Passion and Fire: Roberto Fiore on transformative power of tango music

Arina Yakupova
Arina Yakupova speaks with Italian conductor about the world of tango music, which predates the Argentine dance that spread across the world.
Arina Yakupova

Shot by Zhou Shengjie, Yu Wenhao. Edited by Arina Yakupova. Reported by Arina Yakupova. Subtitles by Wang Xinzhou.

I met the Italian conductor Roberto Fiore a few days before his main concert, "Tango: Passion and Fire," in the vibrant city of Shanghai. During our conversation, Roberto illuminated the intricate world of tango, distinguishing it from classical music with its necessity for experiential practice and deep emotional engagement. He shared how tango's essence transcends the music score, requiring a visceral understanding often cultivated through dance, even though the music predates its famous dance form. For Roberto, tango embodies a complex array of passions and life's profound depths, a philosophy he has embraced since his transformative experiences studying Astor Piazzolla's works in Argentina. He passionately discussed the role of passion in creativity, suggesting that it evolves and expands our boundaries. His ultimate hope is for the audience to leave his concert with a cherished memory, having felt the profound beauty, sorrow, and passion that tango uniquely conveys.

Arina: How does conducting tango differ from classical music?

Roberto: Well, that's a really nice question, because tango music is a kind of music that I can define as practical music, so not everything is on the music score. That is really important because if you don't know how to practice the tango music, of course, and then you give a look to the music score, you cannot really re-perform it. You cannot really realize what is the real way to play tango, to perform tango. So the big change for me was that every different kind of music needs focused research, and it's not just based on what we can study on paper.

Arina: So it's important to experience inside tango?

Roberto: Exactly.

Arina: Dancing?

Roberto: Dancing is a big part, and actually these are really nice things that we don't really know because tango probably went out of Argentina through the idea of dancing, but tango music kind of existed before the dancing. There was not a real coexistence in Argentina. Many people can dance, of course, because it's the main national, I don't know, kind of dance. But also many people do not dance, they just go listen to tango concerts, and here is why our concert is a little bit special because there are not so many tango concerts, even in this beautiful, amazing city that is Shanghai. And so, yes, for sure we have to feel it. This is the main thing!

Arina: What does tango mean to you? For example, for me, tango is a heartbeat of soul, full of passion and sorrow. What about you?

Roberto: Well, tango ... It's a really complex definition for me. There are many things in life that maybe are easy, and there are many things in life that we have to achieve. And for sure, tango and the way the vision specifically of Astor Piazzolla in tango is really, really, really deep. So, for me, there is not just maybe one word, but a category of words. The description, the concept, the philosophy behind tango and tango music is usually to feel, right, and to feel the passion. But not just that kind of passion or not one specific passion, maybe a passion for life mainly.

Arina: Talking about passion, passion is certainly important for creativity, but are boundaries important for it? And is it possible to have boundaries for a creative person, what do you think?

Roberto: Passion is really important for everyone, I think, and to have passion for our life is important for someone that creates a project and the music and art in general. I think it's really hard because we care. And the more we care, the more we love, the more we love, the more we have passion for what we do. And absolutely, this is something that people who do music and, of course, tango need to feel. I don't know, then, after that, how this, you know, you mentioned boundaries, but this is something that maybe also changes us. The passion for something, the passion for music, and the passion for what we do absolutely changes us. So maybe we slowly transform ourselves to become more, probably, yeah, more, more passionate persons, right? In a really specific way, it's really passion.

Arina: How did tango transform you?

Roberto: I was living in Argentina in 2010, and I started to have my scholarships, or then I had studies and concerts. And after a while, I started to study Piazzolla's music and specifically "Maria de Buenos Aires," which is one tango opera that he wrote, really beautiful, amazing. So, I think tango changed me in a way to be a person that enlarged, as maybe my vision was more narrow before. And then to discover the beauty, it can be everywhere, it's not just in the classical. It is also really beautiful, of course, but there are many, many kinds of beauty that are really, really important.

Arina: How do you think, can passion last long?

Roberto: Well, this is actually our challenge. And for sure, in this many of almost 20 years of activities – conductor, orchestra, and composer, and artistic director – this continuous willingness to do something more beautiful, to put the challenge and the result of this challenge higher, more forward, more looking to something that must be better. That is for sure something that helps passion because it's our passion for everything. I think, even for personal matters, to have something bigger and better is always a good opportunity to continue to work and love.

Arina: What would you like the audience to take away from your concert?

Roberto: What I want our audience to bring home from our concert is, I think, some different feelings and some beautiful experiences. So at the same time, I would like them to feel this passion, this sorrow, this melancholy feeling that is bringing us to more beauty, but also to be involved in this really wonderful sound and the images and the orchestra, of course. And for us, it's really important – this is actually why we do this – we want our audience to go back home with a little gift, and this gift is maybe a memory, a memory of a beautiful experience. We don't really have any other goals, but what we really want is that those who come to our concert have a really rich evening, and then go back home and maybe think and say, oh, I had a really nice evening tonight!

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