Thursday, July 21, 2022

Conductor Giampaolo Bisanti in Conversation

Italian conductor Giampaolo Bisanti has been praised for his musical knowledge and passion. In this interview, Giampaolo shares his affection for Donizetti’s music, the influence of his grandmother, working with Christina Scheppelmann, and a new passion—earning his pilot’s license. This is his US opera debut and his first Seattle Opera production.

How many times have you conducted The Elixir of Love?
Twice, at the Teatro Regio di Torino and the Opéra de Paris. The Seattle performance will be my US opera debut and the third time I’ve conducted this opera. But this is not my first time working in America. Actually, I’ve conducted a few symphony concerts at the Monterey Symphony Orchestra and San Jose Symphony in 2010, 2012, and 2015.

What attractions do you have for Gaetano Donizetti’s work?
Italian operas make up eighty percent of my repertoire. I know most of the operas by heart. I started learning the bel canto operas as a boy. Like Don Pasquale, Elixir is a comedy with some serious parts. Donizetti is a multi-faced composer. He composed serious opera, tragic opera, as well as funny ones like The Elixir of Love and Don Pasquale.

What three pieces of music have most shaped your career?
I describe myself as an opera conductor. But I started out conducting symphony concerts. The first piece of music to shape my career was Gustav Mahler’s second symphony, the “Resurrection” Symphony. Really touched my heart. Conducting 193 musicians and vocalists was one of the greatest moments of my musical life. As for the second piece, it’s La bohème. La bohème represents most of my international debuts. These include conducting it at Bayerische Staatsoper, the Isarphilharmonie, Teatro La Fenice, and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. It is in my heart, and it represents a very important opera for me. Norma (by Vincenzo Bellini) is the third piece of music that has shaped my career. It is maybe my first experience with bel canto opera. I debuted in Toulouse (at the Théâtre du Capitole). It was a very successful production that featured mezzo-soprano Karine Deshayes singing Adalgisa and soprano Marina Rebeka as Norma.

What kind of motorcycle do you ride?
I have been riding Ducati bikes all my life. I’ve had six. I still have a passion for motor bikes but I am not riding any longer because I sold my bike when I moved to Switzerland and I don’t have much time to ride. Besides, I have a new passion. For the past two years, I’ve been learning to be a pilot. I need to complete my radio class and 24 hours of training flights in order to apply for my license.

How large is your family?
My mum and father met at the hospital. She was recovering in the same room as my father’s friend. They met, fell in love, and after six months got married. After one year I was born and after that, ten more—six boys and five girls. Four of us are musicians. One sister is a member of the Accademia Musical Bizantina, another sister is a freelance violinist, and a third sister was a cellist. Now she is a mum, one hundred percent.

Why did you select the clarinet?
That is a funny story. I was nine years old, and I told my Granny that I wanted to learn to play the saxophone. She said, ‘No, you are too young. You are too small for the saxophone. You ought to start out with a clarinet.’ My Dad was excited that his son would embrace his music passion. He said, ‘Let’s apply to the village music school.’ I started at 11 and I taught myself piano. My father grew up very poor. He had a very beautiful and powerful voice. His voice was like Mario Del Monaco, the tenor. But he was so poor. Then he had to work a lot to raise his family.

In one word, how would you describe coming back to performing in person after the lockdown?
A miracle. Even during the Second World War, the music never stopped. I think in the history of humanity, a situation like this has never occurred. Performing in front of a live audience after the lockdown was a miracle.

This is not the first time you’ve worked with Seattle Opera General Director Christina Scheppelmann.
We’ve known each other for many years, and the last production we made together was Madame Butterfly at the Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Christina is one of the greatest opera women in the world. She is intelligent and talented. She is a great friend. I keep her in high esteem.

What are you listening to on your earbuds or headphones?
I listen to any kind of music. I like pop, rock, and jazz music. I like music of the ’80s because I was born in 1972. I especially like Pink Floyd. I’ve loved their music since I was 15 years old. I know all of Pink Floyd’s songs. A couple of months ago I visited Abbey Road Studios to see where The Dark Side of the Moon was recorded.

Giampaolo Bisanti conducts Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur at La Scala in Milan in March 2022.
Is there anything else that our audience should know?

Yes, one last thing. I’m looking forward to making my debut in the United States. I made my debut at La Scala di Milano four months ago. And now, finally, I get to in the United States. I’m so, so happy.

The Elixir of Love runs August 6–20, 2022 at McCaw Hall. Utterly enjoyable from first sip to last, this fizzy concoction is opera’s most winning comedy. A lovestruck bumpkin is about to lose the company of a rich and independent landowner. Crossing paths with a quack doctor, he soon gets duped in more ways than one. Wine, a windfall, and a fateful “furtive tear” eventually reveal happy truths as sincerity triumphs amid much rejoicing. Tickets and info at

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