Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni looks forward to a stellar 2011-2012 season, beginning with two starring turns at the Metropolitan Opera. Pisaroni plays Leporello under Fabio Luisi in the Met’s new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (October 13-November 11). Then he appears as Caliban alongside Plácido Domingo and Joyce DiDonato in The Enchanted Island, the Met’s freshly conceived Shakespearean tableaux of music by Händel, Vivaldi and Rameau, conducted by William Christie (December 31-January 30). He makes his Chicago Lyric Opera debut in February 2012, reprising his acclaimed portrayal of Argante for a new production of Händel’s Rinaldo (February 29-March 24). After playing a signature role – Mozart’s Figaro – in Munich and Vienna in the spring, Pisaroni returns to the U.S. next summer to take on the title role in the Rossini rarity Maometto II at Sante Fe Opera, a world premiere of the score’s new critical edition. 

Pisaroni turned heads as Leporello in a lauded 2010 Glyndebourne production of Don Giovanni that was documented on an EMI Classics DVD, released this spring. BBC Music magazine extolled the DVD as one to have listeners “shivering with the best of them,” adding that “Gerald Finley as the Don and Luca Pisaroni’s nimble Leporello play a thought-provoking double act.” 

Underscoring the nuances of what has become one of his favorite Mozart roles, Pisaroni says: “I particularly enjoy Leporello’s relationship with his master. When this ‘duo act’ is developed fully, it’s one of the most gratifying acting experiences a singer can have on stage. The role is challenging dramatically because of the vast range of emotions that need to be portrayed. Leporello lives in his recitatives – especially the ones with his master. These recitatives have to be as conversational as possible. I follow Mozart’s instructions in the score and try to make the audience believe they are listening to a conversation that is happening at that very moment. Leporello is proud of being the keeper of the catalog of his master’s conquests, and he knows that his services are invaluable. Leporello is Don Giovanni’s biographer – without him the tales of the Don’s tumultuous adventures would not be remembered.”

Pisaroni is drawn to darker characters, too. He explains, “One of the fascinating aspects of being a stage performer is that you are able to walk in someone else’s shoes for a couple of hours. There are two kinds of roles: the ones close to your own personality – in my case that could be Figaro – or are completely different than you. I love to play the crazy, evil, broken characters. …Portraying Caliban in The Enchanted Island will be a unique theatrical opportunity. Portraying the bad guy is always satisfying, and Caliban is a monster, so I will have to push my acting skills to the limit. And even if the music is from the Baroque period, I’m excited to get the opportunity to sing in a world premiere.”

When Pisaroni played another “bad guy” at Glyndebourne this summer – Argante in Rinaldo, his debut in the role – the Financial Times of London declared, “the best of the singers is the bass Luca Pisaroni as Argante.” Pisaroni says, “I am thrilled to make my Chicago Lyric Opera debut as Argante – it is one of the most vocally challenging bass-baritone roles in the entire Baroque repertoire. The famous entrance aria ‘Sibillar’ contains an incredible – almost disturbing – number of high notes. And the second aria, ‘Vieni, o cara’ – which happens almost immediately after the first – forces the singer to show both sides of Argante’s personality: a warrior and king in one moment, a passionate and almost insecure lover in the next.”

Opera Today offered extended praise for Pisaroni in Glyndebourne’s Rinaldo: “Argante can be a relatively small part, but Luca Pisaroni made it central, by the sheer force of personality in his singing. His voice has great depth and range and is used intelligently. Pisaroni understands the purpose of the elaborate ornamentations Handel wants in the part. When he sings ‘Sibillar gli angui d’Aletto,’ his variations are richly Rococo, emphasizing Argante’s status as ruler, and the complexity of his character. Thus, when Argante is humbled by his feelings for Almirena, Pisaroni’s voice becomes gracious and tender. Pisaroni doesn’t sing when he’s strung up by Armida, but his body language conveys feeling, twitching with anguish, even though his face is hidden. Restored, he becomes the virile, dignified leader he was before, as Pisaroni’s firm, well-modulated singing in the Act 3 duet demonstrates. This Argante is more than a match for Armida.”

Born in Venezuela and bred in Verdi’s hometown of Busseto, Italy, Pisaroni established himself as one of the most captivating singers of his generation with his debut at the Salzburg Festival at age 26 with the Vienna Philharmonic under Nikolaus Harnoncourt. During his 2010-11 season, he was the Figaro of choice in productions of Le Nozze di Figaro for three new music directors: Nicola Luisotti at San Francisco Opera, Philippe Jordan at Opéra de Paris, and Franz Welser-Möst at the Vienna State Opera.

Gaining renown for his dramatic versatility, Pisaroni made his house and role debut last spring at Houston Grand Opera as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, this after more than 100 performances as Figaro in Mozart’s famous opera. About his performance as the Count, the Houston Chronicle said, “With his dashing looks and proud manner, Pisaroni exudes complete authority and magnetism. His potent bass-baritone unfurls with such grandeur and resoluteness that one can easily believe this is a fellow who has spent his entire life getting his way.”

Opera News got to the crux of the Italian singer’s talents, saying, “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.”

Luca Pisaroni: 2011-12 engagements 

October 13, 17, 22, 25, 29, 31; November 3, 7, 11
New York, NY: Metropolitan Opera
Mozart: Don Giovanni (Leporello)
Fabio Luisi, conductor
Michael Grandage, producer

December 31; January 4, 7, 12, 14, 17, 21, 25, 28, 30
New York, NY: Metropolitan Opera
The Enchanted Island (Caliban)
William Christie, conductor
Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, director and designer

February 29; March 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24
Chicago, IL: Chicago Lyric Opera
Handel: Rinaldo (Argante)
Harry Bicket, conductor
Francisco Negrin, director

May 3, 6, 11, 13
Munich, Germany: Bavarian State Opera
Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (Figaro)
Dan Ettinger, conductor
Dieter Dorn, director

June 3, 6, 9, 13
Vienna, Austria: Vienna State Opera
Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (Figaro)
Louis Langrée, conductor
Jean-Louis Martinoty, director

July 14, 18, 27; August 2, 7, 16
Sante Fe, NM: Sante Fe Opera
Rossini: Maometto II (Maometto II) – world premiere of new critical edition
Frédéric Chaslin, conductor
David Alden, director

July 21
Sante Fe, NM: Sante Fe Chamber Music Festival
J.S. Bach: Cantatas “Amore traditore” (BWV 203) and “Ich habe Genug” (BWV 82)
Kathleen McIntosh, harpsichord

July 22, 23
Sante Fe, NM: Sante Fe Chamber Music Festival
Schubert: Four songs from Schwanengesang: “Der Atlas,” “Aufenthalt,” “Ihr Bild,” and “In der Ferne”
Jon Kimura Parker, piano