When did you start playing an instrument?
When I was 4 years old, on a toy keyboard.
Why did you start playing?
I don’t know; I learned music by myself.
Which musicians inspired you most when you were young?
J. S. Bach.
Which musicians (instrumentalists or singers) do you most admire?
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.
What’s your favourite piece to conduct?
Schumann, Symphony n. 3.
What piece have you never conducted but would like to?
Wagner, Meistersinger Ouverture.
What’s your favourite piece to listen to?
Sicut Cerous by Palestrina.
Who is your favourite composer?
J. S. Bach.
Who is your favourite writer?
Who is your favourite theatre or film director?
Who is your favourite actor?
Who is your favourite dancer?
What is your favourite book?
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco.
What is your favourite film?
Death in Venice by Luchino Visconti
Which is your favourite city?
Auxerre, near my country house.
What do you like most about yourself?
That I have learned to listen to people.
What do you dislike about yourself?
What was your proudest moment?
When I played for the first time in public.
When and where were you happiest?
Every morning, when I see my wife smile.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My wife, of course! (She will read this questionnaire!)
What is your greatest fear?
Ignorance, when combined with stupidity.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Physically my chin, temperamentally my shyness.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
To earn my living with such beautiful job.
What is your most treasured possession?
My wife’s children, who became mine as well.
What is your greatest extravagance?
To fall asleep, I often imagine myself playing the harpsichord in a glass room underwater.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Knowing how to forgive.
On what occasion do you lie?
When it’s necessary for the good of others.
If you hadn’t been a conductor, what would you have liked to be?
A football player.
What is your most marked characteristic?
The perception of passing time.
What quality do you most value in a friend?
To know how to share silence without embarrassment.
What quality do you most value in a colleague?
The musical breath.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Leonardo da Vinci.
Which living person do you most admire?
Honestly, I admire all the people who, without anyone knowing, put their lives at the service of those who suffer.
What do you most dislike?
What talent would you most like to have?
To be able to sing.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
To feel the harmony around oneself.
How would you like to die?
Without realising it, like everyone I guess.
What is your motto?
Bad music doesn’t exist, bad music players do.
Ottavio Dantone has been the Music Director of the Accademia Bizantina in Ravenna since 1996:
you can follow him and the orchestra on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.