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Nicola Luisotti

  • Conductor


NICOLA LUISOTTI press reviews

Critical Acclaim
Nicola Luisotti, conductor

Critical Acclaim


On Aida, Royal Opera House

Where the Royal Opera scores is in its choice of conductor, Nicola Luisotti, music director of San Francisco Opera. His command of the subtleties of Verdi’s masterly late orchestral style was the chief pleasure of the performance, and the RO’s orchestra — apart from the off-pitch “Egyptian” trumpets in the Grand March — and chorus gave their all for him. If only this superb Verdi conductor lived in an age of great Verdi voices.

Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times

For 30 years this opera has had a lamentable record at Covent Garden but the pity is even greater this time round, for the new production is conducted by Nicola Luisotti, a natural Verdian. He has an unforced sense of line, noticeable from the opening bars of the prelude and especially in the scene between Aida and Amonasro in Act Three. He also has a knack of drawing the choral tableaux to a cathartic climax. There is finely drilled playing from the orchestra and excellent singing from the chorus

Andrew Clark, Financial Times

The Royal Opera orchestra and chorus were electrifying in the crowd scenes of the second act and always responsive to Nicola Luisotti’s stylish conducting.

Barry Millington, Evening Standard

Production aside, the opera would be nothing without its music, and Nicola Luisotti did a superb job with the orchestra. Their playing was well matched with what was happening on stage, and just to take one example, the cellos sang with enormous suppressed energy in Act III as the priests, dressed in greyish beige robes with enormous grey headdresses, paraded slowly across the stage. It’s just a small vignette, but there are many more such things, all very carefully thought out. With a production of such integrity, along with excellent singing and superb musicianship from the orchestra pit, this is arguably the finest Aida I’ve seen.

Mark Ronan, Theatre Blog

Under Nicola Luisotti, the Royal Opera Orchestra was on fine fettle and there were moments when passages of the score leapt to life – particularly in the temple scene and also in the accompaniment to both of Aida’s arias, ‘O patria mia’ in particular, and the build-up to the Judgement Scene. These interpretative peaks were not wholly sustained, however, and one could argue that the brilliancy of the Triumphal Scene sounded hollow and unconvincing – though I think it is meant to. Nevertheless it was the orchestral performance that proved the most edifying and stimulating part of the evening.

Alexander Campbell, The Classical Source

It’s an evening of big, determined voices and alternately haunting and stentorian choral singing all of it excitingly driven by conductor Nicola Luisotti whose predominantly swift tempi convey a brassy, visceral, urgency.

Edward Seckerson, The Independent

On a more positive note, the chorus sang lustily and Nicola Luisotti conducted a superbly-paced account of the work, and the orchestra responded with plenty of lovely, delicate playing.

Orchestrally, the performance is as subtle as McVicar's production is not: impetuous, urgent and sensual ……

Anna Pickard, The Independent on Sunday

On Così fan tutte, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra (staged performance/Suntory Hall)
“It has been a while since I have last seen such a spontaneous performance of a Mozart opera—and conductor Nicola Luisotti is a central piece of this concept. He obviously loves the score and lovingly conducts it: all rhythms flow naturally, all dramatic effects are played without tampering with forward movement, clarity abounds, and the woodwinds blend with the soloists beautifully. This was exemplary Mozart conducting and Tokyoites were lucky to have all three Da Ponte operas conducted by Mr. Luisotti.”

-I Hear Voices (blog)

On Otello, San Francisco Opera

“Luisotti seems to have been born to conduct Otello. Through the storms, waves of sound, orchestra and chorus joining in raging passages, he maintains flawless momentum and exemplary balance.”

-Janos Gereben, San Francisco Examiner

“Much of the glory derived from the pit, where Nicola Luisotti was concluding his debut stint as music director. The conductor has been a source of distinction this autumn, the principal agent of general director David Gockley’s plan to restore the Italian repertory to its primacy. Luisotti’s Otello abounded in brilliant playing, thrust and much savoring of orchestral detail.”

-Allan Ulrich, Financial Times

“Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducted with his trademark impetuosity, bringing thrilling dynamism to the opening storm scene and translucent textures to the more intimate passages (the woodwind playing at the beginning of Act 4 was particularly gorgeous).”

-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“It was left to Luisotti to sweep away the cobwebs. The conductor led a propulsive performance, whipping up huge waves of sound in the Act I storm, invigorating the Credo and carefully eliciting the sound of low strings in Desdemona's final prayer. Luisotti certainly doesn't confine himself to the Italian repertoire — his thrilling performances of Salome last month proved that — but, as the company continues to explore the Italian masterworks, it's clear he's going to be a first-rate guide.”

-Georgia Rowe, Contra Costa Times

“All the performers seem to be having a love affair with their new maestro, Nicola Luisotti. Under his baton, the chorus bristles with a new vocal vitality. The dynamic orchestral playing, from everyone in the pit, conveys a fresh commitment. Thanks to the joyous Luisotti’s contagious love of music, suddenly everyone is getting high on Verdi. They are giving everything they’ve got to the performance. The opening thunderstorm and chorus scenes were hair-raising; the third-act concertato was overwhelming, as was the final death scene. All were swept up into the grand passion of Italian opera by Luisotti’s electrifying musical force.”

-Olivia Stapp, San Francisco Classical Voice

On Salome, San Francisco Opera

“And the opera orchestra, under Mr. Luisotti’s baton, seems unusually and entertainingly attuned to the overwrought emotions of the onstage tale. Indeed, perhaps the chief pleasure of the production is that the music shares the spotlight equally with the tale being spun onstage; and the singers, for their part, are fine actors.”

-Bruce Weber, The New York Times (Arts Beat)

On Il trovatore, San Francisco Opera

(Inaugural Production as San Francisco Opera Music Director)

“[San Francisco Opera] has found an ideal new maestro in Nicola Luisotti, who inaugurated his tenure as music director with an elegant performance of Verdi’s Trovatore at the ornate Beaux Arts War Memorial Opera House on Friday…..The loudest applause was reserved for Mr. Luisotti, given a warm welcome by his new hometown audience.”

-Vivian Schweitzer, The New York Times

“There’s been a big buzz about Luisotti, 47, leading up to this, his first performance in his new role. He didn’t push things. His Trovatore was an exercise in anticipation and control, with tempos rising and falling in emotional counterpoint to the singers—great ones—onstage. Little by little, the tragic story of a mother’s vengeance got under the skin of the listener. It was opera as soul music.”

-Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News

“San Francisco Opera’s new music director Nicola Luisotti wasted no time putting his stamp on the opening night of his tenure. From the first ominous drum roles of Giuseppe Verdi’s middle-period masterpiece Il trovatore to the unusually broad, flexible tempos of many arias, the glorious shine of his revivified orchestra proclaimed that instead of the straight-ahead overdrive of the Runnicles regime, we can expect a far more pliable, heartfelt, and emotionally generous approach.”

-Jason Serinus, Bay Area Reporter

“He and General Director David Gockley assembled a cast of big voices for Verdi's Il trovatore the likes of which hasn't been heard since the days of Kurt Herbert Adler, general director from 1953 to 1981.”

-Janos Gereben, San Francisco Examiner

On La Damnation de Faust, Teatro Real Madrid

“The triumphant success of the present performance is down to Italian conductor Nicola Luisotti returning to Teatro Real after his success in Il Trovatore some two years ago. It is incredible that this is the first time that Luisotti has conducted the work, so impressive is his command of the score in all its aspects. This artist breathes music through all his pores. I confess that I had doubts as to his aptitude outside the sphere of Italian opera. I have them no more. The results here are magnificent and simply unsurpassable. This man is a MUSICIAN (in capital letters) and transmits such energy that one’s attention is held in an unwavering magnetic grip. The sound he drew from the orchestra of Teatro Real was surprising; indeed miraculous. That this orchestra was the same one that interpreted Schumann’s Faust Szenes two weeks ago is astonishing. I had never before heard them on such good form. They must believe in this conductor to offer their best and to be open to establishing such a deeply impressive communion. After such an extraordinary performance it was all the more significant that the orchestra shouted bravos to Mr. Luisotti. San Francisco is very fortunate to have him as musical director. I can only hope that he returns to Spain soon. Bravo Maestro Luisotti!”

-José M. Irurzun, Seen and Heard International

On Don Giovanni with Tokyo Symphony at Suntory Hall

“Maestro Luisotti, who had already earned high acclaim in Japan, once again captured the attention of the singers and the audience with his flexible yet sharp conducting throughout the work. His brilliance and liveliness was truly befitting of an Italian comedy. I must give credit to the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra that responded to his baton and delivered a crisp performance throughout the evening.”

-Tadashi Isoyama, Mainichi Daily News

“What was especially enjoyable was the vibrant music under the baton of Nicola Luisotti, who even played the fortepiano himself. He was able to react immediately to support the quick movements and the various nuances of the singers. He would interject interludes with the sudden falling scales and dissonant chords, and played a fragment of a concerto with the appearance of the stone statue. The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra followed well the maestro’s circling baton that demanded sudden acceleration at times.”

-Miyuki Shiraishi, Asahi Shimbun

On Concerts with the San Francisco Symphony

“Appearing in Davies Symphony Hall before taking the reins in September as the San Francisco Opera's music director, Luisotti shaped Brahms' potentially lumbering work into a fleet and profoundly compelling drama. He laid out his premises with care and craft, then directed the follow-through as though it were a four-act theatrical opus.”

-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“Make no mistake: Luisotti’s full-body conducting technique is not an ‘act.’ He is truly and sincerely a man totally alive and joyous on the podium, with myriad expressions, most of them varieties of laughter.”
-Janos Gereben, San Francisco Examiner

(Advance feature prior to concerts)

La bohème, San Francisco Opera

“The wonderful and terrible thing about opera is that it’s all or nothing—every one of a performance’s 100 elements must work, and work together. When everything clicks, there is nothing like it. The San Francisco Opera’s new production of Puccini’s La bohème, which opened Sunday, is one of those rare, happy occasions. It’s a great, beloved work firing on all cylinders. The opera, whose 200 performances make it the company’s most popular selection, sounds even to grizzled veterans as if it’s being heard for the first time. The chief magician is conductor Nicola Luisotti, the company’s music director-elect, or “designate.” Under his baton, the San Francisco Opera Orchestra sparkles, shimmers, storms, and, most importantly, sings the music as this listener has rarely heard it over several decades.”

-Janos Gereben, San Francisco Examiner

“Luisotti's way with Puccini enraptured all present at the production's opening performance. At one with the sweep of the music, romantic outpourings swelled with sentiment one minute, only to become caressingly sweet and tender the next. The orchestra played as if possessed, carried along by a baton whose beat reflected the heart of Puccini's score. In Luisotti, who conducts all but two performances in the current Bohème run before assuming Music Directorship next season, SFO General Director David Gockley has found a conductor whose gestures serve not the grandeur of ego, but the greatness of music.”

-Jason Serinus, Bay Area Reporter

On Concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra, London

“Nicola Luisotti (who will succeed Donald Runnicles as Music Director of San Francisco Opera in September this year) and who, at the time of this Philharmonia Orchestra concert, was on the eve of finishing a run of Turandot for The Royal Opera, opened with the overture to Verdi’s opera La forza del destino. He was on home-ground and led a performance of dramatic summonses and impetus, dignity too and an agreeable through-line. With some electrifying playing, and incisive detailing, what I assume was Luisotti’s debut with the Philharmonia (at least in London) could not have been better launched.”

-Colin Anderson,

On Turandot with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden

“Conductor Nicola Luisotti had the sweep and swoon and shimmer of a score that makes love and death almost indistinguishable.”

-Edward Seckerson, The Independent

“The other stars of the night? Conducting, Nicola Luisotti lavishes care on Puccini’s still-startling sonorities—the curdled piccolo, the death-rattle percussion—and binds the score together with superb assurance.”

-Neil Fisher, The Times

“Paata Burchuladze’s gravelly Timur is also impressive, as is Luisotti’s propelled yet finely detailed conducting.”

-Barry Millington, The Evening Standard

“First to be said is that this revival of Turandot boasts some exceptional conducting by Nicola Luisotti who is the music director designate of San Francisco Opera. Together with The Royal Opera Orchestra on absolutely blistering form he delivered a taut, theatrical and thrilling interpretation of Puccini’s wonderfully colourful score. It had pace and captured absolutely the tinta of the piece and the elemental originality of some of the composer’s most progressive orchestration. The sheer volume of the early pages—particularly the moment when the bloodthirsty chorus summons the executioner to behead the unfortunate Prince of Persia—was exhilarating and appropriately savage. One was also nervous for the principal singers. However, when their moments came Luisotti was unfailingly responsive to their needs—the texture was kept remarkably spare and this allowed the details to emerge afresh. The undercurrents to the “silencio, silencio” passage in Act One and to the delivery of Turandot’s second riddle were instances in point. The placing of the harps in the Stalls Circle also helped one appreciate how vital their contribution. The percussion had a field day! Tempos were generally fleet and the gradual acceleration of tempo at the end of Act One before Calaf strikes the gong was perfectly judged. How the piece needs this immediacy of approach rather than an over-indulgent one!”

-Alexander Campbell, Classical