Let’s consider now Monteverdi, the father of us all. I retain an excellent impression of your Combattimento, with Nicolas Rivenq: violently emotional, noble, imaginative. How would you describe your link with Monteverdi?
I cannot speak of my awareness of Monteverdi as one would of a meeting at a precise date. For a very long time indeed he has been an intrinsic part of my cultural background. While an adolescent I listened to a great deal of music, records of course. My mother directed a choir. My grandmother loved the theater. Monteverdi was and is known in The United States, particularly in University music circles. I was twenty years old at the time of the Vespers projects. I recall also excerpts of Orfeo given at Harvard, where musical activity was always quite intense. Monteverdi’s music is captivating both because of its freshness and youthfulness. I am much attached to Italy. Italian music is natural and easily accessible; it expresses an overwhelming desire to communicate. And as a soloist at concerts I was deeply involved.
To which Italian schools do you feel closest?
Next to and of as equal importance to Venice, one must restore to their proper places the two other musical capitals of the seventeenth century, Rome and Naples. I am particularly close to the Roman school, that of Rossi and Mazzochi. I feel particularly close also to Alessandro Scarlatti of Naples. I have always chosen works of the lyric repertoire according to the musical interpreters at my disposal. The Roman school is particularly interesting, marked by castrato solos and choruses. These characteristics particularly influenced the young Lully.
Do you have an affinity with the fin arts? Do you have the opportunity to visit current exhibitions? Paris has recently presented some engrossing retrospectives: Poussin, La Tour. Let’s consider La Tour. You interpreted the opera Sant’ Alessio of Landi. La Tour also treated the theme of Saint Alexis. And of course we know nothing of the original, other than through excellent versions from his work-shop signed perhaps by his son. There is an eloquent parallel between this idea of a La Tour lost forever and of the textual meanings of Baroque works whose historic origins are today also obscure.
I am much attracted by paintings and have a strong visual sensibility. With age, I naturally experience feelings which go with the accumulated intelligence of a mature human being. I regret very much that the present young generation of musicians who play and who are attracted by early music forget, or are even unaware of, poetry, the theater and painting. Young musicians often suffer from a lack of curiosity and probably also cultural awareness. Baroque art is an “ultra-refined” world which is conversant with classical and mythological references. It isn’t a question of being either philologist or specialist, but I believe we must enrich our sensitivities by being aware of all aspects of culture.
Take for example the case of Marino and of Caravaggio, two contemporaries with totally different personalities but who shared the same vocabulary. Think too of Bernini and the Roman school, of whom Rossi and Mazzochi, who we just mentioned, are a part. What is certain is that there exists in the history of western art moments of perfection and of harmony among the various arts. It is simply a question of seeking them out. It would be stupid today to wish to live the music of Lully and of Charpentier while ignoring the theater of their period, that of Corneille and Racine.