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Staatsoper Hannover

Giulio Cilona (conductor)

Conversations | Mozart

Four Questions for conductor Giulio Cilona

How can Mozart's music sound alive and ‘new’ in 2022?

After the romanticised Mozart versions of last century, many conductors today look for lively tempi, strong dynamic contrasts and authenticity. Differences in interpretations lie in details unannotated in the score but linked to performance practice at the time. Nowadays, it is often said that the conductor interprets them freely or just relies on a feeling. My teacher Bruno Weil was always very strict about that: ‘In front of such a masterpiece, a conductor must remain a servant of the music.’ Mozart's music needs no extra ‘help’. It's all there, the music is perfection. As a conductor, one’s only task is to draw attention to the small, special details through analysis of the score. And then you have to consider how to add unwritten details to the music to get the most convincing musical result. So, I would say ‘faithful’ rather than ‘new’. Today's tendency to play everything very vividly does not necessarily mean ‘new’. We know that Mozart as a conductor could never conduct his works fast enough; the orchestra could never play fast enough for him. Fresh and lively - it certainly already was in 1786.

What is special about your interpretation? What can audiences look forward to?

I always try to put myself completely in the composer's time. So into a person who only knew the music up to 1786. Our ears of the 21st century have heard everything, and so all too often they miss details, hidden leitmotifs and jokes. I would like to bring out these details and make them accessible to the audience. The audience can look forward to lots of fun, surprising and sparkling musical moments and great emotions. They can also look forward to a great vocal ensemble. The singers will bring a lot of action on stage, every role is important. Everyone in the orchestra pit and on stage must strive for clear articulation and the right level of sound – especially in ensemble numbers – so that together we can achieve the greatest possible transparency or clarity in the music. Everything Mozart wrote down on in the score must be used and played with great meaning. Each note has its own dramatic and rhetorical power.

Is there a special challenge for the Staatsorchester Hannover?

Playing this music on modern instruments is no easy task: it must have effervescence, at the same time the right balance and articulation. As a young conductor, I face Figaro as a challenge, as a repertoire piece that is often played. I have to convince the experienced Staatsorchester of my work and interpretation. Mozart sounds different every evening, we in the orchestra pit flexibly pick up the mood and feelings from the stage. That will be great fun for all of us!

Do you have a favourite part?

The quiet parts where you can let the music flow and the orchestra play. With a few movements I can then show small musical details and enjoy the rest together with the artists on stage. I'm thinking, for example, of the incredible duet that opens Act 3. For me, the opera has the best overture and the best musical or quasi-religious description of a reconciliation ever composed in this world. It simply doesn't get any better than this.

The Marriage of Figaro - Watch the full performance on OperaVision from 20 January to 20 July 2022.