Photo by Malcolm Laudi
Pinner Ian Peter Bugeja, is a full-time Maltese performer, conductor and keyboard player, who travels to world-renowned cities inspiring audiences with his musical talent. Read about how Ian got started and why he enjoys making music with young professionals.
Hi Ian Peter! First of all, would you share with us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hello! Well, my name is Ian Peter Bugeja and I hail from the Mediterranean island of Malta. I am currently based in the UK. I am a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, where I read for an MMus in orchestral and opera conducting under the tutelage of conductor-in-residence David Jones (while there I was generously supported by the Janatha Stubbs Foundation). I previously studied piano and theory of music with Maria Dolores Amodio and Stephanie Quintano Lauri respectively, before furthering my musical studies at the University of Malta – reading for a B.A. (Hons.) degree in Music (major in piano performance and conducting), mainly studying with Michael Laus. In September 2013, I will be commencing my doctoral studies on the DMus course at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London.
As a keyboard player, I was invited to perform in Damascus (Syria), and have also performed throughout the United Kingdom; I was also a prize-winner during the fourth edition of the international piano competition Concorso pianistico W.A. Mozart, which was held in Italy. I specialise in historical performance, regularly taking on the double role of conductor and soloist with various seventeenth and eighteenth-century keyboard (harpsichord/fortepiano) concertos; I also conduct early instrumental music and operas from keyboard.
In the past, I have worked with a number of groups and orchestras that include the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Orion Symphony Orchestra, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, RWCMD Chamber Orchestra, REPCo Orchestra, and the ‘Wales International Academy of Voice (Saturday Academy)’. Operas in which I have featured as main conductor and assistant conductor include Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor (Teatru Manoel, September 2012), Salieri’s Prima la musica e poi le parole (Teatru Manoel, September 2012), Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus (RWCMD, March 2011), Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (RWCMD, March 2012), Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (Mid-Wales Opera, September 2011), and the Mascagni-Leoncavallo Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci double-bill (Teatru Manoel, March 2013).
I have recently performed for HRH Prince Edward of Windsor, Earl of Wessex, and other distinguished guests at Palazzo Parisio in Malta for a World Fellows dinner (Duke of Edinburgh event).
Forthcoming engagements as conductor and keyboard player include chamber music concerts in Cardiff, London, and in Istanbul with Broschi Ensemble, as well as symphonic and operatic concerts in Bath, Berlin, and Malta with Les Bougies Baroques and as part of the ‘Valletta International Baroque Festival’ (January 2014).
Photo by Francis Micallef
You must have grown up with a keen ear for music, so when did you start playing the keyboard?
I started playing the keyboard when I was six. At the risk of sounding incredibly verbose, music has always been something that reaches deep down to my soul. It is the reason I breathe and wake up ready to face the day every morning. It is very hard for me to imagine a life without music.
Photo by Francis Micallef
Much of your time is spent playing beautiful music or conducting concerts around the world, so how do you use Pinterest in your day-to-day activities?
I am constantly busy traveling and performing, but I find that Pinterest is something that grounds me in my manic day-to-day activities. It is also indispensable to me as a collection of visual references. You see, when it comes to baroque operas (and certain concerts in which there is a particularly creative visual element) I am not only the music director – I am also the stage director, and I design the costumes and sets. Pinterest is therefore incredibly useful as it serves as an easily accessible interactive collection of historic (as well as current) visual references – visual references without which my product would not be as three-dimensional as it is.
I love working with young talented professionals because it provides one with a scenario that encourages intimate music-making, which in turn generates a fresh product that is teeming with life and character. One of the main reasons why I love early music and conducting from keyboard so much is that early music and the practice of conducting from keyboard both encourage intimate musical interaction – with a particular brand of communication passing between the music director who is directing from keyboard (who is actively making music with everyone else) and the players.
Photo by Malcolm Laudi
Aside from being a talented conductor and player, you’re also a vocal coach. Can you tell us about this?
Since I am an opera conductor, it is of course of the utmost importance that one fully understands how the human voice works, what it can do, and what is bad for it. However, that being said, I must point out that a vocal teacher and a vocal coach are very different. Vocal teachers focus on vocal technique and health, while vocal coaches focus on the interpretation of the music – namely the aspects of language and style. A vocal coach must therefore have a working knowledge of vocal technique and what vocal teachers would have worked on with the singer/s in question, as well as in depth historical knowledge of the music and language.
Last year, I had the honour of musically preparing internationally-acclaimed countertenor Max Cencic in Vienna in anticipation of the release of his new album ‘Venezia’ with the record-label Virgin (this album was released in January 2013). This musical preparation involved coaching and writing the ‘Da Capos’ (decorations added when singing repeats in baroque arias) for his album. This musical preparation with Max was pretty intense, as it was the most high-profile coaching I had ever undertaken – but I enjoyed every minute of it while doing a good job, as I do love new challenges!
Photo by Alexander Vann
If you could go back in time and play with any composer found in your ‘Composers I Love’ board, who would this be and why?
I could no sooner pick a favourite star in the heavens… However, I can certainly tell you that the top three candidates would be Mozart, Haydn, and Bach. Mozart for his unabashed humanity and unparalleled genius, Haydn for his tasteful humour and gorgeous sound-worlds, and Bach for momentarily letting us taste the divine here on earth.
Photo by Anastasiya Kryvanos