Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni knows how to make the most of three days off. After finishing a performance of Le nozze di Figaro at The Metropolitan Opera, he grabbed a few hours worth of sleep, and hopped on a plane with his wife, Catherine, and their two dogs, Tristan and Lenny (after Bernstein, of course), for some much-needed rest in Miami. He had been battling an annoying cold for a few weeks, yet he hasn’t missed a show. “You know, I’m a bass-baritone, I’d rather die than cancel,” he quips.

Mozart’s Conte Almaviva is one of Pisaroni’s signature characters, and soon he’ll head to the Canadian Opera Company to perform what has become another notable title role, in Rossini’s opera seria Maometto II. David Alden’s production of this lesser-known work went to Santa Fe in 2012, “and it was the highlight of the summer”.

“I saw it for the first time, Maometto, in 1994,” says Pisaroni. “I saw it at La Scala with Sam Ramey, and I remember I fell in love with the role immediately.” In North America, non-comedic Rossini operas are decidedly rare. “Sometimes you wonder if theatres should be more courageous,” he muses. “Instead of giving the usual suspects, you know, to try something else, because you can never know what people like and what they don’t.”

The piece is likely not easy to cast, the first of several challenges being the search for a bass-baritone who can sing this tough role. Pisaroni is quick to note that, “all operas are difficult to cast.” Still, the coloratura bass-baritone Maometto is a notable departure from Rossini’s fast-moving mezzos and tenors. “I could lie to you and say ‘oh yeah, I love it, it’s easy’,” he laughs. “It’s very difficult because it requires everything from you. There are low notes, high notes, coloratura, long phrases, legato, it’s really challenging, all of it.”

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