viernes, 11 de mayo de 2012

Massimo Crispi, the rebel tenor.

Josep Font

We met Massimo Crispi, a very special Italian tenor, for his unusual artistic elections and for his many ways to be an artist and for his interesting, absolutely out of common projects. Crispi’s Career is full of unusual things beside the most traditional repertory, that is the sign of his curiosity and spirit of adventure, as confirmed in our interview.

Massimo, reading your CV it emerges that an Italian singer like you debuted in a big role like the Celebrant in Leonard Bernstein’s MASS. It’s very unusual. Do you want to tell us something about?

Well, with pleasure, also because it’s one of the best things that I remember in my past career. But after, please, let’s speak of future. Past is past and it’s easy to discover it by Google, if you want to look for, there are thousands of items on me and things I did. Past is past, there are things I remember tenderly, other things badly. But my interest is in the future.
MASS by Bernstein was my first big experience on stage and also in music. Marco Tutino, who was at that epoque the artistic director of I Pomeriggi Musicali di Milano, the regional orchestra of Lombardy, Italy, was looking frantically an eclectic singer for the role of Celebrant. In Italy, at the beginning of the 90s of XX cent., it was not so easy to find good level versatile singers. Tutino was the creator of very new seasons, with music from the most varied repertories, old and new ones, to update the repertory of orchestra and the milanese public, to remove the dust from the seats of the hall. They were the last fires… today a horrible sanctimonious conformity extinguished this path. But it’s better I’d speak about it later, maybe.
A friend of mine guessed I had an artistic versatility. So she  was very faithful in me and introduced me to Tutino. In the following audition I sang the first Celebrant’s song “A Simple Song”. In the jury there were Giuseppe Grazioli, the conductor of the “MASS Operation”, a Bernstein’s pupil, and the conductor Stefano Ranzani, both young (all of us were young!), not yet the famosu conductor everybody knows today, and whom I’ll meet later in my career. I confess I was a little excited, it was the frst experience to me, and I was really amazed: it was realy strange to me to have the chance to debut in Italy in the leading role of an american opera, in English… But the audition was great, the jury was surprised (me too) and I had the role. I studied it hardly. I remember that at the first rehearsal, with lots of the best jazz and pop singers Milan had at that time, who were the other singers of the opera, the best compliment I received was that I sung in a perfect English with no foreign accent and with no opera stress in the voice. It was normal to me to take my mind off the opera world and diving in musical, jazz, rock, pop, and I was really amused by the multiple language used by Bernstein. I was anyway helped very much by my teacher of that time, who had a very clear mind, the fabulous Margaret Hayward. I owe to her the many thing I am able to do. She opened my voice, helped me in the stresses and difficulties, in pronunciation and declaiming. Of course not only in that repertory!
At last it was a big success. For the first time in my life I was in front of a public of one thousand three hundred people with their eyes on me. I cant forget it. After MASS the way was easier to me and I had many exciting experiences. I owe my prestige to Bernstein and Tutino.

But before leaving the past, please, Massimo, as you have sung in the most important theatres in Italy and some in Europe tell us your experiences in La Scala, Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Opéra de Lyon, Liceu… Not so many singers can write in their CV the sung in such theatres and with such artists… It’s important for our readers to know what your experiences were, to know better your life and your way to be an artist.

 You’re right, but as I always think of future I don’t give my past too much importance, just because it’s past. But sometimes it’s also important to watch again our own path because we are the result of our many experiences. I’ll tell just few ones.
Well… La Scala. Every time a singer says the name “La Scala” maybe it’s like the sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Pilar for a catholic. I arrived at La Scala by a normal audition for one of my preferred operas “L’incoronazione di Poppea”. The audition was good and I was engaged for the main cast. This experience was so important to me… I learned so many things I din’t know yet. The cast was formed by real stars, I couldn’t believe it: Antonacci as Poppea, Matteuzzi as Nerone (I was his double and I also sung some other characters in the opera), Marrocu as Ottavia, Manca di Nissa as Ottone, Colombara as Seneca, Focile as Drusilla, Cherici as Damigella and Fortuna, Spagnoli as Mercurio, Mingardo as Nutrice… I thought to live into a dream. The rehearsals were made with Riccardo Muti, but he was victim of a illness and Alberto Zedda, who was also the revisor of the score, took his place. His edition was the worst and I did never understand why La Scala chose that one among several other very good. What Muti created Zedda destroyed in few moments. Never mind, nobody is perfect…
Anyway, I learned a lot singing aside Anna Caterina Antonacci or Marrocu, Colombara, Mingardo, could you guess what a luck? It’s like a high standard school concentrated in two months of living together this people.
I leaved a good impression, anyway, and the direction of La Scala also proposed to me for the following month in “La Fanciulla del West”… I want to remark that all that was made without agencies, just by my singing and art. Today it would be impossible because of a real mafia of agents, especially in Italy. La Fanciulla also was an experience: Sinopoli, Larin, Casolla and Fondary… UFFF!  Can you imagine that? There I learned what are the big voices and how spreading out the voice.  Sergej Larin gave me some lessons. Every time I meet a valiant colleague I always ask for some lessons, I always learn from others because everyone has his own individual richness, that is his experience, and capturing these fragments and adapting them to your voice is always something with no price. Poor Larin passed off some times ago and I was really sad for that, I loved him very much and I thank him for what he revealed to me. Today I always start to vocalize by an exercise he taught me. Maybe it’s also his way to survive inside me. It’s a tender thought I like to believe.
In any case to sing in La Scala means very much, I guard it in my career like a precious jewel. Who knows if I’ll come back to sing there… how I’ll tell you later today I don’t sing opera so frequently, later I’ll explain you why.
I follow my tale of Teatro Massimo in Palermo.
This is my Theatre. I’m born in Palermo and always I saw that theatre closed. When I was young they closed it for 25 years to do some “improvements”. Nobody did anything, Mafia maintained it closed with a big pain for the people of the town who were no more the masters of their own theatre, a theatre that was build by the town in a time when Teatro Massimo was the third in Europe after Palais Garnier in Paris and Staatsoper in Vienna. Can you imagine? I sung in the reopened theatre several times in many repertories: classical operas, contemporary operas, operettas… And always with no agents and with wonderful casts… that world ended.
This theatre is magic, its acoustic, above all. If a button falls on the floor of the stage its noise could be heard in the last range of the last gallery. Singing in such a place means to feel your voice becoming totally free. La Scala has not such a perfect acoustic. Besides the ambient in Palermo is… relaxed! It’s has nothing to share with La Scala, where everything was like a Swiss watch, too much controlled and sometimes hysteric.
In Palermo I sung “Orpheus in the Underworld” by Offenbach, “I Masnadieri” by Verdi, “The Merry Widow” by Lehar, some contemporary operas written for my voice… but I have one of the most grateful memories of a work that maybe is not so important like other ones but I was very happy for the cast and the realization. If you are part of a project in which you believe is very important, I think. That project was “The Seven Sins” by Kurt Weill, where the leading role was sung by the immense Ute Lemper and the direction was by Micha van Hoecke (I had met him before in a nice realization of Monteverdi’s Orfeo I sung at Ravenna Festival, the festival directed by Riccardo Muti’s wife). I sung in the vocal quartet of the Family, very important because the Family remarks all those vices in which the two daughters Anna I & Anna II are involved. I was the only Italian among other three German singers, really fabulous. As the only Italian I was very proud when they told me that I had no accent when I sung in German, and I was adopted. Ute was really wonderful, a panther, bearing something animal that came out of her body, like a flood all around. Also there I learned something more, a freer confidence on stage and also a more evident vocal gesture. She sung so well the expressionistic theatre by Weill.
Opéra de Lyon… one of my nicest memories. “Poro, Rè dell’indie” was one of the best music by Händel. My role was Alexander the Great, a role for a heroic tenor, with lot of difficult coloratura and a strong central range. Fabio Biondi, yeah, Fabio Biondi called me because the tenor who recorded the CD was not free (but also because he was too light for the role… this is the consequence of the obsession of most of baroque conductors to engage too light tenors…). I learned the role in few time. What a music! Händel is one of my preferred authors because his roles seem to be written for my voice. The arias were so charming and the cast was composed by some stars of the Baroque: Banditelli, Bertini, Balconi, Schubert… and me, who was not a star… but on the road to some constellation… I sung “Poro” also at Festival de Beaune, always in France, always with the same cast. I sung other times for Biondi and recorded the first world release of Alessandro Scarlatti’s oratorio “Humanità e Lucifero”. But I’ll speak about that later. You excited me pushing me to remember… I’d have many more memories! But I stop here with the past.

 Massimo, what it means today to make music, according to you?

Have we a nonrestricitve space or have I to be concise? (he laughs). I think that today making music happens in the same way of the past. It means, I think, to tell people something the authors of the past  composed during the centuries following the most varied aesthetical, idiomatical, compositional criterions, passing through the mediation of the interpreter. In a word: communicating. Of course the way of communicating is changed today as for twenty, thirty or hundred years ago. Today, if we speak about the world of singing, of opera or generically vocal music, where I have more expertise, I could say that today we are slave of the image, and when not slaves, at least much more “addicted” than in the past. It’s not the absolute evil, of course. On the contrary sometimes imagine could fill something of contents, because today, for many people, some points of reference are no more well-known as in the family or at school people don’t study nor speak. How many people, today, yet knows all Greek or Latin myths inside out? We studied them early at the primary school. Today there are new mythologies, the Japanese mangas, the Lords of the Rings, Harry Potter and so many characters. This could be a reason for the setting of Aidas and Turandots in the deserts of Mars or in unknown planets by some stage directors, following some tv series because they believe that communicating to young means a focus on, often without a real connection with the text of the opera nor music. It’s a very bad service to opera, music and at last to public, the final user. But music is not only opera, of course. Today music is present into our lives more that in the past, also in closer and private moments, what was unthinkable before.
Sometimes also “classical music” becomes “pop”: we listened passively to music in the subway, bus, at the supermarket, cooking and so many commercials use some fragments by Händel, Bach Rossini, insomuch as lots of people, listening to a concert or opera for the first time,  recognize a melody and say: “But it’s the yogurt music!” or “I know it, it’s the music of the X car”, maybe expecting that car is coming on the stage or that Semele received a yougurth from Jupiter in his garden on the Olympus Mount. The consumption of music, after the invention of portable music like the walkman (and the walkman is yet archeology) CD, iPod, iPad, has totally transformed the way of listening. It also pampered the demands by the consumer and the average listener often doesn’t understand that the live music obtain other results and other needs than his usual recorded music that is always unvaried, crystallize in a moment. More: I think that most of young public doesn’t perceive the necessity to be respectful of the ambient and the rite of music, almost impossible today. Many youngs, at a concert, often speak, laugh, call at phone their friends as they stay in the living room watching the match at tv, without realizing that there are many other pesons that don’t appreciate to be invaded. A thing I have just recently observed during a concert in Italy: a kid, sat before me, was taking pics of people on stage making music by his iPhone, moving his hands and not allowing to me to see the stage. He had to send to a friend or relative, by Facebook, the “emotion” of that moment no considering the other people around him there…I find it too much, I don’t understand it.  Have I to stop or could I follow? (he laughs)

Massimo, you could follow no stop because the things you tell us are absolutely true and deep, but we could speak about later. I’d like to ask you for what do you mean for “communicating”. How do you stand in front of the listener, that means: what do you think it’s necessary to capture his heart and speaking to him?

Well! Thanks for asking, it’s a chance to me for speaking about my way of singing. I have to make some preliminary remarks, because a singer, compared to other musicians, has some different expressive means: he has a text to make it intelligible, and this text is often sung in some languages that are not always familiar to the listener. I embraced a way that is a little different than the common one. Generally singers are used to spread their powerful voice on the public who feel that resonant mass like a sublimated sexual intercourse. There is as a carnal relationship between the interpreter and the fan, especially if the interpreter is a singer. There are persons making love fast and soon show their hand; who wants to reach soon the climax without foreplay, falling short of the partner’s expectations for an extended pleasure; who will never reach the climax, tiring sometimes the partner, etc. The ways of making love are countless.
So, mostly, like a certain routine sex, the recitals of singing could appear very boring, while the singer plays the his preferred arias, without a connection among themselves, or with monographical programmes, often always like Winterreise or Schöne Müllerin, as nothing else could exist.
My way to make love with public is telling some musical stories, revealing the way of “making love” in other times and cultures, combining the songs in a way that could be considered reckless. You could find in a programme of mines a song by Cole Porte near a baroque air, or a sacred piece, or an opera aria or a Lied by Schubert. The secret is in the story I want to tell. For example: a recital of mines is titled “Portraits of Ladies”. In this recital I show eighteen all different female figures, according the point of view of male poets and composers since XVIII century till today, making fun of all clichés about woman, also telling the public some short and funny anecdotes among the songs. Of course this recital is dedicated to the woman, debunking the trivialities about woman. That gives me the chance to introduce some unusual works to the listener. These works are often by famous authors, sometimes they are not, but the listener could have not the chance to hear them because those songs could not be included in a traditional programme, mostly composed by cycles and that’s enough. And after the opening foreplay, after a temporary confusion because people is not used to listen this kind of programmes, the public take your hand and know several climax, I have to say… Sometimes it happens I sing in the same place after an year or two and I find that my public is double. This is a big pleasure to me because I see that my job was fruitful.
Of course for a similar work it’s necessary to find the right pianist, a extrmely versatile artist, mastering all styles, not so frequent to find, and with a wish of playing various games and roles. One of them was Antonio Ballista, with whom I played for twenty years. My new playmate is now Angéline Pondepeyre, a french pianist, exceptional to say the least. She knows the voice perfectly and sometimes we suggest each other some new way of interpretation of the pieces even on stage, according the needs of the moment. It doesn’t happen so often, I had a chance to find her. Another playmate added lately: it’s Hans Schellevis, pianist of the Dutch Radio of Amsterdam, who is a very brilliant person and expert in belcanto, so our plays follow.

You’re telling us some very interesting things that it’s not so frequent to hear speaking with a singer, whose priority is opera! But how don’t you speak about opera?

Opera… Could I tell you I got bored of opera, at least because of the modern way to realise it? I cant understand the actual system of castings, that are often assembled without a criterion but that one of agencies and of unpolite ways, the ways of a mafia that has nothing in common with music and arts. I’m interested in music not into staying in a balance on relations between power and money I don’t know and that I and public are not interested into.  In second line I find that the power of stage directors is today unbearable.
They are mostly persons, in many cases, who don’t love the opera and that have no idea of phisiology and psychology of the voice. They often ask the singer for becoming thightrope walkers just for a fancy scheme, just for the special effect. No, thanks. Anyway they also exist other directors, maybe less famous, who work hard and good. Furthermore opera obliges you to rehearse for long periods far from your place, your things, your beloved, your family, and as I am so fond of life, the research, always planning new ways of communication, that’s to me like a downtime. It’s very important to me to have the possibility to have a trip with one or more friends, to discover a far and hidden place, a restaurant, a park, a beach, a castle… if you live so often far from house that part of life is denied. You only live once, isn’t it?
I’m interested more in chamber music, symphonies, oratorios, where there is not the stage intermediation in a certain way, but you have to invent the stage and the communication with the audience in that moment. You are naked in front of public, listeners take your energy and you give them again the same, without a costume that definites a character… your characters are ten, twenty, one hundred, according your songs. And you have only three or four minutes to tell them this story! That is more challenging to me. The concert is to me the place where I foresee a way for the future of so much music that for many persons looks like a dead museum. Do you know “Colloque sentimental” by Verlaine tuned by Debussy? Two old lovers meet, during the Winter, in a symbolic and frozen park. They tell themselves that once, maybe, they loved each other, but they now wander about some skeletal trees like ghosts.
It’s exactly what is happening to our fossil way to think of culture: many musical pieces are just phantoms of the past and there is often a big distance between the way of communicating of the interpreter and the public. That is noxious for everybody. First for the Music, then for public, for the singer, for the concert societies that see their public vanishing… Then also for cultural operators who are lost for the lack of interest of public for classical music. So the organizers look for some substitutes and they do often horrible mixes of other languages and cultures with no consciousness, erasing classical music, and doing fatal damages. Once classical music is lost, to regain it is impossible.
I have to say that every time somebody offer to me the chance to show my way of rediscovering our traditions and also  other musical cultures, assembled again or for the first time to tell stories, audience awards me. In that moment I am happier than audience, because I see people happy.

Massimo, your enthusiasm is overwhelming like overwhelming is also your analysis of daily reality. Your ideas are new, your projects are for sure a new and valid way. How many persons do you meet on your way believing in those ideas?  Is it difficult to propose them?

Well! It’s not so easy to gain the resistences and the fears, and, more and more, the ignorance of certain artistic directors. Sometimes they are the worst enemies of the public. They often withdraw beyond silly intellectualisms without understanding that the problem of the “language” is essential. But when I find free and curious persons it’s a real joy to share my vision of music, playful and profound at the same time. I found, besides Angéline Pondepeyre and Hans Schellevis, also the director Stefano Masi, a playmate and a wonderful and unbeliavable collaborator. With him I realized some wonderful projects. The last one was “La Mirabile Historia”, a multimedia pastiche about nothing less the story of the Three Wise Men! It could seem a vain and useless argument but Stefano Masi treated it in a surprising way that it became a fascinating fantasy, enriched with videos, singers, actors, musicians, lights, with wonderful works by Händel, Händel, Strauss, Komitas, Barber and original music by my brother Mario Crispi and composer Amir Molookpour... The evening of the show we had, in the big Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan, 3500 persons in the audience. Who could have so many people the same evening? And public was so happy that wanted go away, they wanted we followed… These are real satisfactions and also some indications to the artistic directors with no ideas.
I have to admit that in my country today there are more difficulties because of a ruling class more and more ignorant and fascist, in the Left as in the Right. Yes, because a “fascist” could be also a person of the Left, when they are absolute and blind, defending their own interests and protecting just their own people. Our ruling class men have an absolute idea of culture tied to schemes that history has overpassed and that is like the world ends at five meters from themeselves. It’s so difficult today to find some functionary or public administrator having a hazy idea of the many meanings of this small word: culture. Even the pages of the “culture” in many Italian newspapers sell for “culture” the exploits of tv dancers and the trash of our horrible tv. Maybe “Trash” is also culture, but it’s finally just… garbage.
My country is a moribund country from that pint of view, even it knew better times in the past and it was in the forefront thirty or fourty years ago. It’s not always so evident to people living out of Italy because one is always thinking that in Italy there is always the Leonardo’s “Ultima Cena” , Michelangelo’s David, Caravaggio’s paintings, the Temples in Agrigento, Venice, Florence, Pompei... But… this is archeology, th actual Italians are not able to do something special like that, they are nor able to maintain this inheritance. My country stopped. It means that it goes back because the other are in progress. Then you could guess how “cultural” operators in Italy could take care of our projects that abroad have lot of success because they ar multiethnical and original. We could say that my country is like a abyss wonderfully decorated and that, because of this decoration, most of people don’t realize how deep we are going down. But whe lights wil be off, above all if China will buy our energy corporations for a change with our debt and at last will present the bill to us, under our heads we’ll se a white point. It’s the sky above, lighted but, at this point unreacheble: we’ll be at the end of the pit, what is destroyed exists no more. And the responsibiity of all that will be only of our GOVERNMENTS.

My God, Massimo, I shive, you are very pessimist!… But please, speak of your projects: what’s in your hat?
I don’t think to be pessimist, on the contrary I am realist enough. I prefer to be ready for difficulties more than to be under the illusion that something could change in such a gone bad situation. I had so many negative experiences with cutur operator in my country to hope in miracles. I could tell you dozens of experiences, even with famous names. But I’ll tell you in another interview, when I’ll be so old, on a wheel chair, with no theeth, mumbling those embarassing stories about the persons who took care of culture in Italy and you will be free of thinking they are fancies of a poor old man… What could you say when the culture and music are the first items to be fired in our financial reforms? Furthermore Italy is known worldwide as the country of culture… If I were pessimist I should seclude myself in a perpetual and disdaining hermitage, greeting for the last time my relatives and friends (maybe not everybody) and my home would be a cave in the Ande, the farest site from Italy. On the contrary my hotbed cant stop producing new projects, it’s a perennial erupting volcano… I have project with Mexico, Spain, Netherlands, France… I cant tell you with whom because I am, as a mediteranean, warding of ill-luck!
 Next May I will give a recital at Italian Embassy, Washington DC, with an Italian programme, Verdi, Puccini, Tosti, with pianist Marco Rapetti, to remember the murder of Sicilian judge Giovanni Falcone, who fighted very strong against mafia. He was in a very close touch with USA authority forces and came many times to USA to inquire some repentant bosses in American prisons, and that was useful to know secrets to condamn some mafia men in Italy. They didn’t forgive it to him and killed him twenty years ago. I’m proud to sing for his celebration, because I’m from Palermo too and I admired him.
Next June I have some new projects in Florence and Tuscany but I’ll tell you more after, because it’s a long story.  There is a project to make a tour in Mexico and Latin America to introduce a small and wonderful Alessandro Scarlatti’s oratorio, Humanità e Lucifero, a jewel of Italian XVIII century music I have recorded some years ago with Europa Galante and Fabio Biondi, who discovered this treasure. Think that I was able to propose it in Italy only in a fast passage in the Brescia Holy Music Festival, with the excellent Luigi Marzola and his Swiss ensembles, but never in other Italian festivals, even it’s a precious rarity… And think that in Mexico or Spain probably they will give me this chance. You could have a clearer idea of my country situation. The realisation would be out of common, with the eternal fight between Good and Evil in a mutimedia way, a genial and unique project by me and Stefano Masi. I want also to give you a scoop: we discovered, through investigations of a musicologist, Paolo Giorgi, that the author of the oratorio is not the big Alessandro, but his elder son Pietro!   That open other sceneries because it enriches my proposal: the orchestra will be richer than the recorded CD, because the manuscript show there are more instruments, and it will be also a musicolagical event.
There is also a baroque recital, “Poveri amori miei” with excellent Orquesta Barroca de Granada, conducted by Darío Moreno, on the them of unlucky loves... Then the recitals of my Duo Chiaro&SCURO, with Angéline Pondepeyre, where I “tell” our musical tales: “The Enchanted Garden _ The secret voice of plants” “Une soirée Liberty” “Voices in the Night” “The Christmas Tree” “The Phantoms of the Opera or The Rests of the Feast”... Some other thematic recital with Hans Schellevis about “The Four Elements” and a funny programme on “Baroquineries” (that I have yet sung in Netherland) about what survived of Baroque style music in the following centuries: Strauss, Hahn, Stravinsky, Parisotti, Donhàny, Debussy, Ravel, Massenet.... Another project on the East, a triptic, with the rarity of Schönberg version of “Das Lied von de Erde” by Mahler on chinese poems (translated in German) of ancient poet Li Bai, with a mezzo and a young and excellent Spanish conductor whose name I cant tell you now because I am not authorized.  Another project I’m preparing is a CD with Schubert’s Lieder and Bellini’s arie da camera, that also make the programme of a recital of mines: “Malinconia, Ninfa gentile”. This Cd will be part of a police novel by Suzanne Daumann, a German-French writer. It’s about a story around many murders in two different centuries but they are connected by the visions of the main character and the works by Schubert and Bellini in a captivating unusual way, with suspense, dramatic turn of events, space-time changes, sentimental moments… a special work in a warm language by Daumann.
At last the reprise of that milanese project I was talking about before: La Mirabile Historia, synthesis of ancient and new telling the story od 2000 years ago, from Iran to the Cologne Cathedral, passing through Byzantium, Italy and closing the circle between East and Europe. It seems to have success. In all that work I’ll have to find some time for master classes that they requiered to me. We’ll see… All those programmes are part of my way to tell musical tales.
Then there is also the writing anf photography. I’m working on some tales, a screenplay with Stefano Masi, and also a image book, always with theme paths, how I like to do.
A CD about Bellini and Schubert music… this is another project for next year. This recital, “Malinconia, Ninfa Gentile” inspired a German/French writer, Suzanne Daumann, to write a novel about Schubert and Bellini, but I cant reveal the plot! You’ll read it next year (and listen the CD, attached to the novel…)
I have no time to bore, life is too short!

But, please, you were talking about some Florentine and Tuscan projects… what’s the matter in the charming region of Tuscany?

Well… I was forgetting it! It’s maybe the most important project I have! This project caught me because I was not expecting it at all. Life is very strange and never stops to surprise me.
At the end of last year a group of musician with whom I worked in Florence some times before for Monteverdi’s Vespers (I have also recorded them and the CD must be published just in next weeks), told me that a new string orchestra was born and invited me to know my impressions. You know, I’m always curious and the new groups are always interesting because you never know what it could born. I was awarded that night, going to listened them. At first they were all young and very young. At the end of the rehearsal I and a little group of them went to have a dinner and talked a lot about such a structured ensemble could have a future, a repertoire, etc. As I was elder and more experienced I realized to be considered as a doyen… all of them were listening attentively to my impressions. At the end of the night I was appointed by them as the artistic director: simply they asked me for taking care of.
You cant guess how I took all that to heart. At first because an orchestra whose musicians are all young and expert, who formed that strong group without a solid structure behind, above all in such a difficult moment for Europe and Italy at first, shows ti be really brave. It’s like a miracle, one of that chances you have few times in your life and it’s very exciting to follow this ensemble since the beginning, to mark several paths watching it growing, how the young musicians interact among themselves and with repertory, how they go on step after step… I am totally enthusiast about all that!
Then I have created for them a three-year timetable with seasons and other performances, one better than the prior. I gave the orchestra a strong symbolic name that is bound with Tuscany’s emblem, Benvenuto Cellini’s silver Pegasus: “IL PEGASO – Orchestra d’archi della Toscana”.
The first programme will be played next June and is totally devoted to Tuscany: Tchaikowsky’s “Souvenir de Florence”, Puccini’s “Crisantemi”, Mascagni’s “Intermezzo” in a strings version, and at last a special dessert: a suite of early arias for singing and piano by Puccini adapted for string orchestra by one of the most eminent actual Italian composers: Carlo Boccadoro. The suite is titled “La segreta voce” and had its premiere just in Florence in 1994, sung by my beloved friend Vincenzo La Scola. I knew Vincenzo when we were young in Palermo, we studied for few lessons with Claudia Carbi, then we met again per chance at the Conservatorio Martini of Bologna, where both of us studied and after we met on stage several times in the theaters. This concert also want to be a tribute to the friend and the artist who departed before his time.
I come back to Il PEGASO… the flexibility and speed of those young musicians is really impressive. I have also to thank M° Augusto Vismara who few months ago accepted to be their musical guide and his valuable work to develop repertory and sound is exciting. His innate charisma, his musical ideas, his speciality as violinist, his unconventional way to interact with young people is really animating. Vismara was a very important figure since the 70s, when he was one of the few Italians young musicians to get involved in a broadcast on Italian RAI (in a far age when RAI produced some culture…) that was attended by Luciano Berio “C’è musica e musica” . He is actually one of the best viola teachers in Italy, at Florence Conservatorio Cherubini.
I was also lucky to find a warm welcome by Comune di Bagno a Ripoli, a lovely town on the Florentine hills. His assessore alla cultura, Alessandro Calvelli, has immediately understood what I was recommending to him. He gave us soon a free seat for our rehearsals, some free unbelievable locations (you could just imagine what kind of jewels could have on the Florentine hills: ancient churches, castles, villas…) for a promo trailer, for recording, for staying at ease to… PRODUCE! It’s a very rare chance in Italy to meet some people like in Bagno a Ripoli. Generally in my country politicians destroy you instead of helping  or make your life impossible with every kind of bureaucratic problem, and the goods they manage seem to be their own private goods, for their families and their “friends”… in the more typical mafia style. The Assessore Calvelli instance is rare, it seems he would like to bequeath something nice.
Few people in Italy today is really interested to help youths: when politicians show to want to take care of youth is mainly for pure electioneering, not considering that youth are the future of a nation.
We are looking for sponsors, Maecenas, agents… who wants come forward: our ensemble is the only one over the Tuscan territory as a specifically string orchestra, it’s continuously growing and want to produce like a “Factory for music”.
I hope to speak more later, explaining some season programme.
We hope to see and listen to you soon, then! Next rendez vous: Washington DC, Italian Embassy, 22nd May 2012, Verdi, Puccini, Tosti recital; 24 June, Teatro Comunale Bagno a Ripoli, opening of the “Il PEGASO, Orchestra d’archi della Toscana”, Tchaikowsky, Puccini, Mascagni, Boccadoro.
When the new season of Massimo’s new string orchestra will be ready we’ll publish it.
 Thanks Massimo Crispi for your time and for entusiastic moments he gave us and he will give us.
This unconventional and rebel tenor has one of the actual most interesting voices and we have to encourage and follow the unusual proposal he pushes, absolutely out of common.
Who would like to listen to Massimo Crispi’s voice could find several videos and Lieder on yotube just taping “massimo crispi” as well as on the whole consacred to vocal chamber music website: The Lieder Sound Archive.



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