Salzburg Journal, Part I

Antonio Pappano (© Musacchio Ianniello/EMI Classics)


Editor’s Note: Our senior editor Jay Nordlinger spent the middle two weeks of August at the Salzburg Festival: hosting a public-interview series, giving a lecture, and covering performances. The music coverage will appear in forthcoming issues of National Review and The New Criterion. We begin his journal on this site today.

I’m not in Salzburg yet but in the Frankfurt airport (where one can spend half one’s life — not particularly unhappily, either). I have always found the food terrific. The food at these cheapish eateries can be better than at pricey restaurants in New York. Which is both thrilling and depressing.

The bathrooms? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: cleaner than those of some rich people on the Upper East Side. (I’m talking about folks with live-in help.)

The airport in Salzburg is the W. A. Mozart Airport. Its code is SZG, for Salzburg. I’ve always thought it should be WAM (pronounced “wham”). A cool code.

I’m trying to think — doing some quick calculations. How many months or years of my life have I spent stopped at Salzburg intersections? As a pedestrian, I mean? Man, are the lights long. And don’t nobody cross, until the lights say so. Even if no cars are coming.

The cultural rule is very strong — almost iron. But it’s not my rule. And sometimes, my American legs just want to bust out and cross. And do.

There are lots of beggars on the streets — more than I’ve ever seen in Salzburg. More than on the streets of New York (by which I mean, you encounter them more frequently).

The question is eternal, at least for me: To give or not to give? Rudy used to beg us not to give — demand that we not give. (I’m talking about Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.) These beggars here: Are they truly needy and hungry? Or are they professional, so to speak? Do they go out and beg as if it were their job? Is it a “lifestyle”?

To be continued . . .

Greenpeace is here, doing some polar-bear stunt. Global warming. I think of a phrase from Bill Buckley: “the street theater of the Left.” It is endless, and dishonest, and vexing — and, to say it again, endless.

The food in the open-air market looks so very good — better than it tastes, as a rule.

I remember an observation I made when I first came here, ten years ago: Even the policewomen are good-looking. Aren’t they supposed to be — you know: a little manly?

The Salzburg Festival Society puts on a public-interview series — conversations with prominent musicians. Our first guest is Antonio Pappano, one of the best conductors in the world. He’s the music director at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and at the Santa Cecilia orchestra in Rome.

So, what is his nationality? That question is tricky, as he says at the beginning of our conversation. He’s English — a native Londoner. (Close enough: He was born in Greater London.) He’s Italian, by virtue of his parentage. He’s American — because he spent some formative years on our shores.

How about his speech? To my ears, it hovers around the border of British and American, leaning toward the British side.

Pappano is a product of his experience, as we all are, I guess: and his experience is rich and varied.

What makes him very much an Englishman, for me, is that he has been knighted. “So,” I say, “you’re Sir Tony now, right?” He answers, “Sir Antonio.” Next time I’ll be more careful (as an old southern friend of mine would say).

Sir Antonio is a fabulous talker. Some musicians can’t articulate what they know and feel. They can communicate this through music (which is more important, of course). Our guest can do both.


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