Death of an eminent Italian conductor, 88

Death of an eminent Italian conductor, 88


norman lebrecht

February 06, 2020

The death is reported of Nello Santi, known to singers as ‘Papa Santi’, one of the most trustworthy conductors of Italian opera, with a career spanning more than 60 years.

After a Verdi debut in Padua in 1951, Santi was music director of Zurich Opera from 1958 to 1969 and went on to conduct at all the world’s major houses. He made many recordings with Placido Domingo.

with Annalisa Stroppa

UPDATE: How an old-school maestro conducts Tosca


  • Edward Deskur says:

    Thanks to his unique ability to recognize, understand and express nuances “between the notes” in the score Nello Santi was deeply loved by singers, musicians and the audience, less so by many critics, other conductors, and managements.

    His focus was on the greatness of the music, not his own.

    As a testament to his uniquely brilliant conducting I will never forget how in Zurich during a quiet moment in the short break between the 2nd an 3rd acts of Tosca, which was announced as his last Tosca in Zurich, someone in the uppermost balcony spontaneously yelled, “Grazie Nello!”. The entire audience and the orchestra exploded with ecstatic applause and a standing ovation.

    One can only earn that kind of genuine love, it can’t be bought or “staged”.

  • Adrian Brett says:

    For me, after 55 years as a professional musician working in London orchestras, I have to say that Nello Santi was the finest conductor I ever worked with, Why? Well one day I arrived at Francescan Road church studio…ostensibly as principal flute with the RPO, but they had another date out of town!!. The assembled orchestra consisted of principals and others from the freelance pool of players …and like me as a session player..I found myself sat next to another principal wind-player, Mike Winfield on 1st oboe. The conductor walked to the podium, smiled, raised and announced the item to be recorded. Suddenly an amazing downbeat occurred…and everyone played the chord of the recitative section together and so it continued . After several bars I turned to Mike and told him that Santi was easily the finest conductor I had ever played for as he could get what was essentially a scratch orchestra playing like an orchestra that had been playing together for years! Mike told me they had thought this when he first conducted the Philharmonia. They gave him a RFH concert….and soon realised that it was only the Italian operatic repertoire that he knew or was comfortable with. However for me, as a flute-player, he conducted the Parsi Conservatoire Orchestra (the un-named soloist was Henri Lebon) together with Joan Sutherland in the “Mad scene” from ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’…….memorable, and my favourite recording of anything.