Francesco Izzo

Francesco Izzo is Professor of Music at the University of Southampton. His research focuses primarily on nineteenth-century Italian opera. He has published numerous articles in leading academic journals and various collections of essays, often focusing on the work of Giuseppe Verdi. His book, Laughter between Two Revolutions: Opera buffa in Italy, 1831-1848, appeared in print in 2013 in the series Eastman Studies in Music, published by the University of Rochester Press. Francesco serves as General Editor of the critical edition Works of Giuseppe Verdi (University of Chicago Press and Ricordi) and as direttore scientifico of Festival Verdi, Parma. His edition of Verdi’s Un giorno di regno will appear in prin in 2020. He is frequently invited as speaker, contributor of program notes, and consultant at opera houses and festivals in Europe and in the USA. Organizatiotions with which he collaborates frequently include the BBC, the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne, the Welsh National Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid, Bayerische Staatsoper, Salzburg Festival, Teatro San Carlo, and Donizetti Festival. He is a keen researcher of vocal performance practices of the nineteenth century, and serves regularly as a consultant to singers, conductors, and stage directors. He is frequently invited to deliver lectures, workshops and masterclasses, including recent visits to the Juilliard School, Princeton University, Conservatorium Maastricht, the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana. He has an ongoing collaboration with the Accademia Verdiana at Parma’s Teatro Regio, where he coaches young artists and introduces them to the opportunities offered by critical editions of nineteenth-century Italian opera.

Thank you, prof. Francesco Izzo, first of all, because you are one of the people who made this special issue of OPERA Charm Magazine in collaboration with Verdi Festival possible and then, of course, for the interesting and very informative conversation that we are about to have! What does the direttore scientifico mean to a Festival such as Festival Verdi of Teatro Regio di Parma? Thank you, Bianca! It is a pleasure to be with you, and we are delighted to have you in Parma for Festival Verdi! I often get asked what a direttore scientifico is, and my contribution to the Festival. Well, Verdi is performed all over the world, and one can safely say that the popularity of some of his works is simply unrivalled. But how do we perform Verdi? Which scores do we use? Which traditions do we refer to? Precisely because of their extraordinary popularity, many of Verdi’s operas have gone through stages of transformation with which the composer had very little to do. For example, the librettos were altered by the censors in pre-unification Italy. Copyists and publishers misunderstood or arbitrarily modified details of his notation. And so on. Today, relying on the critical editions published by, or in preparation for The Works of Giuseppe Verdi (www.verdiedition.org), co-published by the University of Chicago Press and Casa Ricordi, the Festival Verdi aims to restore the scores to refflect authorial intention as best as we possibly can.

An important part of your activity is working with the soloists, the conductors & the directors in order to respect and value exactly what Verdi wanted to say through his music, am I right? So I am wondering… is the concept of the Verdian voice the main motivation on which the casts are formed or is more the Verdian approach the detail that is to be learnt by a singer in order to be suited for a Verdian piece and, implicitly, for Festival Verdi? You need both, I think, and that’s what makes the job of casting a Verdi opera particularly challenging! In my view, today we have a very narrow perception of what a “Verdian voice” actually is: we look for volume, dramatic weight, and often a certain darkness of tone. But we should be much more open-minded and flexible. In many instances, my preference goes for casting voices that aren’t necessarily as “heavy” and “dramatic” as we have to expect. Clearly, we must bear in mind audience expectations, and is it risky to be too subversive? But an organization such as the Festival Verdi, in general, must not only fulfill expectations, but also open the minds and stir the imagination of its audiences. What happens if Lady Macbeth is not as dramatic as we think she should be? What happens if a baritone has a softer, even smaller voice than we’ve come to expect in, say, Rigoletto? These are very important and fascinating questions, and we we must face them with an open mind!

Read the entire interview here.

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