Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Remembering Maestro Claudio Abbado And His Opera Stars

Claudio Abbado backstage with Renata Scotto after I Capuleti e i Montecchi at Teatro alla Scala in 1967
Conductor Claudio Abbado passed away on Monday, January 20, 2014, at the age of 80. He left an immaculate legacy of live musical performances and countless recordings on a variety of labels. He conducted a great majority of opera throughout his career and subsequently had many friendships with singers from around the globe. Check out some spectacular photos of the Maestro with singers from the past 50 years, along with some biographical information, after the jump.

"Born on June 26, 1933, in Milan, Abbado began training under his father, Michelangelo Abbado, before entering Milan's Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory to study piano. After graduation in 1955, he continued piano classes with Austrian concertist Friedrich Gulda and began learning conducting from Antonio Votto, a specialist in Italian symphonic music. Over the next three years, Abbado pursued conducting with Hans Swarowsky, conductor of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. In class at the Vienna Academy of Music, Abbado sometimes sang in the Singverein choir under Herbert von Karajan, his mentor and role model. Abbado further refined his orchestral skills at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena under Alceo Galliera, conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, and Carlo Zecchi, leader of the Czech Philharmonic. Abbado first took the baton at the Teatro Communale in Trieste, conducting Sergei Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges at the age of 25. For Abbado's early mastery of a wide repertory of classical and romantic music, he won the Mitropoulos Prize for conducting in 1963, shared with Pedro Calderon and Zdenek Kosler, both older and more experienced artists. At the time, critical opinion had not reached a firm consensus on Abbado, but critics soon acknowledged that he possessed the talent of another Arturo Toscanini. In 1965, von Karajan signaled formal acceptance among the music community by introducing Abbado at the Salzburg Easter Festival conducting Mahler's Second Symphony. Abbado valued the older musician's guidance and compared him to a sage, compassionate father. After twelve years at the Teatro alla Scala, Abbado made a significant career move by leaving his country in 1965 to lead the Vienna Philharmonic. The main attraction at an Abbado concert is leadership, a character trait he claims to have derived from Wilhelm Furtwangler, one of Germany's most beloved maestros....In the opera house...his repertory included Mozart and Wagner, but his specialties were Rossini and Verdi, whose music he performed with respect for the artistry they embody rather than the showmanship they allow, which he disliked. Like other opera conductors who came of age after World War II, he preferred to perform Verdi and other Italian Romantics in modern scholarly editions, in which opera house traditions like interpolated high notes were eliminated and material that had been cut was restored. In the mid-1970s, for example, he began to present the restored, five-hour version of Verdi’s Don Carlos. And his 1984 Pesaro Festival performance (and subsequent recording) of Rossini’s long-lost Il Viaggio a Reims helped find that work a place in the repertory....Abbado made his debut at La Scala in his hometown of Milan in 1960 and served as its music director from 1968 to 1986, conducting not only the traditional Italian repertoire but also presenting a contemporary opera each year, as well as a concert series devoted to the works of Alban Berg and Modest Mussorgsky. He was instrumental in increasing accessibility to the working-class. In 1982, he founded the Filarmonica della Scala for the performance of orchestral repertoire in concert. Abbado conducted the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time in 1965 in a concert at the Salzburg Festival and became its principal conductor in 1971. He served as music director and conductor for the Vienna State Opera from 1986 to 1991, with notable productions such as Mussorgsky's original Boris Godunov and his seldom-heard Khovanshchina, Franz Schubert's Fierrabras...In 1965, Abbado made his British debut with the Halle Orchestra, followed in 1966 by his London Symphony Orchestra debut. He continued to conduct on a regular basis with the London orchestra and from 1979 to 1988 he was its principal conductor. From 1982 to 1986 he was principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. With both orchestras, Abbado made recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, and Sony." [
Source, Source, Source]
With Agnes Baltsa and friend

With Bryn Terfel, Siegfried Jerusalem, Waltraud Meier, and Cheryl Studer, for a Wagner Gala

With Cheryl Studer in Berlin for New Year's Eve 1991

With Renée Fleming recording Mahler's Symphony #4

With Jan-Hendrik Rootering, Andrea Rost, Rosemarie Lang, Anne Sofie von Otter, Bryn Terfel, Sylvia McNair, Cheryl Studer, and Peter Seiffert, performing Mahler Symphony #8
With Agnes Baltsa and Jose Carreras rehearsing Carmen at La Scala in 1984

With Renée Fleming and Violetta Urmana

With Anna Netrebko recording her album Sempre Libera for Deutsche Grammophon

With Claudio Desderi, Lucia Valentini Terrani, Laura Zannini and Dalmacio Gonzales after L'italiana in Algeri at La Scala 1983


With Frederica von Stade after La Cenerentola at La Scala in 1976

With Janis Martin rehearsing Erwartung at La Scala in 1980

Performing Mozart's Requiem with Karita Mattila, Sara Lingardo, Michael Schade, and Bryn Terfel

With Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, and Renée Fleming, performing Richard Strauss for New Year's Eve 1992

With Frederica von Stade and the Filarmonica della Scala in 1986

With Lucia Valentini Terrani and Katia Ricciarelli in 1973

Recording rare Verdi arias with Luciano Pavarotti

In concert with mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená

With Giorgio Strehler, Mirella Freni, Piero Cappuccilli after Simon Boccanegra at La Scala in 1971

With Mirella Freni and Teresa Berganza after Le nozze di Figaro at La Scala in 1974

With Renata Scotto rehearsing Lucia di Lammermoor at La Scala in 1967

With Shirley Verrett after Macbeth at La Scala in 1975

With Shirley Verrett and Plácido Domingo in 1970

Rehearsing with Anna Caterina Antonacci

Backstage with soprano Lisa Larsson

With Montserrat Caballé and Lucia Valentini Terrani performing Verdi's Messa da Requiem in 1985

Performing in Lucerne with Renée Fleming

With Piero Faggioni and Shirley Verret rehearsing Carmen at La Scala in 1984

With Elena Obraztsova, Luciano Pavarotti, Nicolaj Ghiaurov and Mirella Freni during rehearsals for Verdi's Messa da Requiem at La Scala in 1978

With Anna Caterina Antonacci after a recital

With Giulietta Simionato, Lorenzo Arruga, Plácido Domingo, and Fedele D’amico, in June 1972 for the Congresso Internazionale di Studi Verdiani

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