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The Russian tenor Arnold Azrikan in Verdi's Otello...

The Russian tenor Arnold Azrikan in Verdi's "Otello" ~ Image via Wikipedia

Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, recently provided his orchestra members with the libretto to Verdi’s “Otello.”

What a great idea!  How many orchestral players are given the same opportunity to look closely at the text?

In rehearsals, Muti took the time to interpret the meaning of the text.  As everyone knows, a single word can have several distinct meanings.  Not only that, but the same word in a single definition can be uttered in many ways:  sincerely, sarcastically, sadly, excitedly, humorously….

With this depth of insight, the orchestra was able to play in a new way.  Normally, orchestral musicians would react to the conductor’s motions and the notations in the instrumental parts.  Add the words and all the emotions that come with them, and you have a whole new range of instrumental expression available.

The New York Times review of the concert, while expressing a reservation or two, recognizes the level reached by Muti’s approach, crediting him for being “immersed in the Verdi style like few conductors before the public…”

The Chicago Symphony received high praise.  They are already incredible, and the influence of the words took this performance to an entirely new level.

​​How wonderful it would be if every instrumentalist knew as much about the words as the Chicago Symphony did in this concert!

What do you think?  Should instrumentalists be concerned with text?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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