Artist Interview Series: Maestro Steven Jarvi

This is your seventh consecutive season conducting our opera -- you must really like working with Charlottesville Opera!

I love working here in Charlottesville! It’s become a summer home for me and my family. I’m so very proud of the musical growth that I’ve been able to witness and be a part of over my time here and every summer only gets better! It’s always a thrill for me to find out what amazing talent Michelle Krisel has found for us for the coming summer and this Rigoletto cast is certainly no exception. I also must add that I love working with the orchestra we have put together and developed over the years. The players come from incredible orchestras all across the country and LOVE Charlottesville. The pit is part of the Charlottesville Opera family and the audiences certainly respond accordingly. This opera company is a complete experience for me musically and personally and I will never take that for granted.

Does conducting Verdi's Rigoletto offer particular challenges and rewards?

Rigoletto is perfection! This opera was Verdi’s favorite and certainly one of my favorite in the repertoire. The challenges in this piece come from the fact we have very little historic knowledge of performance practice of this time period. In other words, we’re not quite sure how Verdi wanted to sound like based on the norms of the day. On the other hand, there are many traditions in this piece and sorting out what is the best dramatic choice musically and dramatically must be approached thoughtfully. This opera along with La Traviata and Il Trovatore represent a glorious middle period for Verdi. this is music that bridges the gap between bel canto and the more through composed style he adopts in Otello and Falstaff. Fancy words and references aside - this is important music and has an emotional impact that you will never forget. This is also the first time I have performed this opera since having a daughter (my lovely Alice). Just like having a young son made my experience with Madame Butterfly very emotional several seasons past, I now cannot help but imagine if Gilda were my own dear little girl.

 You are the former Resident Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony and Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony.  How does conducting symphony differ from conducting opera?

The world of opera and symphonic life are VERY different. A symphony orchestra plays many, MANY concerts a year and so there is always an awareness of the clock. Time is money and musical clarity and efficiency is paramount. An opera takes place over a much longer period of time and the product ultimately can feel more personal. My wife calls opera rehearsals “opera camp” because we all become a little family over our time together. The storytelling and production elements that come into play make opera not only the ultimate art form, but also just a lot more touchy-feely than the orchestra world. I always tell my friends that we begin an orchestra rehearsal with an “A” at exactly 10 AM and we start an opera rehearsal with five minutes of hugs and kisses. Having a balance of both in my life is important and both come with different stresses and challenges.


How do you juggle a career and home life with two small, adorable children?
Speaking of balance and challenges….Juggling between being family and career becomes the great challenge for most musicians and especially the long stints of travel often involved in opera. I am so lucky to have a superhero wife, Joanne Brownstein Jarvi, who works remotely to allow her to be able to travel with me when necessary. This past season we traveled for work several different times and even all lived in a Residence Inn for a month while I conducted Le Nozze di Figaro in North Carolina. It has been a wonderful experience for Noah and Alice - they love to explore new places and love Charlottesville. We take them up to the mountains and try to make the most of the time traveling together. In the summer, we are the musical Griswalds and pack up every inch of the car, driving around the country for the summer, visiting friends and making music - I can’t think of anything better.  Currently, I’m just trying to be as present at home when I’m not traveling as possible and cherish every moment with them until the next week when I get the musical privilege of traveling to a great city and making music for a living.