I know that I am sometimes prone to exaggeration. I’m the first one to gasp out of excitement with a high voltage “OH MY GOD” at the sight of something perhaps just better than average – I’ll admit it, I like to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. But then there are times where the hyperbole is merited. Tonight is such a time: Is there ANYTHING that Maestro Tony Pappano cannot do?
In this particular period at the Royal Opera House, he has conducted a hugely acclaimed musical reading of Lulu, rehearsed and opened a star-studded Traviata, is currently rehearsing his first ever Barbiere with a (dare I say it?) not-so-slouchy cast, has played a gala benefit of all Tchaikovsky excerpts from Ballet and Symphony and Opera, and tonight literally threw together an improvised piano recital on the stage of the Opera House, after the 2nd planned program was cancelled. I’m exhausted just writing this, and yet he has been living it out moment to moment these past few weeks with unbelievable gusto and brilliance, to say the VERY least.
I’m DELIGHTING in discovering new facets of the language and the musical jokes found in this score of Barber, thanks to him – he is infusing such verve and brio into the score – a real hot-blooded, Italianate account with subtle, but perfectly perfect surprises. The prelude to the opening of his Traviata on Monday night had me in tears with the mastery and heartache in the wrenching opening strings appearing out of nowhere, not to mention the pulsing textures and colors he elicited all evening from the wonderful orchestra, breaking hearts at each bend.
But tonight I stood on stage with him at the piano and made music. I don’t believe he had ever played the Willow Song from Rossini’s Otello before, but I swear the piano had swallowed a harp as he made the long introduction weep with the delicacy of that stringed instrument. It was a pure honor to sing with him. BUT. BUT – B U T then he took me completely by surprise, although I should have known better. I suggested we do a few American Songs, and the JAZZ licks that he pulled out of nowhere? I was blown away. There wasn’t one single note that was taken for granted – as with his conducting, EVERY SOLITARY NOTE MEANS SOMETHING. It is all important. And so he invited me into the moment, listening, playing, bending, and crafting the music as we went along. It was heavenly.
I’m terribly sorry for the circumstances of the two cancellations that the Royal Opera House public had to endure – it’s a tough season here in London, to be sure – but I’m grateful beyond words that I had this little window of music making with such a great Maestro, not to mention with my two colleagues who were outstanding in their wonderful choices of repertoire as well. It was just one of those nights!!
Ah, yes – it was a good moment!