The trilogy of Mozart operas conducted by Teodor Currentzis are just unstoppable! They have been lauded with overwhelming enthusiasm, with the Guardian chiming: “This young Greek conductor’s recordings of Mozart operas have redefined music and changed my life with their profound vision, energy and face-punching force,” while The Times proclaims "If Giovanni himself were conducting, he would conduct it like this."
Greek-Russian conductor Teodor Currentzis is one of the most fascinating – and controversial – figures to emerge onto the international music scene over the last years. His unique approach to core repertoire, non-conventional style and methods, as well as his distinctive personality, frequently attract the attention of critics and audiences, his projects and performances being the cause of much anticipation and excitement.
Currentzis was born and raised in Athens, Greece, where he first studied music and composition. ln the 1990s, he moved to Russia to study conducting at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory with prominent professor and conductor Ilya Musin, whose students include renowned maestros such as Valery Gergiev and Yuri Temirkanov.
Between 2004 and 2010, Currentzis served as Music Director of the Novosibirsk State Opera and Orchestra. During his tenure in Novosibirsk, Currentzis founded the MusicaAeterna Ensemble and the MusicAeterna Chamber Choir. As of February 2011, he has been Artistic Director of the Perm State Opera and Ballet Theatre.
This year, Currentzis and MusicAeterna completed their cycle of recordings of Mozart’s ‘Da Ponte’ operas (the trilogy of works with librettos by Lorenzo Da Ponte) for Sony Classical. Following the award-winning recordings of Le Nozze diFigaro in 2014 and Così Fan Tutte in 2015, the release of Don Giovanni this month completes an ambitious 4-year project to make studio recordings of Mozart’s trilogy at the Tchaikovsky Opera House in Perm, Russia.
The choice of location is no coincidence. Currentzis consciously decided to settle in Perm, a city on the edge of the Ural Mountains, and make the recordings there with his hand-picked orchestra. For him, Perm is ‘like a monastery’, a sort of musical exile that allows him to focus solely on his creativity and art, without the distractions of big centres like Moscow or St. Petersburg. ‘We are here because we cannot create this music in the centers of mass culture’, he says. ‘The exile is beautiful because it allows us to make a new version against this musical system that exists.’
The commitment of both the conductor and the orchestra to the project has been absolute. During the recording process for Don Giovanni, Currentzis, who is known for his perfectionism, would typically ask musicians and singers to go through passages again and again, stretching sessions up to twelve hours or even longer. To realize his musical vision, Currentzis managed to create a special atmosphere and forge a close relationship with the musicians of MusicAeterna, a music collective that in many ways resembles a commune. As he puts it: ‘My desire was to create a world with people that I can share things with.’
Has all this affected the music? And, if so, has it made it more appealing? Ultimately, that’s up to each listener’s individual perception and taste. There is, however, little doubt that Currentzis has strived to make Mozart’s ‘Da Ponte’ operas sound as fresh as possible. The conductor’s faith in Mozart’s music and its relevance, after all, is evident: ‘Mozart is always contemporary, always modern’, Currentzis says. ‘These operas will never get old, they will always be actual. I think in 500 years, this music will have exactly the same impact to every person listening to it.’
Mimis Chrysomallis Image credit: Anton Zavyalov @The__Muser
There is little doubt that Currentzis has strived to make Mozart’s ‘Da Ponte’ operas sound as fresh as possible. The conductor’s faith in Mozart’s music and its relevance, after all, is evident: ‘Mozart is always contemporary, always modern’.