[Casa Magazine] The Verdi Maestro
By Daniel Kepl, CASA Magazine
Link to article here
In Italy, Giuseppe Verde is a rock star, and though his birth was two hundred years ago in 1813, his operas are still madly popular worldwide. Conductor Nir Kabaretti, in his eighth season with the Santa Barbara Symphony and a resient of Florence, will take his Santa Barbara audiences on a historical, as well as personally sentimental journey Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm in the Granada Theatre with an all-Verdi program of overtures, arias, and choruses. The Santa Barbara Choral Society and guest artists soprano Angel Joy Blue, and tenor John Pickle will round out the program.
The Israeli-born maestro earned his stripes, as do most European conductors, in the opera houses of Europe: Florence's Maggio Musicale Florentino, the Teatro Real in Madrid and Teatro San Carlo in Naples. "Getting into the business is quite a tough trick for everyone," Kabaretti explained, "and the opera houses are very busy in Europe. Vienna Opera for example, every day there is a different show. You need people to conduct, and there is a good way to train and develop a career if you can start as a pianist and work with the singers, play the rehearsals for the other conductors, then maybe get promoted to chorus master and conduct backstage, conduct rehearsals. You might have a chance that the conductor is ill and you have to replace him. That is very much the way a lot of conductors did it."
The weekend's program will be taken from several of Verdi's greatest operatic masterpieces including Rigoletto, La Traviata, Otello, and MacBeth. "I live on the street in front of the old theater, Teatro della Pergola," Kabaretti reminisced. "The interesting thing is that this theater existed when Verdi was in his prime, and he performed his first MacBeth right here in front of my house, and if I could be a neighbor in this area two hundred years ago, I could have heard the maestro talking to the musicians. And it was the very first opera by Verdi I conducted in Florence."
The Santa Barbara Choral Society will be on hand to lend heft and excitement to the choruses, and the Santa Barbara Symphony will play two overtures (I vespri siciliani and Nabucco). Kabaretti handpicked soprano Angel Joy Blue and tenor John Pickle for their unique Verdi voice qualities. "In the opera we are very precise about what kind of voice should sing what," Kabaretti explained. "For example, there are Mozart voices which I would say are a little bit thinner in terms of volume, a little bit more concentrated. Also stylistically there are things that you do with the voice in Verdi, what we call portamento, which is a way of connecting the high notes to the low notes: you need a certain legato in the voice. So you want to make sure that the voices fit Verdi, and they are both a good fit."
With his season-long commitment each year to the Santa Barbara Symphony, and a guest conducting schedule that takes him all over the world, to say nothing of raising a family in Florence, I asked Kabaretti during a recent conversation where the inspiration to follow the difficult path of making a living in music came from. "I grew up in a house where my father played a lot of instruments. By the tme I was four or five, I started to touch these instruments, and I asked my father to teach me because he was a school teacher for a few years. He taught me to read and write music before I could read or write anything. For me, to see notes and music was practically the first language I knew, and I knew it was something I would do for all my life."