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On the work of a conductor, singing in the shower and the pandemic break

Fast Confession - Music conductor Walter Attanasi: Performing for the Italian president was the hardest

Kateřina Ostrejšová
02.Jul 2021
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3 minutes

Walter Attanasi has been receiving invitations by the most famous and prestigious theatres, opera houses or festivals to conduct symphonic and opera performances. He has collaborated with renowned institutions such as the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, the Opera in Rome, the Arena di Verona, the Teatro Comunale in Florence and many other world orchestras. In an interview for LP-Life, he shared with us how he prepares for a musical performance and which performance he remembers as the most difficult one.

Walter Attanasi s Christinou Johnston
Dirigent Walter Attanasi při vystoupení filharmonie ve Zlíně

You cooperate with opera houses all over Europe - Naples, Rome, Amsterdam. And the list continues... Is there a place that has grown close to your heart? Which do you like best?

It’s not just one place. But I love remembering the Opera in Rome and Stockholm. But there are really a lot of them.

Why Rome? Could it be the romantic atmosphere?

Probably yes.

Luxusní byt s výhledem na Pražský hrad, Malá
Luxusní byt s výhledem na Pražský hrad, Malá, Praha 1

Do you do any sport actively, or how do you prepare for conducting?

It’s true that you need to be in shape for that. I swam a lot during the pandemic, I even had a brown belt in karate. So yes, we were doing something and it helped a lot. It may sound ridiculous, but working with your arms and breath is very beneficial.

You mentioned breathing exercises... Is that something you do daily?

Yes, I practice every day.

Do you still get nervous sometimes, or how do you work with stage fright?

I'm often more nervous about parking before the performance than from the performance itself. Of course, it is also thanks to my experience, one gets much calmer and enjoys every second.

And do you, for example, practise conducting in the shower? Do you sing in the shower?

I sing all day, but not in the shower.

When you compare your work abroad with that here in the Czech Republic. Is it different and how?

Every city is completely different. I work with people, every culture is different. When I work here, the big advantage is that the music is at a really high niveau here.

Is there anything that surprised you about working in the Czech Republic?

Probably nothing specific. I was rather pleasantly surprised by the level of my colleagues’ skill.

Is there a big difference in the musical expression of each nationality?

You know that yourself. I've been to Mexico, Japan, America and so on. It's different everywhere.

Which culture is closest to you?

I'm actually a Slovenian, an Italian and an Austrian, a mix of many things, thus I feel close to a lot of cultures.

You have a lot of opera premieres under your belt. Can you tell us which one was the most difficult? 5

I remember one, it was in Brazil. It was a huge opera with ballet, the whole package. I’ve been working almost two whole days nonstop, I even lost a lot of weight. But in the end, it was a success.

What has been your biggest audience so far?

It must have been in Italy. I played for the Italian president, where there were ten thousand people and ten million were watching it on TV screens.

What is the main key to being a good conductor?

Experiences. Everyone knows the theory, but in practice, it's not quite the same. But the same could be said about any job...

Do you have any negative memories, like when something went wrong?

I can’t think of anything big.

Things are slowly returning to normal, so I guess you're already operating in the usual mode.

We have yet to see if it’s the usual mode. Now I have another concert in Prague and then in Germany, so it's getting there.

How have you been coping with the pandemic? It's been a long time when you haven't been able to practise. Have you adapted to the online environment?

We weren’t practising online, it doesn't work very well. Everyone practised alone.

What did the pandemic teach you?

Rather than that, it brought me worries. But I did realize that I had to constantly learn new things.

I wish you good luck and thank you for the interview.

Fast confession:

What is your favourite musical piece?

I love Puccini.

Do you remember the moment you fell in love with music?

That was eleven years ago. It's love for life.

What was the last song you listened to?

Bohemian Rhapsody.

What was your highest heart rate while conducting?

That depends on the repertoire and on the season.

Have you been vaccinated against coronavirus or are you planning to do so?

I already have the second dose.

What is your biggest "guilty pleasure"?

I'd start with chocolate.

What do you find most enjoyable about conducting?

The joy.

What do you like to sing in the shower?

When I take a shower, I just wash.

What is your favourite European city?

Today it is Prague, tomorrow it will be Rome, then Stockholm.

Do you have anything from Natali Ruden in your wardrobe?

Not yet, but we are planning some cooperation.

Have you tried conducting an orchestra online yet?

Unfortunately yes. It’s not the same without the audience.

Have you ever tried to google your name?

Not today.

Do you also conduct your wife/children/family?

Sometimes yes. We usually try to achieve a compromise.
Question by the interviewee for the interviewer:

And what is your "guilty pleasure"?

Daily morning coffee.
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