Sound Bites: Daniele Rustioni 

The conductor takes the reins this season at Opéra National de Lyon, conducting Britten and Verdi.
By Maria Mazzaro

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Photograph by Dario Acosta
Grooming by Amy Zdunowski-Roeder

© Dario Acosta
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Daniele Rustioni conducts this season in Lyon, Paris, Zurich and Stuttgart.
© Dario Acosta

DANIELE RUSTIONI was a child in the Teatro alla Scala Boys’ Choir when he told Riccardo Muti he dreamed of being a conductor. Muti replied, “Ah, because you want everyone else to work, and you do nothing, yes?”

The principal conductor of the Orchestra della Toscana since 2014 and, beginning this season, of the Opéra National de Lyon, Rustioni now understands what Muti meant. “I don’t mean to sound philosophical—I’m thirty-four—but the orchestra can play by itself,” Rustioni says. “But we bring human experience on the podium.”

Today, he manages his engagements—plus an ongoing recording series with Sony that highlights lesser-known composers of the twentieth century—with balance. “I structure my calendar trying to have sixty percent of time on symphonic, forty percent on opera. I want to do the right steps,” he explains.“Mahler—he’s extremely difficult, but somehow the music works by itself. It’s like conducting Puccini—if you are very bad, the music works by itself. But to do it in the right way, it is very difficult. With Bellini, or Rossini serio, it’s going to be a disaster! You have to deal with the emptiness of the page—to be an interpreter. If you don’t stay with this repertoire when you’re young and just go late, after Shostakovich, Mahler, Richard Strauss, it’s hard to go back and be a good interpreter.”

Next month in Lyon, Rustioni will conduct Britten’s War Requiem, followed by the house’s “Festival Verdi” operas—Attila, Macbeth and Don Carlos. Verdi has been central to Rustioni’s opera career; he has paced the composer’s works at La Scala, La Fenice and Opéra National de Paris. For his Met debut in March 2017 (“Everyone told me about this orchestra at the Met, like the Ferrari”), he led Aida with aplomb, managing the swelling overture with verve and, in the consecration scene, eliciting beautiful near-whispers from the basses, whom he conducted without his baton. “The connection of words and music reached its highest point with Verdi. I think, if you love the voice as a conductor, then you can find the colors even if they are not written in the orchestra or the words. It’s like finding gold, you know?” spacer



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