Moscow City Symphony
Russian Philharmonic
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Dmitry Yurovsky: "Singers are like the most fragile crystal vases"

Дата публикации: 
Monday, 20 November, 2017

Dmitry Yurovsky, a native of a well-known musical family, is one of the most authoritative and versatile conductors of our time. The chief conductor of the orchestra "Russian Philharmonic" and the Novosibirsk Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, he also performs at major opera and concert venues in Europe, the United States and Latin America, performing an extensive vocal and instrumental repertoire.

Our conversation with him is about the fine lines between symphonic and opera music, the contemporary state of the opera house and the work of a conductor with singers ...

- You conduct a lot of both opera and symphonic music. How do you manage to combine this?

- I to some extent united for myself these two spheres. Opera conducting is a musical theater, when either music is superimposed on dramaturgy, or, conversely, dramaturgy to music.

My career as a conductor started at the opera, because I always wanted to devote myself to this art - probably because of my great love for singers. But when I decided to engage in symphonic conducting, I decided to turn this sphere into a "musical theater" as well.

Any symphonic work implies a "plot". It can be pre-written and literary, as in the case, for example, of "The Islands of the Dead" by Rachmaninov. But in such works as, say, symphonies, this "plot" is also present, although for him there is no concrete literary source. In this case, the conductor's task is to be not only a musician, but also a playwright, inventing for himself the "story" of a symphonic work.

You can even not tell anyone about your thoughts. I, when I work with orchestras, do this very rarely, although sometimes I can share some of my ideas about the "themes" of symphonic works with the orchestra to help the musicians to "visualize" the performed parts to some extent. But I will never tell about my thoughts to the public, because everyone sees the story in different ways, in different colors and moods.

Moreover, unlike opera, in symphonism there is more room for imagination: if, for example, Verdi's Othello in any case strangles Desdemona and the action is objectively tragic, then many symphonies by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich are much more ambiguous in their mood.

- What is more difficult for you - opera or symphonic music?

"Opera, of course, is objectively more difficult, because the conductor has to work with a larger number of people in order to achieve the ideal fusion of singing and orchestra.

Another problem is the huge size of the premises. Say, at the Novosibirsk Opera House from one end of the hall to the other, the distance can reach up to a hundred meters. It is very difficult to see, hear, gather together, follow the director's ideas.

But symphonic music is often very complex in its own way. Enough of such works, as, for example, "The Sacred Spring" by Stravinsky, which is technically incredibly difficult to perform at a decent level.

- In your orchestra "Russian Philharmonic" a very diverse and interesting repertoire. How do you choose works and distribute the performance of symphonic and vocal music?

- In our orchestra the repertoire, in addition to the vocal and symphonic, is also divided into "serious" and "less serious". The latter does not at all mean that we approach this music less seriously - it is simply more entertaining and is intended for a wider audience.

Being a symphony orchestra, we focus mainly on orchestral music, but, naturally, we also often work with vocalists. For example, soon we will have a concert by Veronika Dzhioeva, where there will be an exclusively operatic repertoire.

It is very useful for a symphonic orchestra - to be able to "accompany" a singer, just like an opera orchestra it is useful to perform symphonic music. After all, such a work as, for example, "Traviata" is much easier to play with the average opera orchestra than with a high-class symphony orchestra.

- You started your career and worked a lot in Italy - including such theaters as "Carlo Felice" in Genoa, "La Fenice" in Venice, "Reggio" in Parma and Turin, etc. There is an opinion that in the homeland of the opera this kind of art is gradually dying. Is this so, in your opinion?

- To some extent I agree. Almost every Italian provincial town has an opera house, but, unfortunately, almost all of them are empty.

The operative crisis in Italy is connected not so much with the loss of public interest, but rather with economic difficulties: money that was formerly spent on art is now being spent on something completely different. There are private sponsors, but there are not many of them. Fees began to decrease, which leads to the fact that theaters are much more difficult to "get" new singers and conductors.

As for the attitude of the public to the opera, I both agree and disagree. When you come to some Italian theater - the same "Carlo Felice" or "La Fenice", very often you can see half-empty rooms. This is due, of course, primarily to the fact that the operatic art in Italy is now much less.

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