WLIW Arts Beat


The Making of a Maestro: from Castelfranco to Carnegie Hall

A global music figure shares roots in the same small Italian village as the reporter. The piece takes an intimate look at the backstory of Sir Antonio Pappano, the conductor of both the Royal Opera in London and Rome’s Santa Cecilia orchestra. The story documents Pappano’s trajectory from his humble roots to his debut at Carnegie Hall in late October, 2017.

AIRED: December 07, 2017 | 0:08:32

[ Bells ringing ]

>> Clinging to the sun-parched

hills of Southern Italy's

Campania region,

about 60 miles

northeast of Naples,

lies a small agricultural

village where the manual

stretching of a local cheese

is an age-old tradition.

>> It's old.

Streets are rough.

It's imperfect,

and it's what we are.

>> What puts this obscure

village on the map, though,

is not a maestro of mozzarella,

but a favorite son

who uses his hands

to make music.


Antonio Pappano does double duty

as the music director

of the Royal Opera House

in London and Rome's

Santa Cecilia

Symphony Orchestra.

[ Operatic singing ]

Pappano has conducted

some of the world's leading

musicians in ornate spaces,

but just one modest location

in late summer tugs at his heart

like the taut strings

of a violin.

>> If you are the son of

immigrants, to know where your

roots really are, that's

been very important for me.

This whole experience

is about that.


>> His parents emigrated

from Italy to England.

Antonio was born just outside

London in 1959,

where he took up the piano

at 6 years old.

Although he is the director

of two international orchestras,

he got his start in America

as a teenager

when his parents uprooted

themselves yet again,

leaving England for Bridgeport,


This is where his opera-singer

father established a voice

studio, providing his talented

son with private training

on the piano.

>> The courage to make these

moves, which are cataclysmic

in a family's life,

have made me unafraid

to just go where I need to go.

>> He left Connecticut

when the New York City Opera

gave him his first big break

as a rehearsal accompanist.


>> It meant leaving my father

and that family business of

teaching and accompanying

singers, and a very difficult


>> A moment that eventually led

to a musical metamorphosis

from pianist to a conductor

who claims a global pedigree.


>> People ask me, "Are you

American? Are you Italian?

Are you English?"

I'm all of that.

I have, actually,

three passports.

I'm a -- I live in the Opera


Because of his significant

achievements in the music world,

Pappano has been knighted.

>> Music has become my life,

but it has a lot to do with,

also, this work ethic,

this immigrant work ethic

that my parents embodied

and defined for me, and that

immigrant thing is obviously

very strong in America,

and it's a very strong part

of me, personally.

It's been something that's

followed me my whole life,

and I'm sure you.

I mean, your ancestors come from

this town.

>> This town is Castelfranco

in Miscano, province of

Benevento, where he conducts an

annual tribute in memory

of his father, Pasquale.

Sir Antonio Pappano is regarded

much like the revered Saints

who are paraded around the

ancient streets

during Ferragosto,

the summer festival

that brings people,

including Pappano,

back to honor their origins.

The annual visit by the maestro

livens things in up in a town

that otherwise moves

like a composition

in adagio tempo.


>> We're here in a couple of

days where there's a music

festival, and everything seems

alive, but, actually, most of

the year it's quite dead and

quite still and quite sad.

>> Antonio dedicated

the first concert to his dad,

who was visiting Castelfranco

in 2004, quite ill with


>> Two days later, my father

died here in the town

in which he was born,

and so that concert in his honor

became in his memory.

I decided that I needed to do

this concert every year.

The concerts that I did

in the beginning of all this,

in the church, San Giovanni --

that, to me,

had a tremendous resonance

because my parents

were baptized in that church,

they were confirmed in that


It was like I was in a historic

place for the family.

>> What started as an intimate

church recital

is now an overture

to something more monumental.

[ Orchestra tuning ]

>> And it's a bigger event.

And I think that's what

this place needs.

It needs an event.

>> Sir Antonio Pappano!


>> Supported by the ancient

bedrock of a tiny piazza,

Pappano conducts

a youth orchestra from nearby

Benevento comprised mostly of

conservatory students and



>> What they don't have in

experience, they make up

in, sort of, energy, especially

when the music is really loud.


>> The concert more than doubles

the town's population of 800,

and pumps up the pizza output at

Bar Capricci from 25 pies on an

ordinary night to 300 when

Pappano performs.

>> He's got great talent,

but he's also a great person,

and I like the way he just


He seems to have the music

inside him.

>> Well, I'm an Italian boy.


I mean, the --

You talk with the hands,

of course, and a conductor

to boot, you know.

>> I love it.

>> Pappano is a mentor honoring

his father's legacy with a

commitment to inspire excellence

in a new generation.

>> For him to have seen me

on this stage with an orchestra

of young people -- This would

have really moved him.

>> He's very kind

and very professional.

>> Even if we made some errors,

some mistakes, he didn't,

like, get angry or whatever.

He's a very fine man.

>> I don't have children.

I have a lovely, lovely wife,

but I have my musical families.

>> Recently, Pappano flew

overseas with his Rome family,

his Santa Cecilia Orchestra,

to a very special engagement

in New York City.


>> I think I've done a lot

in music, but Carnegie Hall

is the address.

Let's face it.


To come to New York and make

a debut at Carnegie Hall

is hardly believable,

to tell you the truth.


>> Pappano proves that it does

indeed take practice

to get to Carnegie Hall.

>> There's no replacement

for time and for experience.

You just have to pay your dues

and try and get better

every concert that you do.


I'm very proud.

I'm proud of my orchestra.

I'm proud of myself.

I'm proud of my family.

[ Applause ]

>> No matter where in the world

this global music figure

performs, he can rely

on his Castelfrangese roots

to ground him, where can be just

another paisano,

just plain Tony.

>> Several things come

together here --

my very strong feeling

for this town,

how my parents experienced it

and their memories

and their stories.

It's my way of giving something

back to this region.


[ Cheers and applause ]


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