Béatrice Venezi: “Beauty? A problem. I gave the violinist who attacked me a fit of hysteria”

“I’m the crying type, yes. When things go wrong at first, I get discouraged, I shed tears for three days. But here I start again: when they refused my admission to the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan, for the first time, I said to myself: Béatrice, ok, wait a year, get ready, you know there are only two or three places in the executive class. Do your best and…”

“Emotion must have played a bad joke on me. A second time. I was probably not ready for what the commission expected, it was a question of maturity. Waiting another year was hard”.

Béatrice Venezi will also have been rejected, will have cried, will have waited. But at 25, he was Italy’s youngest conductor. And also the most envied and exposed in the media.

“You pay for the exposure, however, especially if you go to Sanremo: lots of visibility but also lots of criticism when the question arose that I wanted to be called a director and not a director, in addition to the sexist findings. But above all for having decided to participate in such a “pop” show: they put you on the cross for life for having “contaminated” the purity of high music. I see so much wickedness and so much bad faith”.

When did you first face the issue of gender difference?

“I was studying with Maestro Piero Bellugi, a character of incredible humanity. Once, after a lesson, we were alone: ​​he had never broached the question of the difference between the sexes. I let myself be lulled by the idea that there was no difference, I had never asked myself the problem that there were no female directors. He told me he had spoken to one of his sons, who was into circus arts, who asked him if female hands could be more expressive than male hands in directing. A key moment in the formation of my security”.

Then he slammed his face against us.

“In fact, at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, they didn’t give me the same opportunities as men. It was a series of sexist jokes, even at the Accademia Chigiana. Things like “she’s a woman, what do you want me to do?” or it was pointed out to me that I could not dress as a woman as if I had to look like a man. I believe that it is the will to make small copies of the teachers of their pupils”.

“It’s the difference between a teacher and a teacher: a teacher is the one who gives you the opportunity to express who you are. But there were no female role models to look up to, even just for body posture. Because the body differences between men and women affect meaning.”

Your first time on a podium?

“At 22 and with a lot of emotion on him. Even if this “magical peace of the podium” enveloped me from the start. It’s something that I still can’t explain today: whatever turmoil you feel, it still stays in the locker room. I was in my Lucca, at the Basilica of San Giovanni, directing The Heroic. In name and in fact”.

At the time, had he already posed the problem of being “a director and a woman” who accompanied you so far in your career?

“I think it was the only time I didn’t feel that disapproving look on me. Perhaps precisely because I was surrounded by compatriots”.

How was Beatrice when she was a child?

“I danced and hummed even while swaddling. Or at least that’s what my parents say.

Was she a child prodigy?

“A little girl who moved awkwardly. But music, expression of rhythm through the body, has been part of me since I was very young. First with the dance, then with the piano”.

What memories do you have of the piano at the beginning?

“A vague image of the small hands above the keys, as if in my eyes a secret was only revealed to a few. Yet it was not the instrument of my desires.”

“I felt I wanted to start with something more rhythmic and primitive like heartbeats, in fact I was fascinated by percussion”.

Already cheeky, “tribal”, fierce as we see today at thirty years old?

“Not at all: shy, introverted. Quite the opposite of what it may seem now. I was fascinated by a language, music, not linked to words that classify everything”.

Emotional communication.

“A peculiarity that I brought with me: in Avignon the first clarinetist entered the dressing room and told me that he had lost two children but that thanks to people like me he continued to do this job. And we kissed”.

Empathy. Despite so much mistrust.

“Already. As I often think of a lady from the Bolzano Orchestra who got up from the row of cellos, stopped me in the hallway and said: we were told she was not than a media personality and for that I was prejudiced against her. Instead, thank you: this is the last production I take part in before retirement, and it is a pleasure to have been able to change my notice”.

Thus, even the most difficult obstacles can be overcome. Now for sexism.

“I never got over it. But traveling and discovering different cultures helped me. In France, nobody notices if you are a man or a woman, only if you are good or not conductor. Indicate”.

To tell Frankenstein Jr.

It can be done. But you see the differences. With the orchestra of Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne and with the orchestra of Avignon Provence it’s fun, but we work hard. In Italy, on the other hand, you almost have the impression that culture only develops if you stay serious, woe to laugh or have fun. There’s this idea that if you’re not boring enough, then what you’re doing isn’t serious..

Italy has always been a musical advance, but are we still behind socio-culturally?

“In academia, they always point to me as if I’m a ‘commodity’ of entertainment and they turn their noses up. As if I were a force bluff, a continuous “not enough”. It does not happen abroad”.

Perhaps the fact that she is also very beautiful doesn’t help…to overcome certain prejudices.

“Being beautiful is a problem. In people’s eyes you read a kind of ‘you broke up huh, you want to be prepared, beautiful and successful? It’s too much, you can’t.’ To do that, I have to be much more prepared than a male colleague.”

“In Cagliari, when I started in a high-level lyrical foundation. It’s a reputable and quality orchestra, but not easily malleable, you have to conquer them with sweat. And until the previous performance there was not even an audience, for fear of the Covid. Then it was our turn and the audience was overwhelmed: it was the moment when I felt the taste of victory for the first time. Especially afterwards, in the dressing room, with the musicians who came to tell me “we can’t wait to see you among us”.

And when is she forced to go into battle?

“It happens with some first violins, those who dream of being conductors and cannot. I think back to the beginning of 2020, when a violinist of name, from a major orchestra, addressed me in such a condescending way that he said “don’t worry, I think I I’m a man and I’m bigger than you”. I could let it be and stay calm, lose my authority. Or go into battle. My vein closed and I wanted to eat it. But a director didn’t must never transcend, authority is not manifested by a raised voice. Keeping his composure as he tried to provoke me drove him mad: he got up and left. I kept working with others who came to apologize for him. I had brought the rest of the orchestra from mine, marginalizing the harassing subject. He had a fit of hysteria, me a concert”.

Is there only music in your life?

“I have a partner, Juan, and we plan to expand. But keeping work and family together will be a challenge. Not all men are ready to accept that I am absent for long periods of time and as open-minded as we are, certain role reversals are not easy to accept. But I was lucky”.

You can be a good mother and a good professional together.

“I still have in my heart a singer who during the Manon Lescaut at the Goldoni in Livorno in 2017 he said to me: Beatrice, you will surely be a good mother, you can see how you take care of us and the orchestra”.

Does Juan help her overcome all the obstacles she encounters in her work?

“He knows the rituals of orchestras, he deals with economy but has become a fine observer of the dynamics between artists, he knows how to perceive the air inside the halls. He said to me: we always start with a “but what does that mean?” to go to a “she might be fine but she’s still a nice woman, so it’s not good” and end with “insist and insist, you have them”.

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April 25, 2022 | 07:24


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