An up-and-comer on both sides of the Atlantic, Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni will make his Houston Grand Opera debut in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro during an April 15-30 run that marks his debut in the role of Count Almaviva.  Pisaroni has already made a name for himself in the opera’s title role, having been the Figaro of choice for three new music directors this season: Nicola Luisotti at San Francisco Opera, Philippe Jordan at Opéra National de Paris, and Franz Welser-Möst at the Vienna State Opera.

Switching roles in Mozart’s subversive comic masterpiece – from Figaro to his nemesis, the Count – is a “thrilling opportunity,” Pisaroni says:

After 100 performances as Figaro, it will be so interesting to play his opponent.  I love Figaro, and this role will stay in my repertoire for many years, but it’s time to explore the opera’s other major male character.  Mozart wrote fantastic music for the Count.  Especially the second act and the beginning of the third act, which are so rich in drama that I dove into the score all over again to study and explore all the different emotions the Count goes through in such a short period of time.  I also see this debut as the first stone in my process of building the bridge between roles like Figaro, Leporello, and Guglielmo – which are closer to my personality – and the ultimate goal, which is Don Giovanni.

Making his Houston Grand Opera debut is another exciting prospect, Pisaroni explains:

 “Houston has such a great tradition as one of the most active opera companies in the country.  It’s particularly impressive, the list of operas that were premiered in Houston – A Quiet Place, Nixon in China, Little Women, and Brief Encounter, to name a few.  I hope to get the chance to participate in a project like this at some point in my career.  Singing in a world premiere is one of the most fascinating musical adventures I can imagine.

Born in Venezuela and bred in Verdi’s hometown of Busseto, Italy, Pisaroni has established himself as one of the most captivating singers of his generation – from his debut at the Salzburg Festival at age 26 with the Vienna Philharmonic under Nikolaus Harnoncourt to his successful run as Leporello last summer in a hit new production of Don Giovanni at the Glyndebourne Festival.

Pisaroni is also a budding recital artist, having triumphed this month at two prestigious venues: London’s Wigmore Hall and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw.  About his recital of Schubert, Liszt, and Rossini in London, the Financial Times offered extended praise of the program’s thematic subtleties, as well as of Pisaroni’s “arresting” interpretations:

Schubert’s Italianate buffo aria that opened the concert, ‘Il modo di prender moglie,’ owes a certain debt to Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, while Liszt composed his first original songs immediately after transcribing those by Rossini and Schubert.  These chains of influence are implied in the songs’ harmonic inflections and their wide melodic range.  Pisaroni flagged up their common traits, dressing them in burnished tones and luxuriating in their bittersweet excesses.  But the most arresting aspect of this recital was Pisaroni’s emotional agility as he pivoted between the cynicism of ‘Il modo di prender moglie’ and the wide-eyed earnestness of Schubert’s other offering ‘L’incanto degli occhi’; between the irreverence of Rossini’s Parisian salon piece ‘L’orgia’ and the morbid shades of Liszt’s ‘Die Vätergruft.’  Pisaroni invested his whole body in the performance, uttering lines with characteristic speech-like eloquence.

 In May, Pisaroni will continue his string of high-profile U.S. engagements, appearing with the Dallas Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra.  In Dallas, Pisaroni sings in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 under Jaap van Zweden (May 19, 21, & 22), and, in Cleveland, takes part in Rossini’s Stabat Mater under Franz Welser-Möst (May 26 and 28).

 This summer, Pisaroni reappears on the stages of Europe, returning to Glyndebourne to make his role debut as Argante in Handel’s Rinaldo (July 2 – Aug 22), and then reprising Leporello in Don Giovanni, this time under Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Germany’s Baden-Baden Festival (July 18-24).

Opera News got to the crux of Pisaroni’s mix of theatrical and vocal flair:

Pisaroni’s vocal personality is akin to the brewing of an inner storm that is then distilled into a well-articulated purity of emotion.  The singer’s dramatic versatility cannot be overstated: his ability to execute written notes with consummate tone, translated directly into the essence of feeling.”