• The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Maestro Daniele Gatti

    We are honored to have been granted an exclusive interview with one of the most prominent conductors in activity, Maestro Daniele Gatti. [Opera Lively interview # 66]

    Artist: Daniele Gatti
    Field: Symphonic and Operatic Conductor
    Born in: Milan, Italy
    Website: http://www.danielegatti.eu/
    Recently in:
    Cycle Brams with the Wiener Philharmoniker in Vienna, Madrid, Barcelona, Turin, Verona, Köln, Bratislava, September-October 2012
    Mahler with the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, October 2012
    Beethoven, Waksman, Khoury, Connesson, Zavaro, Montavani with the Orchestre National de France, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris
    Next in:
    Verdi's Messa da Requiem, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston, January 17, 18, 19, 2013, featuring Cedolins, Gubanova, Sartori, Colombara. Tickets [here]
    Wagner's Parsifal, Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, February 15, 18, 21, 27; March 2, 5, 8, 2013, featuring Dalayman, Kaufmann, Mattei, Nikitin, Pape. Tickets [here]

    Artistic Biography


    © Frei Marco dos Santos

    Daniele Gatti graduated in composition and conducting from the Academy of Music of his native Milan.

    He has been Music Director of the Orchestre National de France since September 2008, and was Chief Conductor of Opernhaus Zürich for three years, from 2009 through 2012. He is also Conductor Laureate of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (of which he was Music Director from 1996 to 2009). He was appointed Music Director both at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna (1997-2007) and at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome (1992-1997), and Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London (1994-1997).

    Maestro Gatti has a close relationship with two of the very finest orchestras in the world, the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, by being present in their concert seasons and conducting them on the occasion of their many tours abroad. He also conducts the most important American and German orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the Münchner Philhrmoniker and the Philharmonia Orchestra.

    In terms of his operatic output, Daniele Gatti has conducted many new productions at the Staatsoper Wien (Simon Boccanegra, Moses und Aron, Otello, Boris Godunov), at the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich (Aida and Fidelio), at the Opernhaus Zürich (Falstaff, Otello, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Mathis der Maler), at La Scala (Lohengrin, Wozzeck, Lulu, and Don Carlo; the latter, for the opening of the 2008-2009 season), and the Royal Opera House (Falstaff). He conducted Elektra at the Salzburg Festival and also Parsifal, which he repeated in 2008 season for the opening of the Bayreuth Festival, and did again at Bayreuth for the three subsequent years. Recently he was the only Italian conductor to perform an opera at the latest Salzburg Festival: La Bohème, with the Wiener Philharmoniker.

    With the Orchestre National de France he has concluded the cycle of the entire Mahler works at the Théâtre du Châtelet and conducted Parsifal in concert version at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

    Among the most important dates for 2013, on the occasion of the Verdi Bicentennial celebrations he will conduct the Messa da Requiem with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in January, and will repeat the program with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London in April and with the Orchestre National de France in Paris in June.

    Highly anticipated is his February / March 2013 Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. In March, he'll be again in Boston with the Boston Symphony Orchestra with two different programs; one dedicated to Wagner works for the composer's bicentennial, and the other one to Mahler (Symphony No. 3). The same program will be performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City in April.

    In May 2013, on the occasion of the concerts which take place every two years for his residence at Musikverein with the Orchestre National de France and which are dedicated to sacred and symphonic music, the Maestro will be perform works of Rossini (Petite Messe Solennelle), Strawinsky (Petruschka) and Ravel (Concert for the left Hand and Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé).

    With the Orchestre National de France, during a tour in Spain in June 2013, he will conduct works of Verdi and Wagner, always to celebrate the respective anniversaries.

    Maestro Gatti will again open the operatic season at La Scala in December of 2013, with La Traviata.

    He has signed an exclusive contract with Sony Classical, for which the first CD has recently been released, entirely dedicated to Debussy, with the Orchestre National de France.

    Discography

    His latest release is the Sony Classical CD; purchase [here] for $11.99
    2012 - Debussy; La Mer; Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune; Images - CD



    Additional Discography:

    2011 - Verdi; Falstaff - DVD



    2010 - Richard Strauss; Elektra - DVD



    2009 - Debussy; Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien - CD



    2009 - Verdi; Aida - DVD



    2008 - Verdi; Don Carlo - DVD



    2006 - Schönberg; Moses und Aron - DVD



    2006 - Berg; Lulu Suite; Drei Orchestestücke - CD



    2005 - Tchaikovsky; Symphony No. 6; Serenade for Strings - CD



    2005 - Verdi, Messa da Requiem - DVD



    2004 - Tchaikovsky; Symphony No. 4; Cappriccio Italien - CD



    2003 - Tchaikovsky; Symphony No. 5; Romeo et Juliette - CD



    2002 - Verdi; Simon Boccanegra - DVD



    1999 - Mahler; Symphony No. 4; Five Early Songs - CD



    1997 - Mahler; Symphony No. 5 - CD



    1997 - Bartók; Concerto for Orchestra; Divertimento for Springs - CD



    1996 - Resphighi; Feste Romane; Fontane di Roma; Pini di Roma - CD



    1993 - Rossin; Armida - CD



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    To purchase Daniele Gatti products, visit the artist's Amazon.com store [here]
    More products including DVDs can be found [here]

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    Opera Lively's Exclusive Interview with Maestro Gatti

    © Opera Lively - Disclaimer: this exclusive interview is copyrighted by Opera Lively with all rights reserved, and is not to be reproduced without express authorization. Brief excerpts can be used after consultation (use the Contact Us form) as long as proper credit and a link to the full interview on Opera Lively are provided. Links to the interview can be posted without authorization.


    © Abramowitz

    OPERA LIVELY - Maestro Gatti, we greatly admire your work. Thank you for granting us this interview. Your discography is made of about half symphonic pieces, half opera. Please tell us about the differences for you between conducting symphonic pieces, and conducting opera, and how you evolved in your repertoire.

    DANIELE GATTI
    – Of course there is a little bit of difference between operatic and symphonic repertoires. But since my beginnings more than thirty years ago, I’ve always conducted both repertories. The symphonic repertoire is more basic work because conducting opera involves a harder effort in terms of days of rehearsals and so on. I always conducted not more than three opera productions per year.

    I started by conducting Italian bel canto, and then I passed to Puccini and of course, Verdi. I think we can arrive to Verdi through the experience of Italian bel canto, because Verdi started to write his operas in this style, then he found a new way; but his beginnings were in line with the legacy of the great Italian composers Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini.

    After I did Verdi and Puccini, I opened my repertoire to 20th. Century music. I conducted both Berg operas, Lulu and Wozzeck, and then Stravinsky - The Rake’s Progress - and then Richard Strauss – Elektra and Salome. Next, there was my meeting with the great works of Wagner. Now I feel that his music is so close to my heart! It wasn’t a love that started when I was a student: I waited to conduct Wagner’s operas until I was forty. Then, I had the experience of Bayreuth with Parsifal, and I also did Parsifal in Zürich, and in Paris with my orchestra in concert performance. And now, the highlight of my experience will of course be the Parsifal at the Met. So, this was my path for opera.

    On the other hand, the symphonic repertoire has been ongoing for me since I started my activity. I was and still am very close to the Austrian and German repertoires, and now I’ve opened myself to the French repertoire, in my position with the Orchestre National de France.

    OL – So, opera involves more rehearsals than symphonic pieces. Do you feel opera is also harder to conduct, or is it about the same for you?

    DG – I don’t know what you mean by harder.

    OL – I mean, there are many more aspects to get right. One needs to deal with adjusting the dynamics of the orchestra to the singers’ projection, and the pace of the performance to the singers’ agility, and so forth. Maybe it is easier to keep fuller control of an orchestra when you don’t have to worry about the singers, I imagine.

    DG – Oh, no, this is not a problem at all for a professional conductor. There is no control problem when you’ve been doing this professionally for thirty years. People judge an experienced conductor who is not an amateur not on matters of control, but rather as a performer. My interpretation could be interesting for someone, or less interesting for someone else, but it won’t be because of issues with control.

    OL – Are there other hurdles, then?

    DG – When you are conducting symphonic repertoire you are the only one who is responsible for everything. In opera you share the responsibility with the director and the cast. The work is spread out in three or four weeks. The result of the performance is the summation of personal efforts that are put in a basket. So the conductor has to be very cooperative with the director and the director as well must be very cooperative with the conductor.

    This is opera, so the musical side is the most important one, despite the fact that in recent years the side of the theatrical show has become more important, with the stage director taking a bigger share of the program. Sometimes the directors ‘squeeze’ the music. I respect very much the directors, but I respect the singers even more, from the musical standpoint.

    OL – How do you guide the singers? Some singers tell us that certain conductors are “singer’s conductors” and they feel good about them, while others aren’t.

    DG – I start my conducting based on the composer, and I usually work with singers who are very devoted to that. So, it’s very easy to work together. The singers are using their own instruments; they are not playing a violin, they are using their voices. We talk about the characters and about the opera with the cast. It’s like being a régisseur, a film director, because you pick your cast, and it is all done in a happy manner, because they always try to do their best. If a singer can’t do something I’m asking of him or her, I don’t insist. I try to find a solution to the problem. When I arrive at a rehearsal, I don’t say “This is my reading and nobody can say a word.” No, I talk to the singers, and usually I get the most wonderful cooperation from the cast.

    OL – Great. Let’s talk about something else, now. Full operatic studio recordings on CD are becoming rarer, while DVDs and Blu-rays of live performances are becoming more common. Is this a concern? How do you position yourself in this dichotomy?

    DG – I like both. I’ve done studio recordings, like my recent CD released by Sony with the Orchestre National de France, and next year I’ll be releasing more studio recordings of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps and Pétrouchka. Of course in studio you can control every single detail. But my opera recordings that were released in video, like the recent ones such as Falstaff in Zürich or Aida at the Met and the La Bohème that I did in Salzburg last summer – were also very important to me because they are moments that characterize a step in the musical life of an artist. The very sophisticated digital systems used nowadays by the companies allow the technicians to have the best conditions to catch the sounds. I’m very happy about that.

    The video of a live performance is interesting, because it is a moment, in a way, when you can leave a legacy behind you. There is a lot of repertoire already recorded, but it is also true that newer generations of musicians can leave their footprints as well. Everybody knows the famous recordings from conductors for example from the fifties through the eighties, but the music is ongoing; the performances continue to go on, so there will always be space for new recordings. I think it is nice that people at the top level can leave a sort of legacy for posterity through these videos.

    OL - What recordings do you consider to be the gems of your discography? Do you enjoy a couple of specific recordings of yours that you believe were particularly rewarding?

    DG – No, to tell you the truth, I don’t like to listen to my own recordings again. Once they are done, fine; I’m not returning to listen once I’m through with them. [laughs]

    OL – [laughs] I see. But still, can you comment a little bit on some of your operatic DVDs? You did La Bohème, Falstaff, Elektra, Aida, Don Carlo, Moses und Aron, Simon Boccanegra… Are there interesting facts to remember about some of these productions?

    DG – Every single opera I’ve recorded marked a significant step in my life. I can recall Moses und Aron which was of Himalayan proportions for a musician. It was done with the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Staatsoper, and it was a great challenge. I’m very happy about that recording. I can also say that I’m very fond of the Elektra because it was my debut in Salzburg. The Don Carlo is very dear to me because I had the honor of opening the season at La Scala with it in 2008. Every single one of them was like a little son for me. I’m very fond of all of them. I have memories of the moments spent in rehearsal for those productions, and I recall the strong feelings that I went through in those moments.

    OL - Please tell us about the differences between the activity of a guest conductor with an orchestra that is new to you, and being the principal conductor of an orchestra with a long tradition. Let’s break this question in two. First, please tell us about this: You are the Musical Director of the Orchestre National de France, and have held similar positions in many other traditional orchestras, such as the Santa Cecilia in Rome. How do you make sure the tradition continues? Do you have to fit into it, or do you mold the orchestra to your vision?

    DG – This is a complicated question to answer, because when we talk about tradition we are going into a sort of void. Tradition is made by men, but every man is different. The musicians in an orchestra can absorb the tradition from their older colleagues, but the spirit of mankind is changing, since our world is changing. If you listen to an orchestra playing on a recording made sixty or seventy years ago when there were no Internet, cell phones, or supersonic airplanes and life was much calmer, you’ll notice that even the spirit of the musicians was different.

    Today we are just running so fast! Sometimes we consider that tomorrow is already yesterday. I believe that sometimes the musicians themselves are influenced by that, when they choose a tempo. I’ve recently listened to a performance done in very fast tempo. It was not the fast tempi of Toscanini. He was fast, but in his performances, I can breathe. In some performances I listen to, today, I can’t breathe, it’s just speed!

    When you go to an orchestral performance, are you really able to understand what the style of that orchestra is? Of course! If you listen to the Wiener Philharmoniker playing Strauss’ waltzes, they are unique. If you take another orchestra coming from another tradition – a British, or French, or American orchestra – doing that same repertoire of Strauss’ waltzes, they can be great, but the spirit of the music is not in the blood of those musicians; they are just trying to reproduce it.

    A musician’s interpretation, his way of building the colors, is what is important for the style of an orchestra. His rapport with the music will be all the time influenced by this tradition, which in a deep sense I don’t know what it is; it is hard to define but it is there. So, there is a tradition of tempi, but on the other hand, another musician may want to give to the audience a different vision. An orchestra may want to practice a faster tempo; another one may want to go about it much slower. I’m open to all ideas, if the idea is respectful of the soul and the spirit of the music. If someone is betraying the spirit of the music, no, then it is not good.

    Our job is to propose readings to the audience, or even, to propose a question mark. The audience could leave at the end of a concert saying, “Ah, I’ve never listened to this piece this way. I’m not very happy about it, but I’d like to listen to it again; maybe I didn’t understand something.” For me, to collect an opinion like this would be the top of what I’d like to achieve with my performance.

    OL – Hmmm. And the second question on this topic, then, is this: How do you approach musicians who are totally new to you when you guest-conduct? For example, you’ve conducted an orchestra that is said to be among the very best in the world, the Royal Concertgebouw. We wonder if such accomplished musicians are a bit set on their ways and very faithful to their own conductor, Maestro Mariss Jansons. So, when you approach such an orchestra, what are the challenges and hurdles you need to get around to get them to adapt to your style?

    DG – No, no. It’s not a problem. When you are a guest conductor, it means that *they* want to work with you. They have, after all, invited you. When I go as a guest, I’m very happy because they want to invite me and to make music with me. So when I arrive, I’m Daniele Gatti, I’m doing *my* job and proposing *my* readings. When I guest-conduct the Concertgebouw, or the Wiener Philharmoniker, or the Boston Symphony, or the Bayerisher Rundfunk, I know that I’m in front of a top orchestra, but there is a sharing between musicians on that level.

    OL – Very good! Now, let’s contrast and compare your experiences with the Zürich Opera during your 2009-2012 tenure, and that of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, when you were there much earlier. Please tell us about those experiences.

    DG – Bologna is in a way part of the past for me, because I began there in 1997, 98, and for ten years I was Music Director there. It was a small theater, but very productive. I conducted every year three new opera productions, plus symphonic repertoire. Instead in Zürich I was the Chief Conductor, and I conducted two new operatic productions, and two to three symphonic concerts, each season. But my relationship with the Zürich Opera was less tight. I didn’t want to have a tighter relationship with them; they offered me music directorship but I declined and said I just wanted to stay for three years, not more, as Chief Conductor. They accepted and I was able to conduct repertoire that I loved. I had a very nice time with them.

    In Bologna it was a different kind of work. There wasn’t a Music Director there before me, so I had to work very hard with the orchestra, and had to do a very wide repertoire. By contrast in Zürich, it was a different situation; their Music Director had just finished his tenure so I found an orchestra that was already on an excellent level.

    OL – While designing seasons for these houses, what were you trying to accomplish, in terms of the workhorses that fill seats, versus the more adventurous choices?

    DG – There is no easy solution for this. The wise way, is to find a balance. Lots of people want to hear again La Bohème, Tosca, and so on, while other people are more interested in discovering rarer operas. In my opinion, a good manager needs to be able to strike a balance and offer to the audience a wide range of proposals.

    OL - What is your opinion of the movement known as Regietheater, in opera?

    DG – Well, of course this can be seen as a step forward. I start from the music; I’m not literally connected to the libretto. But when a director ignores the music or betrays it, or uses the opera for himself, I’m not interested. I’ve conducted in productions that have new proposals, with directors who are very intelligent and very close to the music, like for instance the Bayreuth Parsifal. But that production started from the music. And then, there was a development based on the genius of the stage director who went in a particular direction, but without losing track of the music, and that’s fine.

    OL – Yes, I agree with you there. Let’s talk about the present state of opera, regarding for instance singers’ looks and the emphasis on image, maybe resulting in a decrease in the talent pool. What are your views on this?

    DG – Well, what I’d like to say to you and to your readers is, ‘Don’t forget the composer!’ The star singers, and we the conductors, are just passing by, but the composers remain. The composers are the ones who are giving us work. Without a composer we cannot live. Today people are so taken by the stars! Of course, there are great singers today, and there were great singers in the past, but the greatest geniuses were the composers. This is the message that we have to pass on to the audience. If the audiences are coming just to listen to performers, then it’s best to go see them singing a song in a recital. These composers died for their music. If someone comes just to see the singers, that’s not good, in my opinion.

    OL – Interesting answer! So, talking about composers, let’s think of the contemporary ones. Mr. Henze has just died… Sciarrino has been successful, and has been continuing the tradition of great Italian composers. What are your thoughts on contemporary opera?

    DG – The opera goers come to the opera house to see the core repertoire – the great Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Mozart, Rossini, of course. Opera at that time was also written for the audience. After the Second World War, opera, like contemporary music, became a lot more about experimentation. Some are very interesting, but are completely detached from the audience. So, of course there are fantastic results, but there are also compositions that don’t work. The audience tends to listen to what it knows. Maybe they go to compare a performance sung by Domingo, to one sung by Carreras or by Pavarotti, because they know perfectly the music already, so maybe they go to compare performers. But it is interesting to present a new opera, so that someone will go and listen to it, and say, ‘Ha ha, that’s very deep, with a strong theatrical message. I like that!” Or, they’ll say “I don’t like it.” Sometimes the new music is not easy to listen to, so we have to be very focused. The audience has to be very, very concentrated when it listens to new music.

    I had an experience with Wozzeck. It was a late morning performance for a school in Bologna, a long time ago. The audience was just made of kids. But the kids were the most silent audience I’ve ever had. They were completely naive in front of that opera; they were “operatic virgins,” but the power of the music and the power of the theatrical message really shocked them, much more than if they were listening to Rigoletto. So it depends on the impact of the music. Someone might say, “Oh, it’s a new composition, I’m not interested.” Well, I’m interested; I want to see what is going on. It’s like seeing a new movie: why not?

    OL – Would you like to make comments on the current crisis of opera in Italy?

    DG – No, not really. Everybody knows what is going on, and everybody has talked about it; I’d just be adding the same words.

    OL – OK, let’s talk about Giuseppe Verdi, then.

    DG – Yes.

    OL – We are very pleased with the fact that you’ll be conducting Verdi’s Requiem in Boston, Paris, and London, and La Traviata at La Scala at year’s end. Do you feel that enough is being done to celebrate the great composer’s bicentennial? Would you like to see more initiatives to mark this year?

    DG – No, with composers like Verdi, there is no sense in celebrating their bicentennials by increasing the number of performances, because they are already the core of the repertoire of every theater. Every year, every opera house is performing Verdi, so there is nothing special in doing it more often during 2013. If we were celebrating the 250 years of a composer like Salieri, for example, then it would be interesting to say, ‘OK, let’s listen to some of his operas, because usually they are not part of the repertoire.” But with Verdi, there is no need for this. Same with Wagner, it’s also his bicentennial.

    OL – And it is Britten’s centennial as well.

    DG – That’s different. Britten of course is less performed so it will be interesting to perform his works more often in 2013. But with Verdi and Wagner, what we need is to celebrate them every time we perform their operas.

    OL – You’ve accomplished a lot in your distinguished career so far. At this point, what are your future goals?

    DG – What am I expecting? Nothing. I’m just glad that God has given me the health to continue to make music. For me, it’s just something that I have to give back to Him. The gift that He gave me makes me very proud, and at the same time, full of responsibility. At this moment of my life, I am fifty-one, and I’m very happy. I’m in Paris, I’ve just finished with Zürich, and I don’t know what is around the corner. We’ll see.

    OL – In personal terms, is all the travel involved in being a top level conductor hard on you?

    DG – I’m not a globetrotter. I work quite a lot in Europe, but usually I restrict myself to no more than five orchestras. I know the places where I work. I’m also happy to work in the United States with the most important orchestras.

    OL – So, keeping it tight like this allows you to find some balance between your personal and professional lives?

    DG – Ah, no, that is not very easy! But in this moment as you know I am at home. Thank God, I have two free weeks in my house! It’s really a great feeling, to be at home. Sometimes, it is not easy, to build a schedule.

    OL – OK, anything else you would like to tell us?

    DG – No, just that talking to you was a pleasure. I thank you for offering me this opportunity. Thank you very much.

    OL – Well, it’s the other way around, we are the ones who are honored with your attention. Thank you so much, Maestro!

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    Let's hear and see the Maestro in action, in this video clip (11'45") of the anniversary gala of the Wien Staatsoper, with Plácido Domingo and Agnes Baltsa, performing the Act IV duet from Verdi's Aida:



    This short documentary (5') is about his Debussy and Ravel tour in Turin with the Orchestre National de France:



    This one, in HD image, is a short (1'30") promotional video clip for Medici TV, and features the Maestro conducting Verdi's "Va Pensiero" chorus from Nabucco, with the Orchestre National de France, and Choeur de Radio France:



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    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
      Soave_Fanciulla -
      Thanks. Interesting interview.
    1. Aramis's Avatar
      Aramis -
      I liked what he said about remembering the composers. I think that in Il Trovatore non ti scordar di me is personal expression from Verdi, he's like I KNOW CORELLI SINGS IT LIKE DEMIGOD BUT ACTUALLY I WAS THE ONE WHO WROTE IT, NON TI SCORDAR DI MEEEEE
    1. MAuer's Avatar
      MAuer -
      What a fantastic interview! I'm really looking forward to hearing Maestro Gatti conduct the Met Parsifal.
    1. emiellucifuge's Avatar
      emiellucifuge -
      Funny what he says about not being able to breath at some tempi, because that's how I felt the first time I saw him conducting.

      But I do agree with him about remembering the composers, I think people tend to focus too much on the singers!
    1. Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
      Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) -
      I've seen him slowing down as well, so I guess he does practice a range of tempi and likes to experiment with new ways to present a piece, like he said. Yes, the comment about composers was great, wasn't it? It is important to understand that singers, stage directors, and conductors are transient, while the music is eternal. I wish some "extreme Regie" directors felt this way too.
    1. Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
      Ann Lander (sospiro) -
      Maestro Gatti conducted the new Robert Carsen Falstaff which was performed at ROH in May 2012. I saw this production three times and each time, I sat on the very front row just to the right of the podium. Watching Maestro Gatti at work from such close range was fascinating and he conducted without a score. It was an honour and a privilege to be there.


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