Remembering Maestro Bruno Bartoletti

BRUNO BARTOLETTI

Nato a Sesto Fiorentino, Bruno Bartoletti ha compiuto gli studi musicali presso il Conservatorio “Luigi Cherubini” di Firenze. Ha diretto nei più importanti Teatri, Festival, Istituzioni musicali e Centri radio-televisivi europei e nord-americani.
È stato ripetutamente ospite delle stagioni del Teatro Colón di Buenos Aires e del Teatro Comunale di Firenze, dove ha ricoperto per molti anni la carica di Direttore Stabile dell’Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino e poi di Direttore Artistico, dal 1985 al 1991. A Firenze ha diretto numerose storiche produzioni, legando il suo nome alla storia del Teatro Comunale e del suo Festival: si ricordano qui le due edizioni del Wozzeck di Alban Berg, nel 1964 per la regia di Virginio Puecher, nel 1979 con la regia di Liliana Cavani; Lulu di Alban Berg, L’amore delle tre melarance e L’angelo di fuoco di Prokofiev, Il naso di Šostakovic, oltre alle prime italiane del Re cervo di Hans Werner Henze al Maggio del 1976 e di Opera di Luciano Berio l’anno successivo.
Ha inoltre tenuto a battesimo le opere di importanti compositori contemporanei come Napoli milionaria di Nino Rota al Festival di Spoleto, Don Rodrigo di Ginastera al Teatro Colón di Buenos Aires e Paradise Lost di Penderecki alla Lyric Opera di Chicago, dove è stato Direttore Artistico dal 1964 al 2000 e poi Direttore Artistico Emerito, carica che ricopre tutt’ora. Ha inoltre svolto un’intensa attività al Festival  Verdi di Parma.

Tra le opere da lui dirette si ricordano L’angelo di fuoco a Milano, La cena delle beffe di Giordano a Zurigo, poi ripresa con grande successo anche al Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Cardillac a Genova, Luisa Miller a Zurigo, Morte a Venezia a Genova dove ha inoltre diretto la Manon Lescaut, Ascesa e caduta della città di Mahagonny, Juenufa e Turandot, prima esecuzione in Italia del finale scritto da Luciano Berio; I sette peccati capitali e Il volo di Lindbergh al Macerata Opera Festival con la regia di Hugo de Ana, I due Foscari a Roma e Morte a Venezia al Teatro Comunale di Firenze.
Per il 2003 si segnalano il ritorno al Teatro alla Scala di Milano con La Bohème, L’assassinio nella cattedrale al Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. Nel 2004 si segnalano Il volo di notte e Il prigioniero al Teatro Comunale di Firenze, in occasione del centenario della nascita di Luigi Dallapiccola e nel 2005 Il Corsaro a Genova.
Fra gli impegni della stagione 2006/2007 segnaliamo Il Trovatore e La Traviata a Chicago, Il Pirata ad Ancona. Nella stagione 2007/2008 ha diretto Il cappello di paglia di Firenze ed Il Trovatore a Genova, Neues vom Tage di Hindemith, Hin und Zuruck e L’Heure espagnole ad Ancona. Successivamente La Bohème e Il Giro di Vite al Teatro Regio di Parma, The Emperor Jones e Rigoletto al Teatro delle Muse di Ancona, War Requiem di Britten, che ha diretto in diversi teatri italiani, Rigoletto al Teatro Comunale di Bologna.

Ha diretto Sharka al Teatro la Fenice di Venezia insieme a Cavalleria Rusticana.
Nel dicembre 2010 ha diretto La Fanciulla del West al Teatro Massimo di Palermo nel centenario della prima esecuzione newyorkese. Gli ultimi grandi successi sono stati Manon Lescaut nel 2011 al Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino e La Gioconda di Ponchielli in forma di concerto al Concertgebouw di Amsterdam.
Nel marzo 2012 ha diretto a Palermo l’Orchestra del Teatro Massimo in un programma composto da musiche di  Samuel Barber, Benjamin Britten e Richard Strauss.
Il suo ultimo impegno è stato dedicarsi alla formazione, partecipando come docente principale alla prima edizione della Masterclass Corso d’Opera a Palazzo Contucci 2012.
L’intensa attività discografica di Bruno Bartoletti comprende incisioni di Un ballo in maschera con Renata Tebaldi e Luciano Pavarotti, Manon Lescaut con Montserrat Caballé e Placido Domingo, Suor Angelica con Katia Ricciarelli e Fiorenza Cossotto, La Gioconda con Montserrat Caballé, Luciano Pavarotti e Nicolai Ghiaurov, infine Il Trittico Pucciniano con Mirella Freni, Leo Nucci, Juan Pons, Roberto Alagna, Giuseppe Giacomini.
Nel 1987 è stato insignito della Laurea Honoris causa della Loyola University of Chicago assieme a Rita Levi Montalcini e Umberto Eco, mentre nel 1993 ha ricevuto la Laurea Honoris causa della Northwestern University. Ha vinto più volte il Premio “Franco Abbiati” della critica musicale italiana come migliore Direttore nell’anno 2003 per Morte a Venezia al Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova e per Il Prigioniero e Il volo di notte  di Dallapiccola a Firenze nel 2004.

Il 3 giugno 1987 il sindaco di Firenze Massimo Bogianckino conferì al Maestro Bruno Bartoletti ed al compositore Hans Werner Henze il Fiorino d’oro della città di Firenze.
Nell’aprile del 2001 il Presidente della Repubblica Ciampi gli ha conferito l’onorificenza di Cavaliere di Gran Croce.
Nel 2006 ha ricevuto la cittadinanza onoraria dal comune di Sesto Fiorentino.
E’ stato Accademico di Santa Cecilia.
Nel 2009 al Maestro Bruno Bartoletti, insieme al regista Mario Monicelli, è stata conferita la cittadinanza onoraria di Firenze. Lo ha deciso il consiglio comunale approvando all’unanimità le delibere presentate dalla commissione cultura, presieduta da Dario Nardella.
”Monicelli e Bartoletti – ha osservato Nardella – sono due icone della cultura italiana che hanno contribuito con il loro lavoro e le loro opere a dare lustro all’immagine di Firenze nel mondo. Il primo ha diretto film che hanno fatto la storia del cinema italiano; il secondo è ancora oggi uno dei più grandi interpreti della musica operistica e strumentale del ‘900 e ha legato la sua vita e la sua opera a Firenze ed in particolare al Teatro Comunale di Firenze, dove ha ricoperto per molti anni la carica di direttore stabile dell’orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino e poi di direttore artistico dal 1985 al 1991, tornando successivamente a dirigere numerose volte” (La Nazione 12 gennaio 2009).

Che musica ragazzi!
Oh boy, what music!

This exclamation by a musician of the Maggio Musicale orchestra at the funeral Mass honoring our fathers’ death on June 10, 2013 in the Parish of San Martino in Sesto Fiorentino concluded the service.

The instrumentalist well remembered the youthful, irrepressible enthusiasm of the “old” maestro when, as he came off the podium between acts of the Manon Lescaut he directed at the Teatro Comunale in the winter of 2011, as tired as he was, still addressed the orchestra players with those words to further express his admiration for the genius of Puccini’s music, On the day of his funeral our father would have celebrated his 80th birthday, 70 of those years having been spent in music and theatre all over the world.

“OH BOY, WHAT MUSIC!” rings so true to us as it captures the essence of his life both as an orchestra director and as a music director but also, we believe, it illuminates his life as a man. Our father, in fact, did not live for music, but “to make music” and not by himself, but together with all those component parts necessary to put on a performance in which the conductor

is only one of the elements. This was my father’s view of his role, maybe because he was particularly modest and decidedly not a divo. How many times, in fact, we heard him say, in his typically Florentine brand of wit “we must serve the music: the music must not serve us”

Given this perspective, singers have had a determining role in his career, especially those young singers who were eager to learn being aware of the rigorous committment such a training involved. Among those in the business, our father’s ability to single out unknown “voices” which in a few years became singers of international fame is well known. Those names would form a long list but it is enough to mention his contibution to the Young Artists Program of the Lyric Opera of Chicago which produced innumerable singers who have achieved international careers.

But if we did not add the passion, the lively and almost childish curiosity which have characterized his way of making music until the very end, the persistent desire to do better, the pride, and the pure, unselfish dedication towards those who are trying to enter the world of theater, Bruno Bartoletti’s portrait would not be complete.

And this is the way we want to remember him when, in the last few days of July 2012, after months of forced inactivity due to his “wild” heart he left with Raffaella Colletti who, because of him, had organized a session of ‘Opera Course’ in Montepulciano. He was as happy as a boy who gets out after a long illness and is able to run and play again. In the course he was able to share his extraordinary knowledge, his teachin ability, his loving but stern concentration on the job and, why not, his fatherly scoldings to those young people who were as passionate as he was about the world of music, a world which, like any other world, needs constant renewing, within the respect of tradition which, as Mahler said “is the keeping of the fire, not the adoration of the ashes”.

We can still see that fire, made of enthusiasm and frank pride for the results achieved, shining in his eyes at his return from Montepulciano. There, his teaching experience, framed by the enchanting Sienese hills, was unfortunately for him, but above all for us and for the artists of tomorrow the last one.

Chiara e Maria Bartoletti

Dicono di lui...

“I have wonderful memories of Bruno. At the beginning of my career, we had a very pleasant collaboration: he was very sensitive and a very important musician. We collaborated frequently, especially in Chicago and with him I made my first recording of Manon Lescaut with Montserrat Caballé.
A funny anecdote that became a fun ‘leitmotif’ happened to us many years ago. One day Bruno and I were in my Abbey Road apartment (we were neighbors) and while we were working, we heard noises coming from the entrance door, almost as if they had just put the mail in the mailbox. We went to see what was going on and found ourselves in front of four girls, who were listening to our rehearsal at the door. To break the ice I asked if they were also musicians and one of them, an Australian, said she was a singer but not an opera singer. So Bruno, who was ready to accompany her, asked her to sing something … whatever she wanted … so she sang an Australian folk song “Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda …”. The funny thing is that she didn’t sing it but spoke it, and with a small voice. It was so much fun! So I said: “It’s good, it’s good but would be even better if you studied…”. And since then, every time we met, Bruno and I, we would sing “Waltzing Matilda”. I began to work with Bruno at a young age and it was he who instilled in me the passion to discover and help develop young talent. Investing in the new generation is investing in the future.

Three years after the death of Maestro Bruno Bartoletti, I have been asked to share a memory of him. First, however, a tiny diversion to tell something that many people do not know. I share many friends with Maestro Bartoletti in Sesto Fiorentino and in Chicago. He would always ask me for news of the town in my area from which his family originated (San Giacomo).

This is just to say that there was a bond beyond music. As everyone knows, I worked a lot with Bruno both in Italy and in Chicago. The first time was in 1976 in Trieste when I sang the role of Sonora ,the miner in “Fanciulla del West”. At the last performance we decided to play a joke on the singer in the role of the Pony Express rider, who always had a small problem with musical focus. During the first act the rider comes in and says his only line in the whole work:
“Hello, boys! Be careful! I saw something on the trail… I interrupted him: “What?”
He remained speechless and didn’t sing a note. During the interval he went off, furiously, to Maestro Bartoletti’s dressing room. Of course, we were all went along to listen. He knocked. We heard ‘Enter’. He had barely entered when Maestro Bartoletti, said very seriously ‘Signor Ivan, since you didn’t sing the phrase, you must offer everyone champagne.” We all broke out laughing. At dinner the champagne arrived, but offered by the great Carlo Cossutta. At the end of the dinner, the Maestro stopped the singer: “not only did you forget your line on stage, you also forgot to pay! We all laughed.
Thank you, friend Bruno, you taught me that opera is also a great joy: the joy of watching young voices develop, of which you were passionate connoisseur.

“I feel as though I have known Bruno Bartoletti forever, all my life and for that life I have appreciated in him his human qualities even more than his artistic abilities.
Bartoletti was a giant, a living encyclopedia, very few conductors have his knowledge of music and of singers. I was happy when he became artistic director of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and I remember with great pleasure those years when we worked together in Florence; and, of course, in Chicago, where he was artistic director, and I directed Wagner’s Ring.
I remember him with great esteem and I believe it is right to perpetuate his memory, even for those who did not know him, by supporting his dream of cultivating young talent”.

“I performed five operas conducted by Bruno Bartoletti – the first being Luigi Cherubini’s MEDEA at the Teatro Comunale in Florence in 1986, for which we received the Abbiati Prize.
Working with him was always a wonderful experience, intense and calm. So many rehearsals, so many performances together.
Bruno always attended stage rehearsals and often it was here that the mystery and drama of the opera was revealed.
I remember the work as exciting and stimulating whether in Florence, Genoa, Zurich or Parma … Bruno had a deep sensitivity and also a very lucid intelligence – he was a great Maestro, humane and modest, but he was also witty and ironic, a real Tuscan.
This is how I remember him, even though it is with sadness”.

“Not one, not ten, not a hundred, nor a thousand thoughts to remember Bruno Bartoletti! When talking about a person who has died, the suspect ‘only the good’ always emerges: this is not this writer’s habit and even less in this case.
Without rhetoric and in absolute sincerity, and I can say definitively that mold from which conductors such as Bruno were made has been lost: communication’ and ‘image’ now color everyone’s judgement. Bartoletti was a director of the old school, the kind who knew everything about opera, absolutely everything, because he had ‘paid his dues’ climbing the professional ladder slowly step by step. This career path ensured that performances were in safe and knowledgeable hands. He was the focal point for the pit and the stage, especially for singers about whom he was an expert. And this “smooth sailing” was assured throughout the vast repertoire of which he was the master: from 20th century to realism, from bel canto opera to Puccini, Bartoletti was an an international exponent and superb interpreter of music. His Bohéme, like his Angelo di Fuoco during my years at La Scala, are indelible memories which cemented a personal relationship of respect and friendship of which I am proud. The last time I saw him work was in Montepulciano, at the Corso d’Opera with young singers at the beginning of their careers. Each time he intervened, correcting, explaining, was a lesson in musical culture, voice and opera; a wealth of knowledge that never ceased to amaze me. Dear Maestro – you are missed by all of us who continue to believe in and love Opera”.

“For me, Italy meant Al Capone. Now, it means Bruno Bartoletti: and I like it. ” So I was told in 1997 by an elderly but very feisty technician at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It doesn’t often happen that one feels proud to be an Italian when abroad, but on that occasion I felt a complete range of emotions from respect, to admiration to pride in someone who for almost a half a century was welcomed by one of the leaders of American musical culture.

But what affected me most was the level of affection for Bartoletti. His humanity, his ability to persuade and fascinate, his level of enthusiasm and his total disregard for the banal or routine – or, even more, boring cultural conformity – set him apart, making him wonderfully ‘unique ‘ from the ‘chorus’ of intelligentsia that was dominant at the time. He was, at the same time, the standard-bearer for Puccini (for me, he was one of the composer’s greatest interpreters) and the young school of Berg, Britten along with a plethora of even more contemporary composers, while also brilliantly conducting works by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi.
Eclecticism that was born of intelligence and a lively curiosity and served by professionalism leaves little room for comparison. I retain indelible memories of some of his rehearsals. When a very famous tenor at La Scala showed up unprepared for La Bohème, as often happens with great tenors, he was chastised and branded by the vitriol of Tuscan wit along with many pious salutations toward the politically correct. Or when an unfortunate baritone who was performing Gianni Schicchi wanted to sing it in the manner of “Tuscan stenterelli” inspired by Carducci, declaiming ” in testa la ‘appellina”, Bartoletti instantly retorted “idiot, do you want to be part of the Accademia della Crusca and say Firenze to me? Better to sing well and leave Tuscan in peace – it isn’t for you.
But then, in performance, the tenor (famous, yes, but definitely subdued after so many reproaches) and the baritone, were totally supported, helped, guided step by step by a baton who knew the score backwards and forwards, including the troublesome pitfalls ignored by so many stars of the podium, too concerned for their own vanity.
Conductors like Bartoletti are extremely rare today. Even rarer is his humanity and his dedication to professionalism, of which Bartoletti was a tireless exponent and the highest possible example. I miss him so much.

“I met Maestro Bartoletti when I was little more than a boy, making my professional debut as Monterone in Rigoletto in Pistoia in 1984. I have always had an immense esteem and admiration for him because I saw in him the repository of an extraordinary heritage that defines tradition.
He was sensitive to the encouragement and development of young talent and this objective was the founding pillar of the Corso d’Opera in 2012, a project dedicated to professional training. I had the good fortune to work with the Maestro during his tenure as Music Director of the Teatro Regio of Parma: he was a great servant of music in the highest sense of the word. Who can forget his interpretation of the works by Puccini that let humanity shine through, and his love for his native country that he communicated …
Happy Birthday Maestro! With the Corso d’Opera and in his name, we are all working together to achieve the goals that were so dear to him. Thank you for everything, especially for the love of music that he shared with us and that we, in turn, share with young singers”.

More than a memory, I miss Maestro Bartoletti!!!
I knew him in the first few years of my career (Tancredi in the ADD DATE AND PLACE)) or better studied and shared with him, even more studied with him, repertoire from Rossini to Verdi, and then Montemezzi and Pizzetti.
To share what I have learned from him, I joined as a Teacher, and a Founding Member of the Corso d’Opera, as it is a training program that pays tribute to his memory.”

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity not only to appreciate the great artistic gifts of Maestro Bruno Bartoletti but, even more importantly, to have him as a friend.

We first met many years ago, in 1965, during a production of Rigoletto, the first of many productions that took us round the world over the succeeding years. During these trips, which were lengthy, the company formed a kind of large family which made it possible for relationships to deepen. And little by little, our relationship moved from acquaintanceship to friendship.
I remember the time in Chicago, and in particular the atmosphere that was created after the arrival of Bruno at the Lyric Opera, not only as a conductor but also as Artistic Director. I was struck by what he had been able to do and get from that city, from the theatre and from that orchestra. He gave his soul to get the best, and was rewarded with unconditional respect from management of the theatre and from the public .For him, the music, the voices, the stage had no secrets. He was the theatre. One could fill an encyclopedia about Bruno Bartoletti as a musician.
But what more I would like to stress even more concerns the man that he was. He had two indisputable qualities that influenced his life: the profound importance he gave to friendship and the great humility in his relationships with others, qualities that only great men possess. In the difficult moments of my life he comforted me and telephoned me to make me feel he was close-by. In the theatre I attended many rehearsals. When he gave suggestions to the artists, he always did so with great respect and courtesy, without losing his compassion and with his customary Tuscan jokes. He will always remain in my, in our hearts.
Who knows, Bruno, up there together with your beloved Rosanna, you will succeed in making even the Angels sing. …

I am grateful to Maestro Bruno Bartoletti for the long years of collaboration that I shared with him, during which he taught me a lot. Today I realize that the Maestro did not leave a “void”: his presence is always alive and constant because, as well as having left us with wonderful memories and valuable advice, he also entrusted to those of us who loved him, important objectives to be pursued.

Remembering Bruno Bartoletti is a fundamental duty and a poignant pleasure. His name is important to the history of music but even more it is important for those of us who knew him, We learned from him and we enjoyed his precious friendship.
Long life and great successes to the initiatives that celebrate his memory!

Bruno Bartoletti taught us so much! To see the bad things with a laugh and to always remember the beautiful things. And that remains one of his most important lessons, one that I always carry with me…