A Minute With:-Royal Opera's Pappano: "No idea I'd be a conductor"

Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:02pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Antonio Pappano was not born in Italy but his parents were and that, he says, explains a lot about why someone who never had conservatory training is now the music director of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.

"Being in the business that I am, and doing a lot of opera, obviously the Italian DNA is very useful," Pappano, 53, told Reuters.

"If you grew up in an Italian family there's a certain theatricality about everything - what's on the table, why we have to eat it and every discussion somehow becomes an argument."

"It's just the way it is and you become sensitive to emotionality, and I think that is a door for opera - and the language is too."

Pappano was born in the English county of Essex, east of London to parents who had emigrated from the Campania area south of Naples. His parents kept on moving and he spent his teens and early 20s in the United States where he played piano in both recital halls and cocktail bars.

He was training as a rehearsal pianist, or "repetiteur", when singers he coached saw he had more in him than a gift for sight-reading. After a series of conducting posts elsewhere, he was named music director at London's Royal Opera House in 2002.

"I had no idea that I was going to be a conductor," Pappano, who takes up the baton this week for Verdi's rarely performed, 4-1/2-hour-long "Les Vepres Siciliennes" (The Sicilian Vespers), which is making a long overdue Royal Opera debut on Thursday night in the great Italian composer's 200th birthday year.

"Others saw in me something else, they said you play the piano like an orchestra, you've got to conduct and that was not what I had in mind at all ... I have no real training and anybody who's watched me conduct can tell that. But I have a lot of practical experience and I have a lot of knowledge about the art form. I get results somehow."   Continued...

Royal Opera House Music Director, Antonio Pappano, poses with his Knighthood after being knighted by Britain's Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in London May 15, 2012. REUTERS/Sean Dempsey/pool