“What we get from operas is profound and very up to date.
It should be a part of our daily life”
Photo: Marco Borrelli
He is 33 years old and travels around Europe to conduct operas and big orchestral works.
He is educated in Denmark and Italy, and among his mentors is Riccardo Muti.
As the Italian conductor Vincenzo Milletarì visited Denmark in August 2023 to conduct “Tosca” with
Den Jyske Opera, Klassisk bureau got the excellent opportunity to get an interview.
Here it is.
Please, read about the busy, young and passionate conductor who loves his dog, likes to run, misses the silence during the corona pandemic and is in full focus with his orchestra during his concerts.
He seems like a man at his best age. He’s got enery, selfconfidence and focus. And drive. And coolness. And a living and direct contact with his orchestra.
The young Italian conductor Vincenzo Milletarì was visiting Denmark at late summertime during this interview. Here he was conducting Den Jyske Opera and the completion of “Tosca”. A big set up with the world star tenor José Cura singing the leading role at the premiere. Vincenzo Milletarìs' next job is in Ankara in front of CSO Orchestra Ankara – for his first time. Here the main story is Saint-Saens’ “Cello Concerto No. 1” before going to conduct “Rigoletto” at the Prague State Opera during autumn. Before the last show here he has also been conducting a concert in France where Beethoven's “Piano concerto no. 5” is on the menu.
That’s how it goes when you are a freelance conductor. And he seems to like this kind of freedom, variation and constant adjustement as a guest conductor for many different orchestras around Europe. “Yes, I like it this way. I am used to it, but also I have to like it”, he says with a mix of pleasure and realism.
It seems likely to agree with him as you get to know about his working conditions which include a lot of unpredictable and various places, people and music. “It is amazing being a conductor. You don’t feel tired when you are in it, when you are in the situation”, he explains. Sometimes there are more concerts to do with a short deadline each and simultaneously.
Vincenzo Milletarì remembers a concentrated schedule with concerts in Sweden and Denmark almost at the same time. Rehearsal in Stockholm before dinner and then rehearsal in Copenhagen in the evening. “In such a situation I just feel like a lion! But when it’s done, I just relax and sleep a lot”, he explains.
This story also reminds him of his lifestyle before the corona pandemic.
“Before corona I did a lot more shows but was less happy. Now, I am so lucky to be in the position of being able to choose what I'm doing. I don't accept every offer anymore, but carefully choose what really interests me. I am more focused on living a balanced life without overworking”, he explains.
Actually, he liked the corona period. Perhaps because he learned a lesson. “I didn’t spend much time with my family because I was afraid to infect them. Therefore, I was much alone in my summer cottage and I loved it. It is terrible to say, but I slept so good at that time. I came from a very stressful schedule: Waking up at 4.00, going to the waiting taxi at 4.30 and then work until 23.00 at night. Also, I stayed in different hotel rooms every night”, he recalls.
Photo: Marco Borrelli
My wish is to make the music bloom, and I just want every musician to be satisfied. That everyone I work with is happy inside”
Vincenzo Milletarì, conductor
Overview of life
He was born in Italy 1990.
He is educated from the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory in Milan and from The Royal Danish Academy of Music.
Since 2015 Riccardo Muti has been his mentor.
Since 2017 Vincenzo Milletarì has been a professional conductor.
In 2020 he was the youngest conductor ever to give his debut at the Macerata Opera Festival and that happened in front of Verdi's "Il trovatore".
This autumn he gives his debut with the CSO Orchestra Ankara. The concert includes Saint-Saens’ “Cello Concerto No. 1”.
Vincenzo Milletarì loves spending time with his dog, Tano, and he is a passionate runner.
Photo: Marco Borrelli
When Vincenzo Milletarì is off duty he likes to spent time with his dog, Tano, who is actually named after Gaetano Donizetti (Tano is the short version for Gaetano). As much as possible, he travels by car for his jobs to be able to bring Tano with him. Also, Vicenzo Milletarì is an active sportsman and is a dedicated runner. That’s yet another feeling of freedom besides living as a freelance conductor.
However, being a freelance conductor also takes many connections to make it a living. That is also the case for the 33-year-old Vincenzo Milletarì, but he does not worry much about the future. And why should he. His future schedule still has not left much time for holidays and as a conductor he likes doing both orchestral concerts as well as opera shows. But there are some differences between the two genres, is his experience.
“The result is going to be different. When you are doing a concert with orchestral works you coorporate with the same people throughout the week and we all get to know each other very well. However, when doing an opera, the orchestra is often bigger with various musicians during the line of shows, there are many shows for each opera and every evening the show has different outcomes”, he says. For Vincenzo Milletarì it takes full concentration on the scene when doing an opera because of its unpredictability. Therefore, he is always excited when he lifts his arms for the first bar of the overture.
”You are the only one during the show who has full responsibility”, he says about his role as the conductor for a big show in general. “In an opera, the musicians are not only accompaniment to the action and the singing. The music works together with the action”, he points out. “We have to make sure that action and music are synchronized. One night there was a singer who was a bit late in the action and in the orchestra we had to wait and give more time for a bar to reconnect with the singer. The music has to work together with the scene”, Vincenzo Milletarì explains.
Now, he is experienced with different orchestras around Europe. I ask him about the cultural situation for each orchestra. Are there differences in the way they work together, how they respond to a conductor and what they expect from him? He tells me that there are some kind of international standards. That every musician takes his or her part in the concert and without many complications no matter which nationality. Though, there might be different expectations to him as a conductor.
”I personally don’t believe much in hierarchy”, he starts out this analysis of his role. “In some countries it is expected that I am in charge while I in other cases am expected to take part in a discussion. These differences are beautiful but also hard to shift from because they are opposite poles”, he says still with his relaxed temper and calm expression. And how about Denmark in this spectrum? “Denmark is very anti-hierarchical”, he says. There you have it. After all he knows that he in the end is the one to decide how to run the show. “Some things can not be changed and it just is the conductors duty to make decisions”, he says. But what is his own personal goal as a professional conductor?
First of all, he is always focused on the music, the stage and the musicians. The art itself, in other words.
”It is art, but also it is a job being a conductor. My wish is to make the music bloom, and I just want every musician to be satisfied. That everyone I work with is happy inside”, he says in a simple manner. Just like the uncomplicated emotions that are so well known from the operas. And it appears that opera is what Vincenzo Milletarì is doing the most at the moment. It just comes to him, he says. Also, for him as an Italian, opera is a natural part of the upbringing and schooling.
”Yes, we do have a big music tradition in Italy and people are interested in classical music and attend to the concerts. Perhaps not as much as going to the cinema but it is still a big cultural cornerstone”, he says and refers to the different opera festivals around Italy every summer.
”Of course opera is a big part of our lives. Not only Italian ones but also the French and German ones”, he says and goes on with the fact that the majority of all operas are Italian. “I like Verdi and Puccini very much, but I was brought up with German operas as well, and I like all of them”, he says and once again lets his very distinct and uncomplicated approach to his job comes to light. Also, he sees a strong connection between the opera composers across their different nationalities.
“The cultures were more connected at that time. More than we think”, he lets us know. “The musicians and artists met and shared their ideas. Like the strong similarities between Wagner’s “Lohengrin” and the operas of V. Bellini. Wagner looked to Bellini, and Puccini looked to Wagner, so here are some another connections”. However, Vincenzo Millitarì is aware of the fact that opera plays another role in European society these years. Perhaps in the world in general.
”I never blame people”, he says shaking his shoulders a little bit. “Once opera was the most interesting thing for people to do, now it is not. But I don’t blame anyone”, he repeats still maintaining the evident qualities of opera as a genre. “It's just that the realities changed: 150 years ago, live performances, theatre and opera were the only things people could really do to entertain themselves. Now we have cinemas, television, Netflix. However, what we get from operas is profound and very up to date. It should be a part of our daily life”, is his assessment. ”It is good for people to get in touch with, like ”Triviata”, and the opera world has deep messages that is actually bringing us something”, Vincenzo Millitarì assumes.
Last but not least, Vincenzo Milletarì is educated in both Denmark and Italy. He has been a professional conductor since 2017, and during the recent years Riccardo Muti has been his mentor. In 2018, Vincenzo Milletarì recorded a CD with the Copenhagen Philharmonic featuring instrumental and symphonic music by Max Bruch, released by the Brilliant label. That is how you can implement his silent appearance in great music in your own home.