Opera News

Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, the scene-stealing Leporello in Don Giovanni at the Met, has a passion for Mozart.

“This art form is in my DNA,” says Luca Pisaroni. If there were a biological basis for his claim, it would explain a lot: the forty-year-old Italian bass-baritone seems to have been born to perform opera. Consider his Leporello in the DVD of Jonathan Kent’s 2010 Glyndebourne production of Don Giovanni. Pisaroni sings beautifully, with a burnished-teak sound, and articulates the text in such a liquid fashion that the words themselves have texture and dimension. But the performance demands that you focus on the character, not the voice. This Leporello is both thoroughly likable — sometimes goofily funny — and morally ambiguous, a willing conspirator in his master’s cruel schemes. He is bound to Gerald Finley’s Don in a relationship that’s almost startlingly intimate but still immutably governed by the power inequity between master and servant. Pisaroni achieves this characterization with an integration of music and movement so complete that you’re hardly aware that he is singing — or acting, for that matter. You’re aware only of the dramatic moment. (Met audiences first saw Pisaroni’s Leporello in 2011, in Michael Grandage’s new production; he reprises the role in this month’s revival, with Peter Mattei as the Don.)

“If I want to choose the way I’ll be remembered,” Pisaroni says, “I want people to say, ‘He was a great singing actor’ more than ‘Oh my God, he was a such a great voice.’ The voice is the voice. The other requires my work. I want people to see that I’m a human being, with my fears and weaknesses and difficult moments, and I’m able to laugh and cry like everyone else.

“It’s what my father-in-law says,” says Pisaroni, who is married to Thomas Hampson’s stepdaughter Catherine. “‘Nobody wants a voice lesson — they want a dramatic experience.’”

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