2 January 2016
What could be a better reality check than a dog's opinion?
Operatic bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni places great importance on how his two canine pals, a golden retriever and a miniature Chihuahua, respond when he comes home after a performance at the opera house.
“It's nice to come back to someone who thinks you're awesome,” jokes Pisaroni, in a telephone interview with Sunday's Zaman. If he feels he's had an off-night, Pisaroni takes comfort in the fact that dogs “really help you with your feelings. The dog makes you feel good.”
Pisaroni will be bringing the two dogs with him to İstanbul in January. The singer will make his İstanbul debut as one of two soloists with the Borusan Philharmonic's (BİFO) annual New Year's Concert on Jan. 7 at Lütfi Kırdar Convention Center. Maestro Sascha Goetzel will conduct the orchestra in vocal and instrumental works ranging from Mozart to Bernstein.
Not coincidentally, the floppy-eared friendly retriever is named Lenny, after conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein, whose reputation as one of the most socially popular musicians equals his extensive musical brilliance. The tiny Chihuahua is named Tristan, after the larger-than-life tenor role in Richard Wagner's epic opera “Tristan and Isolde.” The two dogs, according to Pisaroni's website, “are the singer's constant traveling companions.”
The charismatic bass-baritone made his solo debut with the Vienna Philharmonic at the age of 26 and quickly became known as a spectacular interpreter of Mozart's opera roles in most of the major opera houses in Europe and the US. His most recent concerts have included appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Concentus Musicus Wien, and London's Wigmore Hall. Pisaroni's discography now, at the age of 40, is a substantial collection of highly praised recordings of Mozart operas. The City of Vienna honored him with the 2015 "Wiener Flötenuhr" award, given in collaboration with the Mozarthaus Vienna, to recognize his significant performances of Mozart's works in recordings and live stage interpretations.
Is this your first time in İstanbul?
No, my first visit was a long time ago, and only for a quick tourist stop. I loved the Blue Mosque and the historical richness. Unfortunately, I won't have time to take a look around İstanbul this trip either, as I'm coming directly from Hamburg and leaving the day after the concert. I'll plan a trip strictly as a tourist.
What will you sing with Borusan Philharmonic in your debut?
I'll sing solos and duets with soprano Chenn Reiss, and it will also be the first time we've worked together. We'll go from opera to lighter fare, like Viennese classics and American popular songs. Works by Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Johann Strauss II, and Lehár, followed by popular songs by Anderson, Porter, Loewe, Berlin, and Bernstein. It's repertoire for everybody to enjoy, and it's a great orchestra too. It will be our “Let's have a great 2016" concert, and let's start in the best possible way. It's our wish for the audience.
You are the son-in-law of the great American baritone Thomas Hampson -- married to his daughter, Catherine. Is that an asset or a deterrent in your career?
Actually, I met Hampson in 2002 when we were both in a production of “Don Giovanni” in which he was in the title role and I was Masetto. I was young and just starting out, so we became friends before I met Catherine. For me, it was a privilege: I always consulted him when I had doubts. I don't think this happens a lot for young singers [to consult one's elder colleagues] and to share opinions. We enjoy being together, and we enjoy performing together so much that we put together a special concert called “No Tenors Allowed.” Apart from the vocalism, I think the audience can see the chemistry. He's always having a good time. The audience can tell. It's always great to perform with those who are on the highest level. It raises my gain 110 percent.
Have you worked with any Turkish singers?
I have given classes to singers in Salzburg in which there were several Turkish singers. All of them were incredibly talented. Some have dark, dark voices [a reference to a singer's timbre, or tonal color], and big voices, too.
After İstanbul, what's next for you?
I'll do an evening of Schubert songs in Wigmore Hall in London and then I'll sing Count Almaviva in “The Marriage of Figaro” at the Metropolitan Opera.
And will you bring your dogs to New York?
Yes, of course. The dogs play a big role! I walk them several times a day, before and after the show. I really enjoy walking them; they are more dependent on you [than cats]. Tristan thinks he's a Wagnerian tenor, and Lenny's actually number two: We had another dog named Lenny, and when he died we got another just like him and named him Lenny 2.0. So Lenny always lives on.
Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra's sparkling musical toast to 2016 begins at 8 p.m. on Jan. 7 at Lütfi Kırdar Convention Center in Harbiye. A musical potpourri that travels from Europe to America, the concert begins with the Overture to Mozart's opera “The Magic Flute,” ends with the rollicking duet “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better!” from Irving Berlin's musical comedy “Annie Get Your Gun,” and includes Viennese favorites by Lehár and Strauss. Tickets are available through Biletix. (0216 556 98 00)