When you read about or speak to Beatrice Venezi, the first thing that comes across is her intense passion for classical music. ‘It has this power to communicate with every one of us, even if we know nothing about the piece or the composer… It gives you goosebumps, especially when you feel the sound waves on your skin for the very first time. That’s something we’re not used to in everyday life.’

This year, when she conducts L’amico Fritz at Opera Holland Park, she’ll be bringing this passion not just to our theatre but to the country for the first time, as she makes her UK debut.

Back to music’s roots

Because of the pandemic, the orchestra she’ll be conducting this summer is slightly smaller than usual. Venezi doesn’t see that as a bad thing. ‘It feels like COVID has brought us back to music’s roots. In the late 19th century, at a time when orchestrations were becoming ever larger, the size of the pits in traditional theatres remained the same as in previous eras.

‘In Italy there was the custom of performing operas with a smaller orchestration, “per orchestrina”. So this summer gives us the chance to see classical music in a different perspective. No longer as something unchanging and unchangeable, but a living and flexible creature which interacts with its time and needs.’

A grand journey

Mascagni’s work isn’t performed often, and Venezi has a theory why. ‘Listening to Mascagni’s operas brings the audience on a grand journey, through different genres and musical languages. For this reason, his operas are sometimes difficult to categorise. I guess that’s why they’re not performed as often as they should be, not just in the UK, but also in Italy.’ Venezi argues this is a great reason to give his music a bigger place in the operatic canon.

Mascagni was the first professional composer in Italy to compose a full soundtrack for a movie, and his music often sounds very familiar. ‘It has a great liveliness and freshness of narration. It sounds like a nod to the genre of musical comedy, but that genre was something he came to at least 20 years before others.’ So if there’s one thing Venezi hopes audiences remember as they watch and listen to tonight’s opera, it’s that Mascagni was ahead of his time.


Interview by Philippa Peall