Sound Bites: Dimitri Pittas

by LOUISE T. GUINTHER

opera news
Photographed in New York City by Dario Acosta
Grooming by Affan Malik
© Dario Acosta 2008
opera news
© Dario Acosta 2008
Dimitri Pittas stands at the threshold of a major career, and he means to cross it on his own terms. "My father is a salesman, so it's kind of ingrained in me always to have an eye on the future," says the plangent-voiced lyric tenor, whose heartfelt Macduff in the Met's Macbeth last season won unanimous raves. "It's about steps and plateaux, and my steps are really small right now. They were big when I was in my twenties - getting into the [young-artist program at the] Metropolitan, winning competitions. But I'm over that. Now it's about making sure that when things are ready to happen, I'm ready to tackle them. That's why I'm singing Rigoletto in Lille and in Bordeaux, and Macduff in places like the Met. The weight of the show isn't on my shoulders, but it's enough for people to say, 'Who was that guy? I'd like to hear him again!'" Met audiences - and radio listeners worldwide - get their chance to hear him again this month when he takes center stage as Tamino in The Magic Flute.

For all his business sense, the bottom line, for Pittas, is art. "I'm an emotional person by nature, so I find my vocalisms through my emotions and my colors," he says. "I don't know how not to try to communicate. I don't look on the page and see just an F-sharp - there's so much more connected to it. What is the word, what is the phrasing, what is the instrumentation, what is the character feeling at that moment? That's what creates the F-sharp - not just a black dot on the line."

Fresh from back-to-back engagements in France, the Greek-American from Queens was thrilled to be on his home turf again. "I'm from a very close-knit family - I have an older brother and a younger sister, and the three of us are peas in a pod - so it's not easy. It's a sacrifice that I've made, and that my family is forced to make. My father, who's been sick with cancer, has been in the hospital twice since I got to France. My grandmother died while I was over there. But at the end of the day, the 1,200 Frenchmen in the theater don't care about those things. They paid their sixty euros, and they want to be entertained."

Sacrifices notwithstanding, Pittas says he's where he wants to be. "Somebody once said to me, 'If you don't wake up every morning and want to sing, you're in the wrong business.' I think that's a little extreme. If your emotions are constantly running like that, you burn yourself out. But this is what I love to do. I grow onstage. You can cultivate and you can refine in the rehearsal room, but for me it's so much easier in front of an audience. Something about having the reins of thousands of people, and being able to take them on that emotional journey with me anywhere I want to go, is really exciting to me."

LOUISE T. GUINTHER

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