When rappers win the Tenco prize, tabernacle of songwriting, do you want a singer-songwriter not to be able to perform at La Scala, a symbol of classicism? Music has never been as fluid as it is in this era. And when historical halls abroad such as the Vienna State Opera or the Berlin Philharmonic look beyond the symphonic and lyrical, music Italy is divided over Paolo Conte’s concert at La Scala in Milan. The controversy lingered outside the foyer on Sunday night. Whoever was there – about 2,000 people for a sold-out concert that arrived within 24 hours – had no doubts about the ownership of the Asti singer.
For an hour and a half, a show divided between two stages, the Milan theater allowed itself to be enveloped in unusual atmospheres for this velvet and stucco work. The lessons, in the foyer and on the stage, on the other hand, were accustomed to theatre. Conte, 86, put there his scratched voice, his painful yet ironic way of singing from someone who has seen many in his long life. And not just because he also worked as a lawyer in the family law firm. Then there are his songs, which often have a more subtle appeal than opera did when it began as popular entertainment: vintage rhythms, jazzy accents, smoky evenings.
The singer-songwriter enters the scene in a dark suit and t-shirt, shielding his eyes from the light. Applause. He sits down at the piano and off he goes, with an ensemble of eleven elements and three backing singers, to embroider stories, to let the spirit travel through time and around the globe, to stories of the past, but also to universal and private feelings bring all touch to give away «Quintal Poesie», as «Recitando» says, one of the passages of the first act. Which opened with the journey of «Aguaplano» and the first ovation at «Sotto le stelle del jazz».
There is no scenography. only Conte’s piano in the middle and pedestals for the musicians. The lights play on chromatic pairs. It’s not difficult to predict which ones on «Grappling with a green milonga». The protagonists are the songs, even more than Conte is. He gets up for a few tracks, puts on his sunglasses. And before the break Piazza «Dal Loggione», a story of looks and jealousies from a theater.
In the second act «Via con me» the hit not to be missed is the Italian song at its maximum expressiveness. “Diavolo rosso” is a limitless ride with musicians who are free. True encore with «Via con me», choirs and clapping from the audience to keep the beat.
In the past few days, it was Piero Maranghi, editor of the broadcaster Classica HD (Sky), who wrote a letter to the Foglio about the “desecration” and “blow” to the tradition of La Scala in Milan. Among those who responded, Vittorio Sgarbi, Secretary of State for Culture, who also last night underlined the idea of a “universal” music.
Dominique Meyer, Superintendent and Artistic Director of La Scala, greets guests in the foyer and removes a few pebbles from his shoes. It was he, at the request of Caterina Caselli, who found a hole in the billboard and accepted the challenge. «A controversy between small people who want to keep everything to themselves. La Scala is not a small club, it is an open theater. I prefer those who build bridges to those who build walls». For the Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino “Conte not only wrote songs, but created an imaginary world”.
Giuliano Sangiorgi, Negramaro frontman, lightens the climate: “There is no risk that a precedent has been set tonight because nobody can be after a great man like Paolo Conte: we, Negramaro or rappers like Lazza, will be the race Don’t worry, Don’t worry”. Vinicio Capossela also plays with the irony: “Basically, operas are songs that are performed with a larger vocal range”. Biagio Antonacci also agrees: “That a sacred place for music is absolutely perfect for songwriting Opening quality like this seems to me to be an important inclusive signal”. Madame, back from Sanremo, represents a world far removed even from that of the chansonnier: “It is a challenge to open up to songwriting and we hope that this show is just the beginning of a long series».