, the period, and a thousand other clumsy scruples. But I’m writing it with the greatest of pleasure”: Verdi wrote these words to his friend Cesare De Sanctis in January 1853. The composer’s intention with this work was to represent the concerns of the moment and to lay bare the hypocrisy of bourgeois habits at that time. He did not entirely succeed in his intents, partly due to the caution of his librettist, Piave, and to the censors, yet the boldness of the theme and the modernity of the score were immediately apparent. Since then, La Traviata has been one of the most frequently performed operas in the world.

The programme which we have created for the concert on 23 December at the Teatro Manzoni is interesting for its alternating play on different auditory planes, starting with the rarefied atmosphere of the Trittico botticelliano, created by Respighi in a state of grace, far from the explosive resonance of the great symphonic poems, but equally effective in depicting the forms and colours of Botticelli’s painting. The brightness of the Trittico leads into and amplifies the atmosphere of the Vier letzte Lieder by Richard Strauss, the masterpiece which brings out all the lyricism of the words by Joseph von Eichendorff and Hermann Hesse, expressing the twilight both of classicism and of the composer’s legacy.

The programme ends with another masterpiece, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. It is a long piece of poignant composition, in which the theme of destiny looms. But at the same time, it is a treasure of so much and such great beauty that it is one of the most inspired, well-loved and frequently performed symphonies.