Opera Chic & Grazia.it

Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni spoke to Opera Chic (via her latest piece for her Grazia.it Stasera Esco column. The young Italian opera singer is known for his versatility, flexibility, insight, and yeah, his hawtness. We also heart him for his adorable dogs, Lenny (2.0) and Tristan, who are always ready for the latest adventure (photo below).

Read all about his latest and greatest here (including a Michael Jackson shout-out)!

Although young Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni was raised in Verdi’s hometown of Busseto and he keeps the Italian composer close to his heart, the repertory he’s best known for these days is Mozart, Händel, Haydn, and Rossini — he even sang Figaro from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro this past season three times: San Francisco Opera, Opéra de Paris and Wiener Staatsoper. The success comes at a prudent pace almost a decade after his 2002 professional debut (at 26-years-old) as Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni for the Salzburg Festival.

Home is in Vienna with his wife Catherine, owner and head designer of Lenny’s Studio, a young web design agency (http://www.lennysstudio.com/) that specializes in website design and management for opera professionals.

The couple is never far from their dogs, familiar to Pisaroni’s fans for their sweet dispositions. Eight-month-old golden retriever Lenny and 2-year-old miniature dachshund Tristan accompany the couple on their travels and even have their own facebook fan page and more on Pisaroni’s facebook page and website.

His early summer was packed with American performances — Rossini’s Stabat Mater with the Cleveland Orchestra and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Then he went to the UK to sing Argante in Händel’s Rinaldo for the 2011 Glyndebourne Festival and to Baden-Baden to sing Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

He arrived in New York City last week to sing in a September 11 memorial concert at Trinity Church. Then he prepares for two exciting new productions at The Metropolitan Opera, running through January 2012: Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni opening in October and Caliban in The Enchanted Island (a mélange of baroque works by Händel, Vivaldi, Rameau, and others) opening in December.

He spoke over the phone from NYC and shared a few insights:

Your musical studies started in Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi di Milano.What are some highlights from your time in Milan?

I have good memories of Milan but the best thing that happened to me was meeting Argentinean tenor Renato Sassola. It happened through a pianist at Teatro alla Scala. It changed my life because I wasn’t happy with the teacher I was studying with at the Conservatorio at the time. I had a lesson with Sassola and it was a revelation — he completely changed my idea of how I was supposed to sing. I initially did three lessons with him at La Scala and then decided to move to Buenos Aires for a year to work with him. He opened new horizons to me and taught me exactly what I thought singing was supposed to be like.

So I have two favorite moments from my time in Milan:

The first one might shock you! It was a Michael Jackson concert in 1997. I had a friend who had VIP passes and even though I wasn’t sure I would like it, I thought: ‘What the hell, why not just go?’ I’m not judging his voice since I don’t really follow pop music, but the show that he put on was unbelievable. On the merit of his performance alone, it made me think that I would listen to Michael Jackson forever. It was the best thing that I’ve ever seen in terms of pop music.

My other favorite memories of Milan are from when I was going to Teatro alla Scala four times a week — because at that time, a standing room ticket was 10,000 lire – which was about 5 euro – and I saw the best shows. One of the most memorable moments was when there was a strike during a performance of Verdi’s La Traviata. The orchestra decided to go on strike a few minutes before the performance. Regardless, Riccardo Muti decided to continue with the show and accompanied the singers on the piano. At the beginning, I thought he would just play highlights and some arias, but instead they performed almost the entire opera.

Generally, what are your favorite characters to sing?

I enjoy singing the evil ones — the mean guys — because it pushes my acting skills. When you embody someone familiar like Figaro, it’s close to my sensibilities and I don’t have to think so much about my character’s motivation. Instead, when you have to do someone evil like Tiridate in Radamisto or Argante in Rinaldo, you really have to push the envelope.

Is there a character in your future repertory that you’re most looking forward to?

I’m most excited about singing Maometto in Rossini’s Maometto Secondo. I’m doing it next summer, 2012, in Santa Fe and it’s an incredibly challenging role. It will be a role debut for me, but it’s also the world premiere of the new critical edition by Philip Gossett. Professor Gossett’s currently working on it — the vocal score should be ready around October — and every time he has a new scene, he sends it to me. So it evolves constantly. It’s a pleasure working with someone who’s so smart and is so knowledgeable about the composer. I’m incredibly excited because it’s a dream role for a bass-baritone. Samuel Ramey sang it in 1994 at Teatro alla Scala. I was there, crying, because I remember thinking, “I’ll never have the chance to sing this role,” and actually, now I get to do it. I have very big shoes to fill!

Fans who follow you on facebook and twitter know that your two dogs are constant companions. What’s up with that?

The dogs are such a huge part of life for me and my wife. You know, travelling with one small dog is something you see often. But we have two dogs — including a golden retriever — and it’s not something you see very often. I can tell you that I spend quite a bit of time booking flights for them and making sure that we stay in pet-friendly places.

Having the dogs come along keeps me grounded. Being able to travel with my wife and the dogs is such a privilege. I spend most of the year away from home and that’s okay because I have that sense of home everywhere I go.