Q&A with Paolo Bortolameolli
Fanfare Cincinnati asked Paolo Bortolameolli about the challenges of conducting the Schumann as well as his thoughts on making his CSO debut with this work:
You are conducting Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri, a multifaceted work that includes multiple soloists, a chorus and orchestra. What challenges does that bring to the piece? Which group(s) are you especially looking forward to working with?
I’m really looking forward to working with all of these creative elements. It is such a monumental and fantastical piece that in the last years has enjoyed a musical revival—which is only appropriate considering that in its time Paradise and the Peri was one of the most performed choral pieces. I would say one of the most satisfying challenges is, despite the lack of clarity-in-form, to bring a logical narrative arc, full of beautiful melodic and inspired music, to the work. I point out “clarity-in-form,” as this work sits comfortably somewhere between oratorio and opera; it’s like the best of both worlds. In fact, and despite that enigmatic definition, it has everything in it to captivate our imagination with music of tender energy.
A number of critics describe your conducting as “enthusiastic,” “expressive,” and “bright.” How will you reflect your style in Paradise and the Peri?
Thank you for bringing up those adjectives. I can only humbly express that this is how I feel music: enthusiastically, expressively and full of brilliance. Music is very much my drug of choice. My conducting is thus a reflection of my unmitigated enthusiasm for the art form. It is full of vitality, life and, certainly in Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri, you can find so much contrast in every sense, from the music itself and also the groups and forces involved. The work must be a collective process—all of these elements coming together to make it work. So having an enthusiastic ensemble, chorus and group of soloists will be the key to making our performances superlative.
This will be your first time performing in Cincinnati. What do you hope the audience will learn about you as a conductor? And what do you hope they will take away from the performance?
Cincinnati is, of course, a legendary American orchestra, not to mention with a legendary chorus, too, and I feel deeply honored on my first visit that they have chosen to put me in front of this challenge of the combined forces. That expected thrill already makes me excited: for the orchestra, choir and soloists. We’ll have success if that collective spirit is embraced by every group. It will make for an unforgettable night for all of us!
When you are not conducting with the LA Philharmonic or other orchestras around the world, what are your other pursuits, music-related or not?
I’m a real music lover, head to toe. So, in one way or another, I always find myself surrounded by music—reading, studying, listening, experiencing, or just creating and thinking. It sounds obsessive, but maybe that is a good thing. Aside from this obsession, I also love spending time with my five-year-old son, who is very much at the center of my universe in every way, every day. We have a really special and close bond, so those moments with him are priceless. I’d be remiss if I did not also mention that I love Chilean wine!