A couple years ago, Opera Chic was very impressed -- but not surprised -- to learn, watching a documentary about the great baritone Leo Nucci, that Nucci -- despite having sung Rigoletto about 500 times in his career -- routinely goes back to his facsimile copy of Verdi's manuscript, to study it again. Because as he put it, "it's just like Shakespeare, no matter how well you think you know him, every time you go back you simply discover new things you did not know were there, new accenti you hadn't noticed, new subtle but really important nuances that manifest themselves the more you study the score".
And it's very fitting that, last week in Corriere della Sera, the always humble Nucci, interviewed right after his triumphant performances at Verdi Festival in Parma, shied away from the self-important megalomaniac attitude of so many of his -- usually less talented colleagues:
* Legnano is a small town in the Milan suburbs.
«I can't stand singers who want to be addressed as "Maestro": there is only one Maestro, the conductor, even if directors nowadays have tried -- laughably -- to coopt this title. We singers should be addressed with the old dear "Commendatore" that people used to greet the singers who used to hang out at the old cafès in the Galleria, waiting for someone to notice them, while bragging with similarly underemployed colleagues that they had been cast in operas in Buenos Aires, Hamburg, New York! (When in fact they would consider themselves lucky if they got cast for two nights in Legnano*)»
But then, as Corriere's critic explains, Nucci is someone who at 65 considers the study of the science of acoustics as his main hobby, and "quotes Pythagoras, Gioseffo Zarlino, Rameau and their successors as if he carried their writings in his pocket".
A friend of Opera Chic once asked the great Carlo Bergonzi what's the most important piece of advice he could give to a young singer, and the great man simply said: "Don't yell: let the music speak".
OC's friend asked Nucci the same question, and he answered: "Study, study, study. Then listen to your heart". And learn.