How to be a woke conductor

How to be a woke conductor


norman lebrecht

September 17, 2019

Edward Gardner rehearsing ‘pourquoi me reveiller’ this morning with Juan Diego Florez.

These days, does it get better?



  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Edward Gardner is from the time-honoured tradition of repetiteur, choir director, accompanist and ultimately, conductor. Nothing beats moving up the ranks.

    • John Rook says:

      In an ideal world, all conductors should have moved through the ranks, either as instrumentalist, repetiteur or, as some have done, singer. You have to earn the right to remain silent while making music.

  • Larry W says:

    Gardner is the real deal. Doubters best reconsider.

  • sam says:

    Can’t imagine Muti having a discussion with one of his singers.

    There is a youtube video of Solti rehearsing with Te Kanawa and Terfel, and Solti ever the strict count beater, wanted Terfel to sing a passage the way Solti wanted it, so he took out a metronome and played it to Terfel like he was some 5 year old child. The look on Terfel’s face said: If the camera weren’t filming this, I’d shoved this metronome so far down your throat…

  • SassyRhino says:

    There seems to be no video linked…this is not the first time here with that issue.

  • Bruce says:

    Brilliant. I notice he starts all his criticisms suggestions from a basis of Florez’s strength: “I love the way you…” and then convinces Florez to want what he wants, instead of just asking him to “do it like this.” It’s almost as if he — gasp! — sees value in what Florez is already doing, and wants to help him get even more of what he (Florez) wants out of the music, so that he (Gardner) can get more of what he wants out of the music.

    I see two advantages to this approach: singers will love working with you and want to do so again, and they will be likely to take your ideas and incorporate them into their interpretation for the future. Gardner might hear Florez sing Werther in the future somewhere and be able to say (if he’s not too humble): “ah, I taught him that…”

    — In contrast with the Muti/Solti/ et al. approach, where the singer’s memory of working with the conductor is more likely to be “he insisted I do this, he wouldn’t let me do that… a genius interpretation overall, but I felt like a cog in the machine and not an artist making a contribution.”

  • Staged Rehearsal says:

    This is obviously a “staged” rehearsal…or staged “rehearsal”…

  • kundry says:

    Yes, thank you everyone for your insightful comments – very kind. I have only one – Florez is a wonderful singer in many roles , but he is wrong for this part and does not have the right voice , by a mile. Everything sounds painful and contrived. The rest is pretentious cocktail conversation.

    • Bruce says:

      I agree he doesn’t naturally have the voice for it, but inwardly I’m rooting for him to be able to push himself successfully in this direction. I don’t expect him to succeed, in the sense of becoming the next Beczala or whoever, but it would be nice to hear him move a little bit beyond his “songbird” roles if he can. I think the answer is more tone colors & expression within the voice he has, not in trying to increase the size of his instrument.

      (IMHO the soprano Barbara Hendricks was able to do this to some degree and expand beyond her natural Sophie/ Pamina/ Zerlina jewel box into roles normally taken by bigger — not big, but bigger —- voices. She has a lovely recording of the Strauss 4 Last Songs with Sawallisch/ Philadelphia, for instance: not sure how audible it would have been in the concert hall, but artistically she’s very much up to the job, and I find it very satisfying to listen to — more so than some singers with big voices who just pour sound all over it.)

      How’s that for pretentious cocktail conversation? 😉

  • Anon says:

    What about the French diction? Anyone? Really? No comment???

  • M2N2K says:

    Serious pitch problem that JDF did not have just a few years ago: here he sings mostly flat in all of the softer passages which robs his voice of its natural beauty.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Lovely. Brought memories of Alain Vanzo and Richard Crooks.

    Musician is right about Muti, whose practse was to accompany his own rehearsals. Once when all four tenors of Muti’s quad-cast “Forza” were away or ill, Muti sang the part himself at rehearsal. Albert Innaurato in “Opera News” wrote, “… and it was the best singing heard in La Scala that day.” Jose Cura was one of the absentees. Tebaldi and Gencer sat out front with Innaurato.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Be still, my beating heart!!

  • Ms.Melody says:

    This days, does it get better?
    Yes, it does, when you have a tenor suitable for the part.
    I love JDF in belcanto roles, but even that is wearing thin with the nasal sound and rather bland tone. Here he is straining with the piano and probably will have difficulty being heard over the orchestra as he was in la Traviata at the Met. Gardner’s coaching is excellent and spot on.
    To compare:

  • Deni says:

    Thanks for sharing. Maybe the title could be reconsidered?