Ottavio Dantone is an internationally-renowned, award-winning Italian conductor and recording artist. Since 1996, he has been the Music Director of the Accademia Bizantina in Ravenna, Italy, with a special concentration in historical music performances and recordings from the Baroque period.

Delphine Galou is a much sought-after European opera star known for her work in music from the Baroque period. Her vocal technique combined with a commanding presence has distinguished her performances of virtuoso roles throughout Europe and in the U.S. at venues including Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Angers Nantes Opéra, Opéra de Montpellier, Royal Opera House London, Theater St Gallen, Theater Basel, Handel Festival in Karlsruhe, Schwetzingen Festival, Staatsoper Berlin, Theater an der Wien, the Maggio Musicale in Firenze and Lincoln Center.

Stay Thirsty Magazine was thrilled to visit with Ottavio Dantone and Delphine Galou, husband and wife, at their country house outside of Paris for this Conversation about their roles in the Vivaldi Edition and their respective careers.

STAY THIRSTY: How did you become involved in the Vivaldi Edition project?

DELPHINE GALOU: My involvement in this amazing Vivaldi recording project began when I first met Susan Orlando in 2011. She proposed that I sing a role in Vivaldi's opera Il Teuzzone to be recorded with Jordi Savall and our collaboration has continued ever since then, with Federico Sardelli (Orlando furioso), then with Ottavio Dantone (L’Incoronazione di Dario, Il Giustino), and my two solo recordings which were recently released, “Arie e cantate per contralto” and “Musica sacra per contralto”. This fall I will be recording Vivaldi's opera Argippo with Fabio Biondi and Bajazet with Ottavio again in February.

Delphine Galou

STAY THIRSTY: What attracts you to the compositions of Vivaldi?

OTTAVIO DANTONE: Personally, I am fascinated by Vivaldi's capacity to maintain a completely personal and unique style made up of formulas and autocitations that are recognizable by all, and at the same to create musical situations that are always new and surprising. Moreover, his ability to evoke a wide spectrum of emotions in each listener places him among the greatest of artistic communicators of all times.

STAY THIRSTY: You are known for your performances by composers Handel, Bach and Vivaldi. As a performer, do you prepare differently depending on the composer? What are the stylistic characteristics and demands placed on a performer by each of these composers?

DELPHINE GALOU: Naturally, I always sing with the same voice which doesn't change from one composer to another, but I do try to conform to each composer's personal and ethnic style (German, Italian, English, etc.) adapting, for example, the variations in the da capos. I adore singing Bach who is surely the hardest to perform in terms of intonation and tessitura. By contrast, Handel is always easier for me because his coloratura writing perfectly fits my voice. Vivaldi requires both great agility and extreme control in the slow arias, but I find that his music is always vivacious and full of life which in turn gives me the energy to perform it.

STAY THIRSTY: Your discography includes audio recordings of works by Handel, Haydn, Bach and Vivaldi, to name just a few. How do the works of Vivaldi stand up to the others? What makes Vivaldi’s work timeless?

OTTAVIO DANTONE: Notwithstanding the philological and aesthetic respect necessary in order to maintain intact and effective his language, the music of Vivaldi presents a notable evocative force and hides symbols and influences of many origins, which succeed in stimulating the imagination even of modern interpreters.

Ottavio Dantone

STAY THIRSTY: In addition to performing, you have made an extensive number of audio recordings. Do you prefer live performances or working in the recording studio? Do you ever want to go back and re-record a CD when you listen to it years later? How has your voice and technique changed over time?

DELPHINE GALOU: I love live performances and staged operas (when there is a good stage director!). Entering into a character on stage gives one the opportunity to explore more facets of oneself and is always very enriching. Singing the role of a man for example (which I do very often) is a very interesting experience. Once you have played a male role in a staged opera, I find you can do it in a concert version of the opera giving more credibility to the character.

In my opinion, to sing a role convincingly in front of a microphone in a recording studio one must first have the experience of interpreting the role live where one is fully invested in the music and not thinking only about the notes.

Ideally, I’d like to re-record my first CDs because I’ve always tried to improve my technique and I think I sing better now than fifteen years ago. But a career is like a journey and thinking back on it should be like flipping through a photo album: you can see you have changed but it’s always you. One needs to be happy in the present moment and live it with joy.

STAY THIRSTY: You are known not only for your role as a conductor, but also as a master of the harpsicord and the fortepiano. How does your background as a musician inform your work as a conductor?

OTTAVIO DANTONE: The harpsichord is an instrument with few dynamics, and therefore expressive, possibilities. This forces the interpreter to search for infinite technical or rhythmic-expressive shades, some even very small, in order to give the instrument maximum communicative possibilities.

When I am conducting an orchestra and voices, it is natural for me to observe even minimal particulars and to search for the deepest rhetorical significances. Having an expressive instrument allows me to obtain the result which is dearest to me: to create emotions in the listeners.

STAY THIRSTY: In addition to audio recordings for the Vivaldi Edition, there are videos. You appear in a very dramatic video entitled “Accademia Bizantina - Antifona Salve Regina RV 618 - A. Vivaldi.” What did you want that video to accomplish for the project? What feelings do you want people to take away from watching it?

Delphine Galou - Accademia Bizantina - Antifona Salve Regina RV 618 - A. Vivaldi

DELPHINE GALOU: I must say that since the first video we did for my solo CD, “Agitata,” I have always trusted our artistic team. Often, I discover the universe they want to create for a video on the day of the shooting! For the Salve Regina video, the idea was the idea of sacred in a large sense, closer to a state of the soul, a feeling of contemplation. Associating a video with classical music is a rather recent development, but it should enhance the work in the same way that video clips do for pop music where the images are evocative and are there to set the stage for people to let their imagination go.

STAY THIRSTY: As Music Director of the Accademia Bizantina, how do you see your role in shaping audience understandings of Baroque music? Do you feel the need to educate or challenge your audiences and how do you keep them coming back?

OTTAVIO DANTONE: I think it is important to have an educated and prepared public to listen to Baroque music, but I believe that the rules that regulate the emotive reactions of any listener, even those not specialized, are still intact in Baroque music today.

The real challenge is not so much the public as the importance for the interpreter to maintain the greatest intellectual and artistic honesty, striving to study and understand accurately the aesthetics, the history and the habits of the past in order to grasp the real legacy of a composer and to offer to all the truest, strongest and most intact emotion possible.

STAY THIRSTY: How does working together when you are married to each other change the dynamics of a performance or a recording?

Delphine Galou and Ottavio Dantone

DELPHINE GALOU: Rehearsals at home are tough and demanding. That said, we are very compatible in making music together. Working with the person you love is a dream.

OTTAVIO DANTONE: I have the great fortune to have a wife who is a singer. It allows me to study in depth and close-up all the complex technical and physical mechanics demanded in the art of singing. Our work together has taught me a great deal and has further deepened my experience. In the vocal field, and in Baroque music in general, one endlessly continues to learn.

Clearly, in concerts and recordings there is a strong bond between us which contributes in making our emotions all the more intense and authentic.

(Delphine Galou and Ottavio Dantone photo credits: Giulia Papetti; Ottavio Dantone courtesy of Accademia Bizantina)


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.