Editor’s Note: Branko Bozic of Audiofreaks has rarely been so animated and inspired as he is by conductor Enrique Mazzola. Bozic first contacted us about writing a feature on Mazzola about a year ago. On the 24th attempt, we finally caved! This is a very personal portrait of a conductor who clearly seems to captivate!
Born in Spain to a musical family, Enrique Mazzola started violin and piano studies at an early age, later graduating to conducting and composition at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan.
Mazzola’s recent seasons include many highly successful débuts, notably Wiener Symphoniker, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Oslo Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Brussels Philharmonic and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Recent opera engagements include Glyndebourne Festival (L’elisir d’amore, Don Pasquale, Poliuto), Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (L’italiana in Algeri), New National Theatre Tokyo (Don Giovanni), Opera du Rhin (Macbeth, La cenerentola), Théâtre des Champs-Elysées (Don Pasquale, Tancredi), Deutsche Oper Berlin (Barbiere di Siviglia, Falstaff, Le Vaisseau fantôme and Dinorah), Bolshoi Thetre (La sonnambula) and Teatro alla Scala (Don Pasquale).
He has conducted major European festivals, including an acclaimed new production of Falstaff at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, München Opernfestspiele, Festival de Radio France, Rossini Opera Festival, Biennale of Venice, George Enescu Festival, the Dvorák Prague Festival and Les Chorégies d’Orange. Between 1999 and 2003 he was the Artistic and Music Director of the Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte in Montepulciano, where he conducted many concerts and new operatic productions with the RNCM Symphony Orchestra.
An accomplished interpreter of contemporary music, Mazzola conducted the world premiere of Colla’s Il processo at La Scala, Il re nudo by Luca Lombardi at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Medusa by Arnaldo De Felice at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Isabella by Azio Corghi at the Rossini Opera Festival, and many other premieres with major European orchestras. As Artistic Director of ONDIF he commissioned many world premieres and founded a competition for young composers.
Plans for the 2015/2016 season include concerts with Wiener Symphoniker (China Tour and Bregenz Festival) and London Philharmonic, many and varied programmes with ONDIF at the Philharmonie of Paris and Festivals (Saint-Denis, La Chaise-Dieu). He also continues Meyerbeer cycle at the Deutsche Oper Berlin with new production of Vasco da Gama, debuts at the Metropolitan Opera (L’elisir d’amore), returns at Zurich Opera House (Don Pasquale) and Glyndebourne Opera Festival with new production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
Further engagements include concerts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Wiener Symphoniker, Quebec Symphony Orchestra and New Japan Philharmonic. Opera includes his debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and numerous projects with the Zurich Opera House, the continuation of a Meyerbeer cycle with the Deutsche Oper Berlin and a Rossini cycle at Théâtre des Champs Elysées.
Rarely is an artist ‘bio’ as useful to read as that of Enrique Mazzola. One would think the whole world has known, or at least known of, Maestro Mazzola for a long time. Alas, only the last few years have given us the privilege to uncover properly his musical, artistic, and creative wealth. But, best of all, he is going to stay in the limelight of the international operatic and symphonic scene for many years to come. The UK had and still has an important role in Mazzola’s emergence into the top league of contemporary conductors.
My first encounter with his artistry was back in 2011 when he conducted a production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale for Glyndebourne on Tour (GOT). Immense raw talent and excellent musicality were immediately noticeable. It was no surprise that Glyndebourne engaged him for a full scale production of the same opera within the main 2013 Festival with Alessandro Corbelli, Danielle de Niese and Nikolai Borchev as the mainframe of the singing cast. What a delightful experience in every possible way. Once again at Glyndebourne this Summer, Mazzola created a masterpiece out of Donizetti’s rarely performed, gorgeous opera Poliuto.
Enrique Mazzola is an interesting and, in many ways, unique exponent of today’s classical music conducting scene. Rarely have we seen a conductor of such versatility and broad repertoire in almost every segment of musical history. On one hand, a brilliant specialist for Donizetti and Rossini. On the other, a truly emotional analyst of complex and rich texture of operas by Giacomo Meyerbeer. Not to mention a huge opus of symphonic pieces he mastered over the years.
His discography is not, for now, as extensive and vast as his repertoire and experience would suggest. But, that is going to change in the near future and that fact is one of the reasons why those in favour of first-class musical performance as well as the highest quality sound of a recording should keep their eyes open. Enrique Mazzola understands and pursues the best possible sound of his music equally on stage and when actively assisting the editing of every single CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray disc carrying his name. Watch his Glyndebourne 2013 Don Pasquale or listen to the recording of Paisiello’s overtures and symphonies and it all becomes clear within a few minutes.
What makes Mazzola noteworthy is his portfolio of simple and traditional ‘qualities’ professed by top musicians, but possessed by few. First and foremost, he ruthlessly insists on articulate precision and rhythmic perfection of any music played. And so he should – without those criteria met, there is nothing to create a great interpretation from. His tempi are a true and faithful reflection of the era of any piece of music comes from. While sometimes quite possibly near style extremes, they always remain well within boundaries of aesthetic beauty. His phrasing and melodic renditions are very natural and convincing without any exaggeration or artificial overdoing. His music flows and breathes with transparency and zest, but never at the expense of deep and layered emotion. Early classics, bel canto or late romantic; always the same approach and same basic postulates of how and what should be done and how it should sound. Most of all, he cares a lot about how the audience or listeners should feel while at the ‘receiving end’. Truly remarkable.
An intriguing aspect of Enrique Mazzola’s official biography is that there is no mention of his age. And, perhaps, for a good reason. Like a good wine and other best ingredients in life, nothing ever gets perfect (or close to it) until the time is right. It is never too late…for the best.
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