Verdi Festival is raging in Parma and so, KungFu-Fighting a serious case of teh jetlags in the name of Verdi, Opera Chic earlier today had her sassy corpse driven to Parma where (after a revitalizing lunch at Trattoria La Buca in Zibello, the place where Bill Buford fell in love with Italian handmade pasta, and you would too, and his life was changed forever, and yours would be too) she witnessed a stunning metamorphosis: her sweet Uncle Solly, better known by the general public as Yuri Temirkanov, walked on the podium as the greatest Tchaikovsky conductor in the world and as one of the most prominent Mahler conductors, and two and a half hours later walked on stage to gather the thunder of applause from the all-knowing Verdi gourmets of Parma who officially elected him as one of the greatest Verdi conductors working today.
Because most people would not think of hiring Temirkanov as a conductor to stage a Traviata a few miles from Verdi's hometown during Verdi's own festival -- instead he showed everybody how for all the talk about the "Italianate sound", the "Russian sensibility", and all that, a Russian conductor can work with an orchestra of young Italians in front of what could possibly be the audience made up of the most snobbish Verdi lovers in the world, and give a lesson in, ahem, "Italianate sound".
A full review w/pix is coming later tomorrow because Opera Chic needs Japanese green tea and organic minestrone di verdure and a good night's sleep under Pratesi's bedsheets, but Temirkanov -- in the Herrmann's production that already was introduced in Germany and at La Monnaie, more about the Herrmanns tomorrow -- really accomplished something very major: after a first act where a few times the voices, and in one instance the orchestra, couldn't really match his intentions -- the quicksilver tempi, the sudden, delicious sense of pacing that required lighting-fast change of colors -- the production really took off, and it all made sense: the lean, mean understatement of the first act was in fact as flirtatious with the listeners as Violetta's own attitude -- it then became in the second act a dark, brooding run heading toward the frantic excitement and devastating sadness of the third, at Violetta's deathbed.
What a joy to see uncle Solly conduct in his trademark batonless manner -- "When in doubt, just look into my eyes" he tells his orchestras -- using as always his left hand to beautifully shape his dynamics and tickle the music with his fingers whenever he needs more from a section, lowering his shoulders as if exhaling in sadness whenever he needs less, and how often he does. In the second act, a window on the set reflected, from our vantage point, the LCD screen placed stage right with the live feed of the YuriCam, the video feed of the conductor's cues for the benefit of the singers placed deeper onto the stage, and Opera Chic just thought, wow, one day a smart opera house will broadcast these feeds live over the Internet, and music companies will add them as extra content in their overpriced DVDs.
And we'll all take conducting lessons from our favorite maestri.