Viewpoint: Classical Values

by F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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Family portrait: photographer Dario Acosta shoots Pisaroni, his wife, Catherine, and their dogs, Lenny and Tristan
© Gregory Downer 2015

I heard Luca Pisaroni for the first time ten years ago, in February 2005, when he sang Achilla in Giulio Cesare for Opera Colorado. Achilla is not a star-making part, of course, but despite Pisaroni’s youth — he was then not yet thirty — he struck me as an artist of talent and poise, an authentic gentleman whose personal glamour and stylish manners fit neatly into the Opera Colorado production, which moved the action from Egypt to the golden age of Hollywood. A few months later, Pisaroni made his Metropolitan Opera debut, as Publio in La Clemenza di Tito, a considerably better part requiring even more poise — a quality that Pisaroni achieved, despite the enormous curly wig that Publio sports in the Met’s Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production. (On some of Pisaroni’s predecessors as Publio, said wig suggested a just-groomed cocker spaniel.) By the time of his Met debut, Pisaroni had already enjoyed notable success in Mozart roles in Europe: he began his career at Klagenfurt, as Figaro in 2001, sang Masetto in Martin Kusˇej’s controversial Salzburg Festival Don Giovanni the following year and scored a huge success as Figaro at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées in 2004. Pisaroni established his New York credentials as a Mozartean under James Levine’s baton, in the company of a highly accomplished cast that included Anne Sofie von Otter, Sarah Connolly, Heidi Grant Murphy, Melanie Diener and Frank Lopardo. 

In November 2005, when Pisaroni returned to the Met in a revival of Jonathan Miller’s Nozze di Figaro staging, OPERA NEWS’s veteran critic Leighton Kerner called the bass-baritone “a wonderful Figaro, perhaps a bit young in Beaumarchais’s scheme of things but full of poise, gracefully active and in perfect control of his music.” (Kerner also had high praise for that revival’s Cherubino, a young mezzo from Kansas named Joyce, who was making her Met debut. I wonder what ever happened to her?)

Pisaroni’s taste in music is wide-ranging, but he has always tried to keep Mozart at the core of his repertory. His cheeky, energetic Leporello — extravagantly admired when the Met gave the premiere of Michael Grandage’s Don Giovanni staging in 2011 — will return to New York on February 4. Pisaroni sings Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro for San Francisco Opera in June and July and for the Salzburg Festival in July and August, with a pair of performances as the titular bridegroom scheduled for mid-July in Baden-Baden. Pisaroni is musically active outside the opera house as well, his enviable energy and intense curiosity keeping him busy in recital and in concert, where his work has ranged from traditional presentations of lieder and song to the world premiere of a multimedia staging of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Pisaroni’s style — in dress and in the delivery of his music — is elegant without being old-fashioned. He favors classical values. That said, Pisaroni is very much a twenty-first-century artist; his website, www.lucapisaroni.com, is impressive for its economy, clarity and wit — a combination of virtues that reflects the man himself. spacer

F. PAUL DRISCOLL



The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera.



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Current Issue: February 2015 — VOL. 79, NO. 8