Historically, European opera homes have been the standard coaching grounds for younger conductors of all types. Before being entrusted with main performances, aspiring conductors would begin off teaching singers on the piano, rehearsing the refrain and helping senior conductors. (This was the trail taken by Dudamel’s predecessor in Paris, Philippe Jordan, 46, who has moved to the Vienna State Opera.)
Direct work with singers was, and stays, essential. If all instrumentalists to a point imitate the human voice, conductors in opera acquire a particular feeling for the artwork of shaping an extended lyrical line: They be taught to breathe with singers, to anticipate the melodic tempo and stream of positive vocalists. Yet they have to additionally information, and virtually rein in, these singers, lest their strains slacken with an excessive amount of expression. This sensitivity develops with lengthy apply. Opera additionally compels younger conductors to hone their expertise as musical site visitors cops, coordinating singers and choristers (usually unfold far aside onstage) and the gamers within the pit.
The conventional path of studying the conducting career by opera was exemplified by Gustav Mahler, who in his youth labored in opera homes in Prague, Leipzig and Hamburg, then rose to change into the director of the Vienna State Opera and, briefly, a principal conductor on the Met. During this era, he additionally led main orchestras, together with the New York Philharmonic from 1909 till his demise in 1911. Even if he was greatest identified for his visionary symphonies and by no means wrote an opera, Mahler did most of his conducting in opera homes.
Toscanini spent the primary half of his lengthy profession immersed in opera, working tirelessly in Italian homes. By at the moment’s requirements he could be thought of a new-music specialist, since he led many premieres, together with “La Bohème” in 1896, the yr he carried out his first symphonic live performance. In 1898 he turned the principal conductor of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and left to take the chief place on the Met in 1908 earlier than returning to La Scala. Then, in 1928, he turned the music director of the New York Philharmonic, and by no means ran one other opera home. In 1937 NBC created the NBC Symphony, an orchestra of top-rank gamers, for him, and its broadcasts gained an enormous following (together with for an influential sequence of opera performances).
George Szell is so well-known for his lengthy tenure as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra (1946-70) that it’s generally forgotten that he spent a substantial amount of his early skilled life in opera. This consists of what turned the Berlin State Opera, the place the younger Szell was mentored by Richard Strauss; Szell ultimately change into principal conductor there. During the 1940s, Szell carried out often on the Met, together with two acclaimed “Ring” cycles. Then, in 1950, Rudolf Bing, who disliked Szell, took cost on the firm, and Szell’s final efficiency there was in 1954. No matter: He was by then ensconced in Cleveland and by no means appeared again.