Go Elio Go!
Our interview with Elio, conducted by Zubin Metha in “Peter and the Wolf” at the Nelson Mandela Forum
For one night, on January 30, Elio will be performing for the Opera di Firenze Theater, at the Nelson Mandela Forum, accompanied by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino orchestra conducted by Maestro Zubin Mehta, in one of the most beloved musical stories of all times and for all ages, Peter and the Wolf by Prokof’ev.
You will be performing as the narrator of the children’s story by Prokof’ev. Should we expect some surprises from you?
Usually, with these performances, I prefer not to improvise, although my whole career has been based on improvisation. I prefer following the full score and written text to be as faithful to the original as possible. However, under Maestro Mehta’s direction, I will try to give my performance a more Florentine, “lampredotto-style” touch.
What song by Elio e le storie tese would you have Zubin Mehta conduct?
To keep to the subject, I would say Vitello dai piedi di balsa, another fairy-tale set to music, perhaps less noble than Prokof’ev’s, but equally popular with children.
You have a classical music background. If you were to start all over again, would you pursue your studies at the college of music?
Certainly. I would complete my studies all over again and then I would pursue another career path, exactly like I did the first time. In order to become a professional classical musician, one has to have an incredible amount of passion for the job, which I did not have at the time. I do now, though.
What is the most evident difference between your music genre and the world of classical music?
As far as I can see, classical music is a world where no mistake is forgiven. Instead, in my world, making mistakes is everything.
Who is your favorite composer?
I have more than one favorite composer, according to the era. Among the old school composers, I am very fond of Bach, Mozart and Rossini. But I also enjoy Kurt Weill and, among the contemporary ones, I choose Luca Lombardi, with whom I often collaborate. He is one of the world’s greatest contemporary composers, he’s been showered with awards, but only abroad, of course. We have been working together for many years on a collection of songs called Minima Animalia, because it is dedicated to the so-called lesser or useless animals, such as the hamster, the mosquito and the fruit-fly.
A few months ago, the first three albums by Elio e le storie tese were re-released. Is it your return to the origins while stepping into a new stage of your career?
Sure, it’s that and also the fact that we have always been going a bit fast and the audience may not have been able to hear everything we have done so far. It seems yesterday that we performed for the first time at the Sanremo music festival, instead twenty years have gone by since the Terra dei Cachi!
So you will be celebrating an anniversary this year at the 66th Sanremo Festival. Can you tell us something about it?
Everything is top secret, we have been told to keep our mouths shut. However, I can announce that our new album will be released at the same time as the festival, but it has no title yet.
Have you ever thought of writing a piece of classical music? Has someone ever asked you to do it?
No, nobody ever asked, but yes, we have thought of doing it, just like we think about doing many other things. As the saying goes, “We’re always up to something”. Our main job is to think.
Do you think that a classical music X Factor show would work?
Well, I don’t think that classical music needs an X Factor show. We have already a lot of ways to find talented singers and musicians in classical music. And anyway, the Italian X Factor show is what it is: every year, three or four talented singers are selected from among thousands across the country and, although they have it all to pursue a successful pop music career, it is not always so, because other ingredients, which cannot be found in Italy, are required. First of all, good songwriters and composers, like those we used to have. What if I pick a talented singer, but then I have nothing for him or her to sing….
What can be done for the world of opera and classical music?
We have to find ways to expand and more deeply engage the audience, and I don’t think a talent show would be very useful.
A concert like this one in Florence is a way, don’t you think so?
I’ve been doing it for some years now. The trick is to get a celebrity from another working field involved and have him serve as a “facilitator” to encourage the audience’s participation in the classical music world. We simply have to change the way we introduce things, this is my formula.
If you had the power, what would be the one thing you would do for music in Italy?
I would double financial support to culture and arts and I would make music education compulsory in all schools, starting from primary school.