Justin Pambianchi, Conductor and Pianist
Justin Pambianchi will conduct Le Comte Ory with OCB on Saturday, December 3, 2016. Originally from Montreal, he is a young and versatile conductor at the outset of his professional career. He has served as a répétiteur and assistant conductor for Don Giovanni, La bohème, La gazza ladra, Sweeney Todd and other operas in North America and Europe. He has also played continuo in operas and instrumental works by Handel, Campra and others. A strong advocate of contemporary music, he has recently collaborated with Donald Crockett and James Mobberley. A former Glimmerglass young artist, Justin will be on Sarasota Opera’s music staff for their 2017 season.
How did you get into Opera?
When I first started listening to and falling in love with the music of Mozart, I discovered opera. The Da Ponte works were some of the first operas I ever heard and they are three of my favorite pieces. From there I went on to discover Rossini, another great passion of mine, then bel canto and Italian opera in general.
What, in your opinion, makes OCB unique?
I am completely new to OCB – this is my first production with them. However, it should be said that any company that is willing to put on “Le comte Ory” is one that is not afraid of challenges or risks. This is a very tricky and daunting piece to do.
How do you relax when not on stage?
I do lots of reading – in fact, the minute I finish a book I start a new one! I also jog to keep sane, and that has actually helped me loads with performance anxiety. Cooking – when done well – can also be quite therapeutic!
Do you have any advice for other conductors?
Yes, perhaps if only for conductors who are younger than me (because older and/or more experienced conductors already know this). Learn as much music as possible. Learn all of it and learn it well. You’ll never get through everything that’s out there, but as you get more engagements you will find it difficult to keep up with how much repertoire you need to learn very quickly. Another bit of advice is to observe rehearsals as often as you can. In fact, learn the rep for a given rehearsal before you go and observe: you’ll get much more out of your experience.
What are your dream operas?
I haven’t done “Così fan tutte” yet, which would definitely be on my bucket list, along with “Elektra” and Verdi’s “Otello”. I would also love to do a “Damnation de Faust” eventually.
Which colleagues do you admire?
If we are talking about living conductors, then I would definitely count Gianandrea Noseda and Riccardo Muti among my favorites. However calling them colleagues may be misleading, as I’ve only met but have never worked with either.
Coming back to my bucket list from question 5, I would single out “Così” and “Otello” because they are such powerful and dramatic pieces that are relevant to us in so many ways, even centuries after they were created. Another favorite composer of mine, as I’ve mentioned, is Rossini, whom I find is tremendously undervalued. The energy, vivacious momentum and spontaneity that you find in his music are absolutely jarring. There really isn’t another composer quite like him.
Which character (not in your voice range) would you most like sing and why?
Well, I’m no singer, but had I the choice to be one today I’d wish I was a tenor so I could sing some of the crazy bel canto stuff with crazy high notes and coloratura like Idreno, Tonio or Ramiro. I’m just so impressed when people sing these roles well and make them sound effortless.
What other music do you listen to?
Anything jazz, particularly Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. I’m also very intrigued whenever I hear or listen to non-Western music.
Do you read books/watch movies to prepare for a role?
I believe watching movies and reading books enriches our lives anyways, so I bring whatever knowledge I have of film and literature to any piece of music that I approach. I read and watch films regardless of the rep I’m learning, but often I do go out and do “extra reading” to enhance my preparation (for example, reading about Napoleon when working on Beethoven).
How do you balance a career with a life offstage?
Finding time for myself to unwind is essential, but I also find that having a social life helps find a balance. Being a conductor can sometimes be rather solitary and the company of others can be so refreshing.
How do you unwind after a performance?
It depends on how the performance goes and how tired I am. Often I like going out with friends and colleagues, but sometimes it’s nice to just go home, take it easy and get your mind busy with something non music-related.
The dreaded question: Have you ever appeared in Phantom of the Opera?
Not yet – but who knows what the future has in store?
Opera Company of Brooklyn Presents: Le Comte Ory on Saturday, December 3 from 7 PM to 9:45 PM at 600 W 218th Street, 1 G, NY, NY 10034. Tickets are a suggested donation of $20 in advance, $40 day of and can be reserved online here. For more information about the production and cast, click here.