The stage at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre auditorium, where Swiss-born music conductor Charles Dutoit rehearses with the orchestra that he is performing with for the first time, resembles a set of a big budget Hollywood production.
Dutoit stands on the stage with his back facing the empty chairs in the auditorium, his knees resting on a high wooden stool. He animatedly talks to the musicians, taps his foot on almost every beat and even loudly sings musical notes to the cello players, violinists and the flautists.
There is a deathly silence in the hall, we’ve never seen people so well behaved in an auditorium in recent times. Each time our camera person’s shutter makes a sound, we all skip a heartbeat, it’s the sheer fear of public embarrassment at the hands of an eccentric genius. The fear is not unfounded. His illustrious five decade-long career with the most renowned orchestras in the world as a music conductor and his sheer dominating stage presence can tame the most confident rogue in the city, the crowd at the NCPA is much easier to deal with, we’d like to believe.
The Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, and the Conductor Laureate of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the US, is one of the world’s most sought after music conductors.
At 76, after earning 40 international awards and distinctions, including two Grammy Awards and visiting 196 countries and delivering 120 to 130 concerts each, Dutoit doesn’t look like a tired man. “Well, it’s the nature of my job. Why will a person not have energy? Don’t you have energy?” he asks during a short interaction with this writer. Dutoit has visited India on personal trips several times, “I’ve been to Kashmir, Ladakh and to Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the South of India and also to Kolkata. I find India quite fascinating,” he says.
This, however, is the first time he gets to stay in Mumbai for a week. “It’s quite a luxury to stay here (in Mumbai) for a week.
Yesterday, I wanted to go out and there were so many people on the streets around the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (he was talking about Sunday, the seventh day of Ganesh immersion),” he says breaking into a rare laugh. “I am working with this orchestra for the first time and I am looking forward to the concert,” he adds. We’re certain the audience in Mumbai is also looking forward to a rare concert from the maestro. If what we witnessed today was any indication, the concert will be nothing short of overwhelming and awe inspiring.
Charles Dutoit will conduct the SOI on September 20 and 21 at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA.
Read a full and exclusive interview with Charles Dutoit in dna’s feature pull Just Before Monday on September 22