Monday, September 13, 2010
The opera season here in Frankfurt has begun again, and I find myself once again chaperoning an eight-year-old supernumerary to rehearsals and performances of Don Carlo. While waiting around, I've heard a lot of Don Carlo, and heard it now with several changes of cast. Verdi is not the turf that experimental composers usually tread, but I've been honestly impressed, and especially by those elements of the music which are simply not to be found in the score. These, mostly of micro-timing, of tempo, rhythm, and rubato, are constantly in flux at the smallest level, and the practice here is one that comes honestly out of a real aural tradition. It helps, here in Frankfurt, that the orchestra and the conductor have a long relationship of playing Verdi together — more than thirty years — but the key here, I think, is the conductor, Carlo Franci (83 years old, if Wikipedia has it right), who has every note of the score in solid memory and it seems that every nuance of timing and pitch between those notes, each nudge of rubato, or grace of portamento, comes from a strange and wonderful place poised between an absolute identification with the performance tradition and an ability to spring at the possibilities of the moment. To work with such confidence and security as well as continued discovery is a sign of a performing tradition at its best, style that is anything but surface, anything but facile.