After visiting the Arena in the beautiful city of Verona some 20 years ago, I have been fascinated by not only its history but its use today as one of the most spectacular opera venues that you will ever visit. Built nearly 2,000 years ago, this outdoor amphitheatre could accommodate over 30,000 spectators, attracting audiences from across the Roman Empire.
What would it be like to work here as Principal Trumpet with its resident orchestra? Well Massimo Longhi knows! He has held this position for 25 years now and has kindly shared his thoughts with us.
What got you started on trumpet?
The trumpet came into my life at 10, my grandfather and my uncle played in my family in the village band.
Who and what were your biggest early musical influences?
Certainly, Maurice Andre was decisive, and then the opera, which still fascinates me and stimulates me, and has opened me up to an incredible world and has influenced my way of playing.
Which trumpeters today do you enjoy listening to?
The one and only… Wynton Marsalis
How did joining the ‘Arena di Verona Orchestra’ come about?
The Verona Arena Orchestra is a full-time orchestra that carries out the summer festival in the Arena from May to September and the rest of the year is produced in the beautiful Teatro Filarmonico of the city (18th century theatre) with operas, concerts and ballets.
In 1993 I won the competition for the position of the first trumpet, and have been there ever since.
The Arena in Verona is one of my favourite places to visit! Was it difficult to adjust to playing outdoors instead of a traditional concert hall environment? Are there any things that you do different technically on the trumpet when playing outdoors?
Every year when we start work in the Arena we need a little bit of acoustic adjustment, the ear has to get used to it. Technically we think we are playing better, rather than stronger, the best thing is to imitate the voice of the singers and to think of projecting the sound. The less force use, the more the sound projects and sings. I do not need use any different equipment for playing in this environment.
Are there any favourite memories or highlights from your time so far in the orchestra, that you would like to share?
Today, just as 24 years ago, when I started working in the Arena, the most incredible thing is the moment of silence that precedes the director’s gesture that starts the show and I can assure you that the silence of 15,000 people is magical!
What projects have you got going on at the moment?
In addition to the orchestra, I have been a conductor for some time. Here is an association that organises my master class concerts and competitions – www.associazionemusicalepozzoli.com
What are the most important things for young aspiring trumpet players to remember?
That the study and the continuous work on the instrument will give the best results, playing an instrument on a professional level means dedicating oneself to it every day. It’s a bit like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it!
What gear are you playing on?
I am a Yamaha artist and I use their trumpets but the mouthpiece for the trumpet player is incredibly important! I play Frate Precision mouthpieces.
What are the benefits that you have found after changing to your Frate Precision mouthpieces?
The first time I tried them I was struck by how they responded to my ideal sound. It may seem strange but since I use it I have not had any problems with my lips. I also liked having the opportunity to develop some ideas with Dario and I must say that today I am extremely pleased!
Can you tell us a little about the process involved with selecting your mouthpiece?
Choosing a mouthpiece is not simple but if we base the choice mainly on the sound we want, it is easier to achieve. Personally, I have to be satisfied with the sound first, and then later I looked for variations on the edge of the rim and the throat that help me to smooth out any imperfections.
Massimo plays on the following model of mouthpiece: Classic Model 2-M-3-106. For further information, please visit Frate Precision.
US and International readers can see the range of Frate Precision trumpet mouthpieces at Thompson Music.
You can find out more about Dario Frate in this interview.
You can read about fellow Frate Precision artist, Fabrizio Bosso in this interview.