Dante Anzolini, the King Beyond His Own Will
“Oh, Madonna!” – shouted conductor Dante Anzolini, taking a look at his watch – almost no time left from a short break. The conversation took just a half-an-hour; however, during his visit to Klaipėda, he has to calculate every minute. According to Dante, thorough planning is not his trump. And generally, is it of any value? You will never be able to calculate the most important things in life. But sometimes some miraculous synchronicity of mind and intentions appear, bringing this legend of cultural skies back to the port town of Lithuania.
Valerija Lebedeva, journalist, interviewer.
Half an hour ago, I was shifting weight from one foot to the other, while standing next to the entrance hall, observing old posters hanging on the walls like info-graphics about fast running times. It seems that the concert of familiar contents and title had been held just a month ago, but six years have already passed. I had the pleasure of reviewing a rather solid period of activity of the Klaipėda Concert Hall, as after the end of the morning rehearsal musicians enjoy their own time without any hurry to go away. D. Anzolini, who had arrived during the weekend, had something to say to each one of them. The Friday’s concert that was to open the traditional classic festival, “Salve Musica”, and the oratorio by Joseph Haydn “The Seasons” was performed by tens of musicians.
During the concert dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of the Choir “Aukuras”, the Šiauliai State Chamber Choir “Polifonija” under the former choir manager of “Aukuras”, Tomas Ambrozaitis, as well as Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra, supplemented by the wind and percussion group from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre specially for this occasion, managed by Mindaugas Bačkus, the solo singers Asta Krikščiūnaitė, Mindaugas Zimkus, Tadas Girininkas appeared on stage. And D. Anzolini himself – called the man-tonometer, the name that “is” music itself, flattered the up-north ear.
The legend of Klaipėda
Klaipėda has received several cultural personalities of the end of the XX century, who can be described only with superlative epithets. Dante is one of them. He has been permanently remembered after his co-operation with the Klaipėda State Theatre of Music, choir “Aukuras”, and Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra. Musicians who had a chance to work with this conductor refer to him with the greatest honor by emphasizing his exceptional communicability, passionate creativity and sincerity –which can never be forgotten. This fascinating story has a pleasant continuation: D. Anzolini came back to Klaipėda.
This musician, who was born and grew up in Argentina, son of an Italian father and a Chilean mother, is a constantly travelling cosmopolitan, who calls seven countries “my former homes”. D. Anzolini’s tours extend from Europe to the USA, Northern and Southern America. The conductor combines classical and modern music, and he himself is a composer. He has been closely co-operating with the outstanding American composer Philip Glass, and has performed a number of his pieces. The debut of this conductor in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, in 2008, was especially successful when he conducted the opera, “Satyagraha” by Ph. Glass. In November of this year, D. Anzolini made his debut as a composer in Rio de Janeiro.
“I have been to Klaipėda three times; the last one was sixteen years ago. It is unbelievable”, said the conductor at the beginning of the conversation.
– And, of course, the changes you have seen after such a long time surprised you!. What would you say about that?
– Yes, I´ve observed very interesting things. I see that the town has been rejuvenated. I´venoticed a new road coating, and I´ve seen new shops and huge buildings. I did not enter the “Akropolis” (big shopping center) but from the outside I saw how big it is. The whole place feels cozier and cleaner, buildings are nicely painted, M. Mažvydas avenue has been renovated. I walked along it only three times, but even during the travel to Klaipėda from Palanga airport, I noticed that the grass is kept in better shape than before. It is nice to see that Klaipėda has become a much more beautiful city. To tell you the truth, I´ve always liked it…and the first time I came, the Independence was recently restored. Now, it is evident that the trend is rising constantly.
– What would you say about the people here?
– We are getting older (laughing). – I have a good friend who says: “I‘m not older – I´ve become a classic!” People here are very nice. They have very nice manners and are very warm-hearted…yet sometimes reserved, but at the same time they do have this special irradiance. By the way, I went with Alfonsas (music director of the choir “Aukuras”, A. Vildžiūnas. – Author’s note) to a concert, and someone noticed me and shouted: “Anzolini!” So many years have gone by, and people still recognize me… It can hardly be real. It is a fantastic feeling, yet a great responsibility, because people have big expectations. I felt the same in New York: the audience expects something especial. Of course, you may try to respond to these expectations, but we are limited… I am limited… I always used to say that the only advantage I have is that I am always trying very hard! You know, the original meaning of my name in Italian is “Durante”, that is a person who endures difficulties, who always tries. So, this is my name…and my nature.
Freedom for energy!
– You say that you are limited, but when speaking of conductors these limits must be understood in a broader sense, as you work with big groups of people.
– I do not deny that it is totally true. While conducting you must ensure there is mutual understanding, a process by which the sum of the energy of all the personalities would create something new. If musicians do not do this, a conductor will never be able to do anything! I always try to help, but I do not want to direct. I do try to build a sound. But, believe me, if they create a unique sound, it is just their power, not mine. What they did in “La Traviata” at Klaipėda State Music Theatre many years ago, was their work, not mine. Energy comes from musicians.
– Where do you get it from?
– I prepared myself, devoting much time to analysis. I try to be open; I care for my spiritual health. I may give many variants of an answer, and all of them will be true on the one hand and funny on the other. Since my very childhood I have always been full of energy. But, quite often you must study a lot to obtain more out of yourself, so that this huge energy is not suppressed. I know that it arises, first of all, when you do something unselfish just to help both, music making and musicians. The energy is born if they perceive your endeavor. However, it is not persuasion, it is something deeper… It is something in the eyes, it is a life attitude, I don’t even know how to define it.
The only reason why I started studying conducting was that I wanted to achieve the sound that I loved. It’s a simple and stupid reason, but it is true. And I perceived the essence of the conductor’s power when I was at Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Then I thought for the first time: “Oh, God, I am at the place, this is THE theatre, all these people are always full of music.”
– Is everything different when you compose music as supposed to when you perform it?
– Absolutely. When I compose I feel capable of creating, of writing. I think I go out of my mind. Sometimes it takes many hours to put two sounds together. But at the same time you do not feel limited, unlike working with a hundred people.
When you are alone, you may be your only enemy. When you are surrounded by many people, you may not have enemies, but you must focus in order to get the work done. It requires huge energy and concentration, but at the same time you need a big pain filter, because if you are very sensitive to everyone, it hurts you.
– Feels like you have to be more concentrated in yourself?
– I cannot do this (conducting); therefore, I suffer. I am saying it as a fact, at least, I feel it. Yes, I concentrate into myself in order to perform music, but I constantly watch people’s eyes – how they look at you, how they behave and work…
– Maybe composing for you is a form of self-curing and meditation?
– It is one of many things that, as I have experienced during my recent years, makes me feel happy. Like my son – if he were here, I would become instantly happy. I cannot explain that. Music is similar to that. To compose music – I don’t know, bad or good music, people just like my music, but they may be wrong –it is selfish. But I feel good when I compose.
If you were to ask why I conduct, the explanation would also be very difficult. When I was a child, my family did not have money to buy me a piano. I used to listen to symphonic music on the radio. When I heard an orchestra, I understood that I really wanted that sound! There were no other intentions. There are people who like being leaders, I just don’t like it. I never did. I’d rather like to help people. I don’t quite like teaching, I would prefer to convey what I know best; yet, in this case it is very difficult to explain many subjects one studied for many years; it would take me hours, and people may perhaps think: “Ok, ok, you better shut up.”
It is a difficult thing to explain why you choose one or another profession in life.
Sometimes it seems that you have chosen something because there was no other option. But it is important to choose without a rational strategy. Everything that is really important, is not measurable. Of course, many things may be expressed in numbers. But here figures or digits are out of the question. The inner choice is conditioned by way deeper reasons.
„I was thinking of running time“
Alfonsas Vildžiūnas, manager and conductor of a mixed choir “Aukuras”
Sometimes during my correspondence with D. Anzolini, I used to think of running time. I remember when we celebrated a fifth-year anniversary of “Aukuras”, it seemed that much had been done if we survived this much! And furthermore, anniversaries in our field are accounted by quinqueniums. Nobody knows how much time we still have… So, I thought that the twentieth anniversary of the choir would be the best reason to invite Dante.
I haven’t seen any other person who could work so calmly and efficiently; communicating, searching, advising; striving for the result consistently until he achieves it! It is the ideal of a conductor. It is useful for all musicians to meet great artists. This way a huge creative impulse is achieved. Besides that, we had not worked with conductors form foreign countries for a very long time. Each rehearsal with him was like a workshop for me and for the performers; a unique experience, incomparable to any other one.
Is it possible to expect a better present for the anniversary? While selecting the piece, we discussed about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass; however, we then considered it not to be the best option for our anniversary. We were searching for a secular piece. I remembered J. Haydn “The Seasons”: once I sang it treble voice in the choir “Ąžuoliukas” conducted by Jonas Aleksa; and I still remember parts of the German text of the oratorio. After this concert I dared to come close to the maestro, and asked to sign on the program sheet. I’m still keeping it. “For dear Alfonsas with an expectancy to enjoy music many times again“, wrote J. Aleksa. I suppose, it was the right time to enjoy this piece again. We made it together with Šiauliai State Chamber choir “Polifonija” which will celebrate its fortieth anniversary in spring – then we will perform the oratorio in Šiauliai, and we hope conducted by Dante.
„Attentive to every detail“
Rūta Vildžiūnienė, musicologist
I was one of those who hurried up to Klaipėda State Music Theatre in 1994 to watch the legendary “La Traviata” conducted by D. Anzolini. In very truth, even Vilnius had not had such a performance: the opera became a live pulsing organism; the piece glittered with all its colours. Obviously, the experience of co-operation with D. Anzolini was very important for the musicians of this city. According to them, this temperamental conductor is distinctive by his inimitable feeling of the beat. Knowing how to command with sincerity, he is, at the same time, able to demand always for more: to polish details, to change steady interpretation clichés, to enrich the piece with new dramaturgic shades.
I went to the festival Salve Musica opening concert with the expectation of a special music feast. And again I experienced indelible impressions. Thanks to Anzolini, the magnificent oratorio of Haydn became as an epic opera, put to huge polyphonic structures, recitatives of soloists and arias with variegated characters, expressing events of the seasons, routine work, feasts, human interrelations, etc. A very temperamental and original interpretation of Anzolini reveals the importance of single small details, articulation nuances, musical strokes, and the significance of the concentration of all performers.
Certainly, the orchestra bore the biggest load of the concert, and the choir singers had possibilities to admire solo pieces together as if in the audience, and D. Anzolini himself, the man who controls a big number of people masterfully, sensitively and perceptively as well as complex scores. The only thing that is a shame that the audience of the city hardly recognized these values, and do not rush to see what every person in the music world should.
„Phenomenon with his own unique philosophy“
Vladimir Konstantinov, conductor, composer, chief chorus master of Klaipėda State Music Theatre
I got acquainted with D. Anzolini during his first visit to Klaipėda, during the production of ‘La Traviata”. It was in 1994, the time when the euphoria of the collapse of the Iron Curtain was still in the air, with the possibility to co-operate (and communicate!) with Western people that aroused the vision of unlimited possibilities and perspectives. In Dante´s case, joy was built by many different things which merged into an effective painting that many musicians of the city and music admirers see even today. I remember that evening rehearsals that would start at 6 PM, would end around midnight… Then we would come to the theatre bar to discuss and talk until 3 AM. Nowadays it would be difficult to understand it.
D. Anzolini is a phenomenal conductor with a unique philosophy of communication with musicians, mismatching the model of a conductor-dictator. Do you remember the story about one very famous conductor who with a baton put out the eye of an orchestra musician who did not satisfy him? D. Anzolini is the absolute contrast to such a leader, the other pole. He never expresses music as if it were a law to be followed by others, and it seems that he has no such intentions; he never abuses musicians, but generates help all and everyone. The exceptional musicality of D. Anzolini and his professional skills to penetrate into the very essence of the music material, and how he conveys it, is well known by musicians and audiences in four continents.
The oratorio by J. Haydn “The Seasons” performed at Klaipėda Concert Hall is a grand piece. Modern standards of concert life scarcely accept such durations; thus similar pieces are being performed only in exceptional cases, and in exceptional venues. However, D. Anzolini did not expurgate it; he managed to highlight all details in this grand music text by joining them to harmonious, logical and at the same time extremely emotional reading during a very short time. Here the allegory of hand work as quality warranty applies perfectly. I have been observing how he worked in Klaipėda. As if he ploughed. It needs plenty of time to perform the complete oratorio just once. I visited the rehearsals from the eve before the concert. I may compare the difference of the dress rehearsal sound and the sound during the concert to a miracle.
For me it is a great school. And, of course, it is pleasant to hear Dante saying that there are two places to work in the world where he returns back with pleasure: Metropolitan Opera in New York, and Klaipėda. I think the essence is in his communication with colleagues living here and who are proud of him.
Art journal “Durys” of the daily “Klaipėda”, No. 12 (222), 2013.
Valeria Lebedeva, interviewer and translator.
Neringa Tomkevičienė, main translator
Monica Benfenati, translator.