Ettore Volontieri started his career as artist manager on October 15, 1989. Here he is looking back on his last thirty years in business:
Thirty years later
1989: Herbert von Karajan had died that summer, while Leonard Bernstein was still active despite his age, Mstislav Rostropovich had reached the peak of his international career, the Berlin wall was about to collapse. The era of the mobile communication was just at its beginning, the fax machine an innovative tool to replace the noisy and heavy telex, internet still to appear.
October 15, 1989: at the age of 25, just after having completed my studies at the Università Cattolica of Milan and discussed my dissertation on the methods of singing in the first half of the XIX century, I took a train from Milan Central Station to reach Montecarlo for the first day of work as assistant of one of the most controversial characters in the classical music industry, Valentin Proczynski. For two and a half years, I have been running around the world to assist artists such as «Slava» Rostropovich, Lorin Maazel, Georges Prêtre, but mainly coordinating the tours of the Mariinsky Theatre conducted by the young and talented Valery Gergiev. After having moved to work for Mario Dradi, the man who produced the famous concert of the Three Tenors at Caracalla and became the best seller in classical music ever, I assisted him for about three years producing three fascinating «Christmas in Vienna» events featuring artists as Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Charles Aznavour.
But soon I felt I wanted to become independent to realize my own ideas. I moved to Milan to collaborate with Antonio Gnecchi Ruscone, still one of my closest friends, with a small bunch of artists, among them the Mariinsky Theatre with Valery Gergiev and the great Armenian tenor Gegam Grigorian, who was the first artist I signed for General Management. Then, in March 1995, I met the artist who changed my professional life, the conductor Gianandrea Noseda and his great wife Lucia, two people who soon became family for me. In February 1997, I founded my own company Artists Management & Production in Milan, realizing some of the most successful projects of my professional life: Three «From Rome to St. Petersburg» festivals in partnership with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, «Parsifal in Ravello», the «White Nights in Milan», the monumental «War and Peace» by Prokofiev at Teatro alla Scala, the opening events for the 100th anniversary of the death of Giuseppe Verdi in January 2001. However, by the end of the year I had to dissolve the company: lack of experience, too risky projects, unreliable partners… I still had a lot to learn. I decided to focus on the artists management and – thanks to the support and the worldwide success of Gianandrea Noseda – I was able to restart building my activities from ground zero… I am deeply thankful to all the artists who trusted in my work and my vision, starting from Gianandrea Noseda but also Yutaka Sado, Alexander Toradze, Karen Durgaryan until Daniele Rustioni, who joined my agency at the age of 24 in 2007. In 2009, I moved to Switzerland and in 2014 merged with Artists Management Company Ltd. in Zurich with my roster of artists, creating the Artists Management Department of AMC. I believe I have now reached the ideal structure to allow my ideas and my way of working to develop in the best possible way. French conductor Jérémie Rhorer joined us in April 2017, almost at the same time as the Italian senior conductor Donato Renzetti, the teacher of Gianandrea Noseda, thus allowing me to represent three generations of Italian conductors, all connected in the great Italian school of conducting. This makes me very proud. The most recent development of my career is the worldwide representation of Alevtina Ioffe, the first woman conductor in my artist roster.
October 15, 2019: the world has been changing fast in the last years; internet has become the most important tool of our industry, until the recent developments of the social media, who are apparently taking a pivotal role in building the career of an artist. I still believe that – beside all possible marketing activities – the quality of the artist and the respect of his talent is the determinant factor of a career and shall remain at the core of our work: even in a more and more marketing oriented industry, I keep the quality of the «product» as a central factor of success. Moreover, the human qualities of an artist are the reason why I still wish – after 30 years – to spend most of my life serving them and building their success. I own many apologies to my four children Federico, Jacopo, Anastasia and Caterina for the time I was unable to spend with them instead, wishing all of them to find a job that could feed their lives as much as my job has filled mine.