Luca Pisaroni will make his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as Argante in a new production of Handel’s Rinaldo (Feb 29-March 24), reprising a role that he played to acclaim at the UK’s Glyndebourne Festival last summer. On March 10, the Italian bass-baritone will join his father-in-law, star-baritone Thomas Hampson, in a private performance benefiting Classical Action; it will be their first US appearance together. Pisaroni will also sing Schubert and Brahms in a recital as part of Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Song” series on March 25, appearing alongside tenor Michael Schade (and substituting for Thomas Quastoff, who recently announced his retirement from the concert stage). Pisaroni will join Schade for a similar program at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on March 30.

Pisaroni is coming off a string of hit performances at the Metropolitan Opera. His Leporello in this fall’s new Don Giovanni was judged “charismatic and compulsively watchable” by the New York Observer, while his turn alongside Plácido Domingo and Joyce DiDonato in The Enchanted Island – the Met’s Shakespearean tableau with music by Handel, Vivaldi, and Rameau.

As for Pisaroni’s Windy City performances in Handel’s Rinaldo, the singer says: “I am thrilled to make my Chicago Lyric debut as Argante – it is one of the most vocally challenging bass-baritone roles in the entire Baroque repertoire. The famous entrance aria `Sibilar gli angui’ 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.”

Around the time of his Glyndebourne performances as Argante, Pisaroni revealed to the UK press that he prepared for the “come-from-nowhere, 100 miles an hour in two seconds” virtuosity demanded in the “Sibilar” aria by playing soccer with the stagehands right before making his entrance. “It’s an aria of fury!” he exclaimed, “You must have the whole body warmed up, not just the voice.” The results proved the method right, as The Independent declared that Pisaroni’s performances in Rinaldo made for “smashing singing.” And Opera Today said: “Argante can be a relatively small part, but Luca Pisaroni made it central, by the sheer force of personality in his singing… This Argante is more than a match for Armida.”

This spring and summer, Pisaroni will reprise his beloved Figaro in productions of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in Munich (May 3-13) and Vienna (June 3-13). And the singer will carry the title role in Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere staging of the new critical edition of Rossini’s Maometto II (July 14-August 16). A love story set against a backdrop of the Venetian colony of Negroponte, Maometto II includes some show-stopping coloratura arias. See this YouTube interview for Pisaroni’s thoughts on the opera’s “very relevant” story for today, as it tells of an impossible love set amid struggles between the worlds of Christianity and Islam. He also talks how “incredibly challenging vocally” the role of Maometto II is – and how his “jaw dropped to the floor” when he saw Samuel Ramey sing it at La Scala in 1994, a performance which sparked Pisaroni’s desire to take up the part someday.

Luca Pisaroni

Born in Venezuela and bred in Verdi’s hometown of Busseto, Italy, Luca Pisaroni established himself as one of his generation’s most captivating singers with his debut, at age 26, at the Salzburg Festival 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: upcoming engagements

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

March 25
New York, NY: Alice Tully Hall
Recital with Michael Schade & Justus Zeyen

March 30
Toronto, Canada: Roy Thomson Hall
Recital with Michael Schade & Justus Zeyen

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
Santa Fe, NM: Santa Fe Opera
Rossini: Maometto II (Maometto II) – world premiere of new critical edition
Frédéric Chaslin, conductor
David Alden, director

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

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