Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In the 30th Anniversary Spotlight: Maestro Ari Pelto

Meet Maestro Ari Pelto, who makes his Opera Colorado debut leading Mozart’s masterpiece, Don Giovanni

Like our entire cast for Don Giovanni this season, conductor Ari Pelto will make his Opera Colorado debut leading the soloists, orchestra and chorus through the demands of Mozart’s masterpiece.

Born into an exotic household with a Finnish father and a mother from a Lithuanian Jewish family, Ari, (incidentally both a popular Finnish and Hebrew name), grew up speaking both Finnish and English. From the age of six into his early twenties, he studied violin seriously and never planned to do anything else. His exposure to opera came from actually playing in the orchestra pit. While studying at Oberlin, a physical problem required him to stop playing for awhile, and during this period he began to study conducting. He’s never looked back. Since his 2004 debut with New York City Opera leading Verdi’s La Traviata, he has been in demand in opera houses, concert halls, ballet companies and conservatories all over the country, leading performances that have been called "poetic," "earthy," "vigorous" and "highly individual."

Like many musicians, his musical tastes are not limited solely to the ‘Classical’ variety. He has always enjoyed ‘ethnic’ music, i.e.: Gypsy, Russian, Klezmer, and Latin. He even played quite a bit of Klezmer as a violinist--and even some Mariachi. But he also loves David Byrne, Elvis Costello…and Bob Dylan.

Many artists in the opera world spend most of their year in strange cities, in unfamiliar hotels or apartments and develop ‘survival skills.’ It is a life of living out of a suitcase and this reality can be, at the same time, the most rewarding and the most challenging aspect of ‘Show Business.' "Traveling, working with new people all the time and starting over with each new production is the opera business, and you never know how it will turn out. That’s part of what makes it so exciting. Each performance is special. Anything can happen." And sometimes, it does! Once, while leading a performance of Puccini’s La Bohème, the Maestro was sent into the orchestra pit to begin the performance before the stage was quite ready. Everything was going fine until he looked up as Marcello was to sing his first line, and realized… the curtain had never opened! He had to start the performance again!

Outside the opera house, or concert hall, Ari is an avid cook, and enjoys spending time planning meals. "For me, cooking is a lot like conducting. You have to plan carefully and balance ingredients. Still, no matter how much you plan, something unique and special happens every time!"

Don Giovanni, with its dramatic second-act banquet scene, could not be more appropriate for a maestro who loves to cook. The ingredients will all be in perfect balance when Maestro Pelto comes to Denver. "I never tire of Mozart. No single composer requires more care and artistic honesty to prepare and perform."

Bon appétit!

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

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