Features

Road Show: Luca Pisaroni in Santa Fe

Born in Venezuela, raised in Italy and at home on all the great opera stages of Europe and North America, Luca Pisaroni says one of his favorite places to work and relax is Santa Fe. ERIC MYERS reports.

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Santa Fe landscape
© Daniel Nadelbach 2013
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© James Salzano 2013
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Pisaroni in Maometto II at Santa Fe in 2012
© Ken Howard 2013

Luca Pisaroni is on the phone from Santa Fe, the day after his acclaimed first performance in the title role of Maometto II. "You want to know my favorite place to spend time singing? I'm going to be obvious and say Santa Fe. Normally after working in a city for a while, there comes a time when I say, 'I want to go home.' This has never happened to me in Santa Fe! My first time here was in 2008. I opened in Figaro at the end of June, and I never wanted to leave. There is something special, something magical, that happens here in terms of the light, the weather, the colors, the spirit, the atmosphere." 

Pisaroni feels doubly lucky that he and his fellow artists are treated nicely by Santa Fe Opera. "They give you the conditions for you to do your best," he says. "It's not the longest rehearsal period — usually it's only about four weeks, and most new productions take five and a half weeks or more. But everyone arrives here incredibly prepared, knowing the piece very well, so you can work on the details. They want you to do your best here, and they give you all the support you need, in terms of coaching and musical layout."

The only drawback is the altitude, which, at first, requires adjustment. At 7,000 feet, Santa Fe can play havoc with a singer's breath reserves. "I always say, if you can sing a role here, you can sing it anywhere in the world," laughs Pisaroni. "Obviously it takes much more in terms of energy, and you need to adapt to the fact that there is less oxygen than, for example, in New York. So the first week you need to work out more, and make sure that your body gets used to the altitude. The first week, the only thing I do is to make sure that I have the same lung capacity that I normally have everywhere, because you do feel it. You walk two steps, and you are out of breath. Early in rehearsals, if the director asks you to walk across the stage, you start panting, and you wonder, 'Jesus, how am I going to sing this role?'"

Santa Fe is such a prime jump-off point for excursions that Pisaroni sometimes finds himself wishing he had a week off between performances. He, his wife, Catherine, and his dogs (a miniature dachshund named Tristan and a golden retriever named Lenny) have all piled into the car for road trips to the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, Lake Powell. "My favorite, honestly, is Lake Powell," he says. "To have that water in a canyon is just unbelievable. We rented a boat and just spent the entire afternoon there, swimming. The landscape is fantastic, the water is warm — there's nothing better that you can ask. Very close to it is Antelope Canyon, which has rock formations in wonderful shapes and colors — red, yellow, orange — very, very intense. And the colors change with the light. You just drive in the car through it, and you walk through it, and it's just spectacular."

In town, he loves rambling through the Plaza and up Canyon Road, with its galleries and shops. There is one business establishment of which he is particularly fond. "Santa Fe Pens! I'm a freak about fountain pens. And so is the guy there, Neal. He knows everything about them. I bought there the Dolcevita by Delta, which is a beautiful pen with an orange-and-black body. As much as I love computers, I still really love to write, on nice paper with an old-fashioned fountain pen. That's really one of my passions. And then, close to Santa Fe Pens is a place called Teca Tu, which is a great dog store. They have the best things for dogs ever. Ever! They have the best beds for small dogs, the best dog sweaters — especially for Dachshunds — the best treats, the best leashes and collars. It's like Louis Vuitton for dogs! The owners have wonderful taste, they really do. Every time my wife and I go there, we buy stuff we don't even need. It all looks so good! Teca Tu is heaven for dogs, and Santa Fe Pens is heaven for me."

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The Santa Fe Opera House
© Robert Godwin 2013

Road Show Picks

STAYING
Ten Thousand Waves
3451 Hyde Park Rd.
Tel.: (505) 982-9304
www.tenthousandwaves.com

EATING
Santacafé
231 Washington Ave.
Tel.: (505) 984-1788
www.santacafe.com

SHOPPING
Santa Fe Pens
500 Montezuma Ave., # 111
Tel.: (505) 989-4742
www.santafepens.com

Teca Tu
500 Montezuma Ave., #116
Tel.: (505) 982-9374
www.tecatu.com

When it comes to cuisine, Pisaroni leans toward vegetarianism; he'll eat some fish, but he stays away from beef and chicken. "But there are so many fish and vegetarian options in Santa Fe," he says. "I love Santacafé. Their scallops with linguini is my favorite dish. I love the style and the atmosphere there."

The Pisaronis usually stay in a house about ten minutes' drive from the Opera. "They take very good care of you in terms of housing here," he explains. "The houses are very beautiful and big. If I had to choose a hotel, I would stay at Ten Thousand Waves. People don't realize that it is not just a spa. They also have lodging. My favorite thing is to spend a long time in the hot tub and then plunge into the freezing water. At first it's not pleasant, you know — you think you're going to die! But you feel so energized and powerful afterwards."

Santa Fe has cast its spell over plenty of singers, including some who have decided to settle there and make it their home. It's not surprising. "Every time I come here," says Pisaroni, "I always say the same thing, usually by the second day of rehearsal — 'Can you please invite me back?'" spacer 

ERIC MYERS is the author of three books. He has contributed articles to Playbill, Time Out New York and The New York Times Magazine and Arts and Leisure section. 

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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6