Dallas — The Dallas Opera’s excellent production of Bizet’s opera, Carmen, will get a change of maestro for a few performances. The highly regarded Pierre Vallet, the French staff conductor from the Metropolitan Opera, will be covering for TDO’s globe-hopping musical director, Emmanuel Villaume for two performances of Carmen: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24; and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2.
Vallet’s résumé is staggering. He is a graduate of L’Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. He has appeared with many of the world’s most prestigious opera companies: the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, L’Opéra National de Paris, The Dallas Opera, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, the Lithuanian National Opera Theater in Vilnius, the Göteborg Opera in Sweden, and the Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona. Also, he has also conducted for the Tokyo Opera and even at Moscow’s famed Bolshoi Theatre.
As a symphony conductor, the list of his engagements includes many of the finest orchestras on the planet. With the Royal Philharmonic and pianist Elizabeth Sombart, he will conduct Beethoven’s complete cycle of piano concerti as well as Mozart’s last 10 symphonies. The program will be performed at Cadogan Hall in London.
The first impression upon meeting Vallet is one of French elegance, understatement as well as refinement, but one immediately senses that he is also a tightly coiled spring of inner intensity beneath the surface. He is a conductor who approaches that job with meticulously detailed research but in the service of raw human passion.
TheaterJones: Reveal your secret. You are admired for your ability to conjure the meaning of the texts in opera but also the critical inner-workings and subtexts?
Pierre Vallet: When, as a young teenager, I had the golden opportunity to study with Sergiù Celibidache [a widely admired but eccentric conductor]. He taught us that emotions are created through structure and organization of the musical material.
In Celibidache’s master classes, he would scream at the students, ranting about their romantic delivery of emotions. Then, he would sit down quietly and explain to the students the under-discussion phrases: not by words, but by whistling softly the music for the students. His perfect phrasing of the musical line would bring tears to all the students.
Tell me about you’re your method, called “…the theory of phenomenology, which is the study of the effect and perception of sound, in music.
What Celibidache called “the propulsion” of the upbeat is a totally unique approach. This preparatory motion has to impart a lot of information to the musicians in a very short time period: the upcoming texture and color in addition to “the givens” of tempo and pulse.
We [the students in the master class] worked for hours on what he called “The Gesture” [preparatory upbeat] and how to use it to convey information in a far more effective way than “talking” about it. He also explained about the fluidity of dynamics: that a forte in one hall would be too loud in another and too soft in a third.
“You have to listen first to the silence,” he would say.
» Read our review of Carmen here. Villaume conducts the performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday Oct. 27; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.