Q & A: Domingo Hindoyan on His Return to the Metropolitan Opera & Puccini

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Chris Christodoulou)

In April, Domingo Hindoyan will return to the Metropolitan Opera for the second time. This time he will conduct Puccini’s masterpiece “Tosca” in David McVicar’s production. It will also be the second of three Puccini works in the season.

OperaWire had a chance to speak with the conductor about his love for Puccini, “Turandot,” and the upcoming “Tosca” performances.

OperaWire: You will be returning to the Met for “Tosca.” What excites you about conducting at this legendary theatre?

Domingo Hindoyan: I made my debut at the Met back in 2018 with “Elisir d’Amore,” and I am extremely happy to be back to conduct “Tosca” in this fantastic theater. To perform at the Met is always special because of the great orchestra, beautiful productions, amazing acoustics of the hall, and great singers.

OW: “Tosca” is an opera that you have conducted before. Tell me about the challenges of Puccini’s score.

DH: Tosca, in my opinion, is one of the most perfect operas ever written. Set in the heart of Italy, it has it all: politics, jealousy, passion, tragedy, injustice, lies, and passionate love. The score reflects this so well, and every bar is a jewel with the orchestra’s leitmotiv leading one to another and sublime transitions. Puccini always achieves incredible tension and dramatic lines.

OW: It is an opera that has been performed thousands of times. How do you approach a work that everyone knows?

DH: Can it ever be performed enough?  The score has infinite colors and possibilities so that every time is a new challenge, different stagings, different singers and personalities. Every time for me, is starting from scratch. The challenges are not different because I have done it many times or because it is a known piece like “Bohème” or “Traviata.” Challenges are always the same, whether for new music or known music.

OW: What is one of your favorite moments of “Tosca?”

DH: As I have said before, every bar is a pearl but one of my favorite moments is the entrance of Tosca in the First act; it has it all in those bars, love, plenty of personality, strength, diva character,  jealous passion and at the same time, extremely fragile and tender. But this is the same in all Puccini. Even in works like “Gianni Schicchi,” which I am about to do in a concert version with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra together with the European Opera Centre.

OW: Later in the summer, you will conduct “Turandot.” How does the score from “Turandot” and “Tosca” differ?

DH: It is, of course, late Puccini who leaves us with the score unfinished. But “Turandot” is a bigger orchestra, the choir has a more important role, it requires bigger voices, and the most important difference is the oriental influence using the pentatonic scale throughout the piece. But in the end, it is the same hand writing the most beautiful arias.

OW: How do you think Puccini developed between the periods he wrote “Tosca” and “Turandot?”

DH: In between both pieces, he wrote “Madame Butterfly,” “Il Trittico,” “Manon Lescaut,” and “La Fanciulla,” and he traveled in this time, so his curiosity for other cultures grew enormously. With such a great composer, one always asks the question, what would have happened with 10 more years? You always have the feeling they were looking for something else to explore or rebelling against themself. Puccini is not the exception.

OW: How do you view the score of “Turandot,” especially in modern times when there is talk of orientalism and western cliches?

DH: Puccini was inspired, like many of his colleagues at the time in the Verismo period, by new sound worlds. He uses the pentatonic scale just as Debussy or Ravel did. This opera is the music of its time and should be treated as that.

OW: Will you be performing only Puccini’s music or with the Alfano ending? If so, how do you view this music in comparison to Puccini’s, and how do you unite the two musical styles?

DH: We will be doing the original Alfano ending that will be a premiere in France. I see it simply as a different composer and never tried to conduct it as Puccini’s music; I rehearse it to get the best of Alfano and his own personality and color – that way to serve Puccini’s “Turandot” as best as possible. I appreciate very much that the piece has a conclusion rather than being left incomplete.

OW: Finally, what excites you about performing Puccini? Would you consider him one of your favorite operatic composers?

DH: I have conducted “La Bohème,” “Tosca,” “Turandot,” “Madama Butterfly,” and very soon in Liverpool, “Gianni Schicchi” with the wonderful Sir Bryn Terfel and the young singers of the European Opera Centre. Even if I don’t like to have “favorite composers,” I have to admit that Puccini is one of my favorites. I enjoy enormously the way he treats the voices, the orchestra, the chorus, and the link with the stories and emotions. The way he orchestrates is fantastic.


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