Read the Opera News 'Sound Bites' interview with Speranza!

Sound Bites: Speranza Scappucci

by F. PAUL DRISCOLL

Speranza Scappucci is at Santa Fe Opera this month, leading the company’s new production of La Fille du Régiment. Donizetti’s comedy marks a Santa Fe debut for the Roman-born conductor, who began playing piano at the age of five and studied at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome and at the Juilliard School. “I really liked working with other people more than being alone in the practice room doing the solo stuff. So I decided to apply for what was then called the Accompanying Program at Juilliard, and I took my master’s degree in that. While I was at Juilliard, I got more into opera coaching — I had been exposed to opera since I was a kid in Italy, but I’d never really worked with singers until I got to Juilliard. And I loved it. So I went into the path of an opera coach.” 

That path took Scappucci to Music Academy of the West, the Juilliard Opera Center, Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Met, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Wiener Staatsoper. Riccardo Muti, who was impressed by Scappucci’s work as a coach/pianist in Vienna, chose her to collaborate with him on productions in Salzburg, Rome and New York. She played continuo for Muti’s production of Mercadante’s Due Figaro and conducted some rehearsals from the piano. “The idea of being a conductor was developing in my head for a while, I suppose, and then in Salzburg I tried conducting the big rehearsal of Macbeth — the witches’ chorus — and I realized as I was doing it that it was working. They were with me!” 

Her career has taken off fast. Since 2012, when she made her debut at Yale Opera with Così Fan Tutte, Scappucci’s engagements have included Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater at Glimmerglass, Don Giovanni at Scottish Opera and Finnish National Opera and La Traviata for the Macerata Opera. Next season brings Norma at Theater St. Gallen and La Bohème at Los Angeles Opera.

Asked if she has experienced difficulties as a woman in a profession dominated by men, Scappucci shrugs and smiles. “When you are in front of an orchestra, I believe it doesn’t really matter if you are a man or a woman — but you had better be a good musician. It takes about three seconds for the people in front of you to discover if you know what you are doing or you don’t. You have to get the job done. And if I stop and worry about what they are going to think about my hair or the fact that I am a woman and not a man, it’s wasted time.” 

© Speranza Scappucci 2015  |  Photos © silvialelli