Stefano Bollani the half-empty glass doesn’t even know what it is. He smiles in the face of everything. «And this is not a joke, eh! – the pianist said – Every evening I have to stage the death of Jesus ». Even the famous line of Frankenstein Junior “it could be worse, it could rain”, he overturns it by one hundred and eighty degrees: “The other night it started to rain while I was performing the Hosanna, the scene of the musical in which the faithful carry Christ in triumph , and we couldn’t finish the evening. Could it have been worse? Well, we looked at each other in the eyes with the public and we thought: come on, it’s almost better, from a certain point of view, at least he won’t die tonight ». Here it is, Stefano Bollani’s new adventure lived as always with irony and talent: to return in a piano solo version, without a voice, without other musicians, without anything, one of the most loved and acclaimed musicals ever: Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Next Wednesday (21 July) he will bring this new Piano Variations on Jesus Christ Superstar project to the stage of the Musart Festival in piazza della Santissima Annunziata. Which is an elegant way of saying that «I sit at the piano and start playing, maintaining the same structure of the rock opera but every now and then I stop to pick flowers. In short, I digress. I get distracted. I play with it, I go around it. How I love this little game! I disassemble and reassemble Jesus Christ, every evening in a different way, to always have a different path to follow. Because every evening I pick the little flowers that are born on the spot, and they are always different flowers ». Same spirit as always. Same approach as a playful performer. Whether it is the Bollani “Carioca” of fifteen years ago, the “Danish” Bollani of ten or the “Neapolitan” one of five. He takes something “sacred”, in this case an epic musical, and transforms it in his own image and likeness through the magic of an original interpretation that is not simply pianistic. The night before he will be the opening artist of the Jazz & Wine festival in Montalcino, for a classic jazz concert, in trio. Al Musart will be alone. “I chose the shape of the top only because basically a love story is told, the one between the rock opera and me – he explains with a smile – And love stories grow in beauty if they remain intimate”. And therefore away all tinsel. Taking some risks. Because «this is not just a Jesus Christ without a voice – he continues – He is without everything: without rock band, without orchestra, without choir, without singers. So the emphasis must necessarily shift to the beauty of Lloyd Webber’s harmonies and music, stripped of everything and restored to their essence. This is the real challenge: being able to tell this beautiful story in spite of everything … putting the death of Jesus to music is a cathartic experience ».
It is not just a question of character, personality, attitude, which makes Stefano Bollani capable of joking and laughing at everything, of playing with everything. The fortune of having passed unscathed, or better than many others, from the pandemic period also played a role in all this.. “Which was pretty much like staying at home, but surrounded by friends, with the doors open, playing together and having fun,” he says. Thanks to his wife, the actress Valentina Cenni. Who “rebuilt our house in a television studio”, that of Rai where their music program was broadcast and not just Via dei matti n.0. He didn’t stop for a moment: radio, television, and «I wrote the soundtrack for the TV series about Renato Carosone». More than a lockdown, Bollani lived an “almost spiritual experience” which started with the idea of ”making a virtue necessity” and therefore if you couldn’t play live, you might as well return to television, despite the fact that the latest experiences hadn’t left him. all satisfied.
“The secret was to accept what was coming – he says – Ride the wave”. IS the result was “very different from other television programs, with another warmth and color, especially for the presence of Valentina who has recreated a warm place that looks a lot like our home: when there are two of you thinking and designing something, it is very different. Like the choice of having a guest park selected almost exclusively from real friends: except for five or six, those who would normally attend our house came on the air. In a sense, we took advantage of the program to see each other, since in reality it was not possible. And so during the pandemic I was able to play with many people ».
This beginning of Stefano Bollani’s return to life “live” was however marred by news that saddened him not a little: the resignation of the musician and musicologist Franco Caroni from the direction of Siena Jazz, due to misunderstandings and conflicts with the municipal administration. Bollani regrets: «Siena Jazz is Franco Caroni. Like Umbria Jazz he is Carlo Pagnotta. It is a shame to let him resign in such a bitter way – he thinks – It is not an isolated case of politics that is ingested in culture, these things have been seen since the dawn of time. Politics often wants to get their paws into music. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, the point is how he puts them in there ».