While Zedda’s mother encouraged him to take every opportunity to broaden his cultural horizons, his father, a deeply religious office worker who saw artists as a dubious breed, was less enthusiastic about a possible musical career for his son. Finally, he came round to his son’s vocation, because he was a man who had his passions too: ‘My father was passionate about mountains, even becoming a mountain guide. When I was four, he put me on skis, and when I was 17 we climbed the Matterhorn together at a time before everyone started doing it. Mountains give you a different sense of scale, which helped me a great deal when it came to music.’
Zedda is himself a man driven by passions. ‘Even today I still have the enthusiasm of a neophyte. All music excites me, not just my own repertoire. At home, I play Bach, Chopin, Ravel on the piano. This enthusiasm is in me and it becomes energy: that is how I can still conduct today with the same energy I had 40 years ago. I need music, both physically and intellectually. Sometimes people ask me if I take cocaine, but it is music that gives me my strength. The downside is that it makes me a bit disorganized … rather like my education—disorganized, but eclectic.’
While at secondary school, Zedda—who says he was a combination of ‘a child and a research student’ at the time—preferred older company and threw himself into a series of enthusiasms, with varying success. It was hardly surprising that philosophy became his chosen study at university. ‘I would read a book of 300 or 400 pages in a day. I probably didn’t read very thoroughly, but something remained with me. I would like to re-read those books today, but I don’t have time.’ In the postwar years Zedda became one of the few musicians to have a real literary culture, versed as he was in the works of Goethe, Shakespeare, Cervantes and the great philosophers.
■ Home from home: the Teatro Rossini in Pesaro