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Opera's Next Wave

Bass-baritone LUCA PISARONI

Next Wave Pisaroni hdl 812
Luca Pisaroni with his dachshund, Tristan
© James Salzano 2012

During the 2011–12 season, Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni pulled off the operatic equivalent of what cricket or hockey fans would call a "hat trick." In October, Pisaroni's louche, lanky, neatly sung Leporello stole the show in the Met's new production of Don Giovanni. A few months later, on New Year's Eve, Pisaroni scored another hit with his vocal and dramatic tour de force as the grotesque, pathetic Caliban in the world premiere of the Met's Baroque pastiche, The Enchanted Island. On the last day of February, Pisaroni affirmed his status as a Baroque-music phenom with his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in Handel's Rinaldo, in which his robustly sung Argante romped to wicked effect with the vigorous Armida of Elza van den Heever. 

The Chicago Rinaldo marked Pisaroni's second Argante in less than a year: in summer 2011, he made his role debut as the dastardly king of Jerusalem in the Glyndebourne premiere of Handel's opera, directed by Robert Carsen. Argante is one of several roles in Pisaroni's repertoire that are strongly associated with Samuel Ramey, an artist Pisaroni has admired ever since he saw the American bass burning up the stage at La Scala in a 1994 revival of Rossini's Maometto II. Pisaroni, then still a teenager, remembers that when Ramey made his entrance, some forty minutes into the opera, to sing Maometto's first (fiendishly difficult) recitative, aria and cabaletta, "My jaw just dropped to the floor, and [I thought], 'Oh, my God, that is a role I would like to sing!'" Despite his modest protest that he has "huuuuuuge shoes to fill" in taking on this particular role, Pisaroni's wish came true in July, when he made his role debut as Maometto at Santa Fe Opera, in the world premiere of a new critical edition by Philip Gossett. It was Pisaroni who suggested Maometto II to Santa Fe, a company he has loved since his 2008 season there, as Mozart's Figaro and Tiridate in Handel's Radamisto. He proudly refers to the latter role as "my first king." Pisaroni will revisit Tiridate next season, when he joins conductor Harry Bicket and other colleagues for a series of Radamisto concert performances in February 2013 that will take him to Paris; Birmingham and London in the U.K.; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Carnegie Hall.

From the moment he first attracted international attention, with his Masetto in Salzburg's 2002 Don Giovanni, Pisaroni has husbanded his impressive natural gifts with masterful intelligence and taste. His calendar is well stocked with concert and recital appearances — including three dates with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival this summer — and he has chosen to devote the bulk of his opera-house activity to the Mozart roles ideally suited to his keen, witty command of text, such as Figaro, Publio in La Clemenza di Tito, Leporello and Guglielmo. Although Pisaroni has no plans to set Mozart's Figaro aside — he is scheduled to sing the wily servant next spring in a new Nozze production at Baden-Baden — he added Count Almaviva to his repertoire in 2011, for his Houston Grand Opera debut, and will sing it for Paris Opera next month. What lies beyond Mozart, Baroque and bel canto roles? His website lists a Vienna appearance as Simon Boccanegra's Paolo Albiani scheduled for April 2013, but it's a fair bet that any move Pisaroni makes into heavier repertory will be well considered and gradual. Still in his thirties, Pisaroni plans to have a long career — and there is every indication that he is headed in that direction. spacer 

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Current Issue: September 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 3