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Jimmy was in his element, introducing me to his colleagues - from Italy's capital, André Taglia, Technical Director of Sound and Claudio Venturelli, Assistant Sound Balance Engineer; while from Portugal, Miguel Lourtie of Audioprolive had the task of removing all extraneous noises from the piazza with his half-million dollar tuning system. Made doubly clear to me was that this whole exercise was for the benefit of the live audience. "What RAI do with it when they transmit it later, is their ....... business!"

Due to a lack of rehearsal time, the first priority was the overall clarity of voice parts, then musical director Paolo Carignani, reminding me of Yul Brynner in the film where he portrayed an impulsive maestro, was informed by a listener that the violin section was not audible. Jimmy Lock guaranteed that everything would be fine for the actual performance, and so indeed it was with superb internal balancing of parts throughout - the Spoleto Orchestra, the soloists... front centre was Joan herself, to her right, her confessor... the other singers positioned centre back with the two choirs, grownups and children, immediately in front.

Chiara Muti. Photo: Bill Newman

It all reminded me of Robert C. Fine's spot-lit immediacy at those Mercury recording session playbacks that I became so used to in days gone by, and certainly current commercial discs can't hold a candle to what I listened to from my centre seat somewhere near the back, about 200 feet away. But what about the star of the occasion: as Joan, Chiara Muti was the greatest possible find covering herself with distinction by her eloquence in the spoken text, and bringing a tear to the eye as she sang her final farewell, recalling brighter episodes from her youth. Her eminent father, conductor Riccardo was moved to suggest he would bring the whole of La Scala's Chorus and Orchestra to perform at next year's festival!

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Copyright © 22 August 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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