OPERA NEWS - Sound Bites: Daniela Candillari
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Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Daniela Candillari

An up-and-coming conductor finds equal inspiration in tradition and novelty.
By Louise T. Guinther

Sound Bites Daniela Candillari hdl 719
Photographed by Dario Acosta
Hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik
Fashion styling by Marlon Corvera for Giorgio Armani

Sound Bites Daniela Candillari sm 719
Conductor Daniela Candillari, set for Cold Mountain next month in Santa Barbara
© Dario Acosta
Hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik
Fashion styling by Marlon Corvera; Wardrobe courtesy of Giorgio Armani

DANIELA CANDILLARI fell under the spell of opera as a young girl attending performances by her grandmother, a mezzo at Serbian National Theater. “These fantastical, imaginative stories could really take you quite outside of yourself,” Candillari says. “You enter this world that is so magical or mystical, and you live in that world and then leave the theater as a completely different person—as if you had just met Peter Pan.”

Candillari’s piano-performance studies led to a Fulbright Scholarship at Indiana University, where she earned master’s degrees in piano performance and jazz piano while also working as a graduate assistant in the opera department. “That was like having a double life,” she says—“opera coach by day and jazz pianist by night. It was wild. But having had the ability to experience music from that improvisatory, more independent, less linear way of thinking has really informed my sensibilities.” Meanwhile, she completed a PhD in musicology in Vienna.

Gradually, her mentors steered her toward conducting. “What I really enjoyed was the preparation—creating a dialogue with musicians. I thought that was the most amazing thing.”

She began her professional career at Slovenian National Opera, as a répétiteur, chorus director and assistant conductor in largely standard repertoire, and has established a growing reputation leading contemporary works. She balances Cold Mountain at Music Academy of the West in August with Rusalka in Cincinnati next summer. “For music to look forward, we need to know what happened in the tradition. In jazz, with transcriptions of solos, they say, ‘Don’t just transcribe the notes, but try to understand the emotion.’ Sometimes we fall into a pattern of doing something because it’s traditional, without examining the emotional context behind the choice. Through contemporary music, you hear traditional music with different ears.”

Though women conductors are still a small club, Candillari says that is never in the front of her mind. “I am who I am, and the question that I always have for myself is ‘How can we all collectively create something, regardless of what I am and where I am?’ I know women conductors is a big topic, but I’m really happy to say that every ensemble I’ve worked with so far have been incredible colleagues. The question of my sex was not even in the room.” spacer

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