Opera Chic loves Claudio Abbado. Loves him.
She loves Abbado, obviously one of the three best conductors working nowadays -- no matter who the other two are in one's opinion, Abbado certainly belongs in that team: his Simon Boccanegra at la Scala, a most difficult opera to tackle for a conductor, full of pitfalls and incredibly delicate passages, pregnant with drama at almost every bar, is still THE very best out there, ever. Maestro Abbado is arguably the best Beethoven conductor alive and one of the very very few best Beethoven conductors ever, up there with Von Bulow and Furtwangler and Jochum and one or two others, not more, you add your other faves there -- his Beethoven is not a monument carved in cold stone but a nervous, sinewy tiger full of surprises, of life, a wonder of invention. His Beethoven is a miracle: for lack of a better definition, Abbado's Beethoven is forever young.
Of all the Verdi Requiems (oh how we love Giulini's otherworldy recording, the London one with Ilva Ligabue, that forgotten genius of the art of opera singing, and a youngest Grace Bumbry), Abbado's is the most emotionally hammering: Opera Chic literally cannot watch that raw-nerves performance too often, because the darkness and the power are just overwhelming (and yes, in this site we mock Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu a lot, mostly when they deserve it, because they do deserve it a lot, but even if they had only done this recording in their entire careers, their place in the history of classical music is assured -- just listen to them and be awed, when they deserve praise we're happy to shower them with it).
And so on: his Mahler, his Berg, we could go on for hours -- Abbado is everything you ever wanted in a conductor.
He is also a very, very generous man: he has been sharing his deep knowledge for years, to students all around the world, through his work in Venezuela discovered Gustavo Dudamel, and we hope we're not disrespectful to Daniel Harding, our sweet young maestro, if we dare say that the crazily talented Harding nevertheless owes an awful lot to Abbado's teaching and his generosity.
How many artists of Abbado's stature would spend months in (musically) remote places such as Venezuela and Cuba, in a world when even so many fifth-rate conductors consider themselves to be Karajan's peers and arrogantly look down on everybody -- audiences, opera houses staff, orchestras, and are mostly good at whining that their four-star hotels aren't swanky enough and they want five stars?
Having said that, Opera Chic has a long-standing policy of ignoring musicians opinions on politics. The great musicians are ipse dixit in musical matters; their personal politics, their likes and dislikes are obviously irrelevant (also, we hear Klemperer was crazy for pistachio ice cream, and Opera Chic hates it: she still thinks Unkle Otto is a giant among conductors).
In today's Corriere della Sera (not on line), Maestro Abbado speaks: last night Abbado conducted the Eroica in Bologna with his Orchestra Mozart crazily talented kids and also spoke to the paper about a few topics.
Among the bombshells:
* He has sent emissaries to Ingmar Bergman's remote Sweden house to ask the great maestro of cinema and the stage to direct an opera that will be conducted by Abbado. No word yet on Bergman's response but as the paper correctly states, this would be the event of the events in music. We remind our readers that Bergman, a rabid classical music fan, has in the past expressed his fanboi status for Abbado's art.
* He'd love to conduct an opera of the German repertorio to be directed by the young Academy-Award winning director of The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck.
* He repeats that, even if Scala General Manager Stèphane Lissner has come to him twice asking him to conduct at la Scala (Abbado, who was once Music director there, has been fired by the orchestra in 1986 and has never returned), he'll never go back to la Scala
* He slams Milan (he was born in the city) as "greedy", "polluted", "uncaring for the future". He now lives in Bologna and spends his winters in Central America.
* He hails Cuba as a country damaged by "clichés and lies spread by the media", "a country where the gap between rich and poor is the smallest in the world, where everybody can feed themselves, and is employed, goes to school and has a right to health care, good quality health care, and free of charge". He mentions a Cuban discovery in the field of oncology that can cure stomach cancer, and is surprisingly frank about his terrible bout with stomach cancer: "Nevertheless, that illnees has been a blessing for me. It changed my life, it made me rethink so many issues. It made me realize what matters and what doesn't, in the end".