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I applied for this first OPEROSA conductor residency, and was very lucky and happy to be selected. Besides my main job as assistant to Maestro Eraldo Salmieri, I was generously offered to conduct the Festival’s closing concert with the Festival Orchestra. My main goals by spending these 5 weeks as assistant were to be involved in as many activities, tasks and challenges as possible, not necessarily involving conducting directly, but to have the opportunity to observe, study and whenever possible participate in the management of the whole opera making process.
First of all I must give a word of praise and thanks to the team of OPEROSA. Both the contact before my arrival and once in Belgrade were of a great generosity and professionalism. I had a very warm welcome which I wouldn’t say was a surprise since I did not know what to expect, but it was indeed very heart-warming.
Maestro Eraldo was a very inspiring and generous mentor throughout all this process, treating me in a very nice way, always making me feel useful by discussing all the aspects regarding the cast, the difficulties the music presented as much for the conductor as for the singers and players. Katherine and her team, Tea, Mina and all the others were generous enough to keep me in the loop of all that was going on regarding logistical victories or struggles, giving me the real vibe about the “invisible” part of the Festival.
Artistically I had the opportunity to be involved in some coaching, I had a very good relationship with the remarkably good cast, which, I believe, started to rely and trust my listening and opinions. On Maestro Eraldo’s initiative I conducted once or twice during scene rehearsals with piano, and substituted him during two days of scene piano rehearsals when he was indisposed. When we went to rehearse with the orchestra, in Podgorice in Montenegro, we had a couple of very hard working days, since there were significant mistakes in the parts of the orchestra, and not so easy to point out, often. After that my participation was helping with balance on site of the final performances (Kanli Kula), and rehearsing with the Festival Orchestra for the festival’s final concert. The orchestra was composed of very nice, mostly Serbian and Montenegrin, young players who were very keen on being on top of things and making it a point of honour to work as best as possible, even given the difficulty of playing outside.
Looking back at the period I spent as guest of the OPEROSA family, I must admit that I only have words of praise about the work developed in difficult conditions, as far as I could understand, logistically and budget wise. The festival is very well organized by a small team of enthusiastic people, who are very quick to solve any issue that comes up. They are excellently led, both by Katherine and Eraldo, and you can definitely feel the development curve that exists there, by speaking with them. How much they have learnt during the last years since it began, and where and to what they wish to develop into.
As for the Residency itself, given the different possibilities it provides to develop skills, musically, humanly, administration wise, and specially as I already mentioned, having the opportunity to really get to know the insides and outs of a Festival, I would absolutely recommend any colleague and ENOA to keep funding this. I believe both for the sake of development of conductors as for the festival itself, since new people will bring new approaches and ideas in which I believe OPEROSA is keen on getting.
My time in Belgrade in Montenegro was useful, busy, artistically rewarding and heart-warming.