Luca Pisaroni Makes Lyric Opera of Chicago Debut in Handel's RINALDO, 2/29

Luca Pisaroni will make his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as Argante in a new production of Handel's Rinaldo (Feb 29-March 24), reprising a role that he played to acclaim at the UK's Glyndebourne Festival last summer.

In just his first performance as the treacherous Saracen king, the Telegraph declared that Pisaroni was "at the top of his game." On March 10, the Italian bass-baritone will join his father-in-law, star-baritone Thomas Hampson, in a private performance benefiting Classical Action; it will be their first US appearance together. Pisaroni will also sing Schubert and Brahms in a recital as part of Lincoln Center's "Art of the Song" series on March 25, appearing alongside tenor Michael Schade (and substituting for Thomas Quastoff, who recently announced his retirement from the concert stage). Pisaroni will join Schade for a similar program at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall on March 30.

Pisaroni is coming off a string of hit performances at the Metropolitan Opera. His Leporello in this fall's new Don Giovanniwas judged "charismatic and compulsively watchable" by the New York Observer, while his turn alongside Plácido Domingo and Joyce DiDonato in The Enchanted Island – the Met's Shakespearean tableau with music by Handel, Vivaldi, and Rameau – was praised for its "dark-edged pathos" by Martin Bernheimer in the Financial Times and for its "sheer vocal charisma" by David PatRick Stearns in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Huffington Post said Pisaroni's blend of dramatic characterization and vocal bravura was "nothing less than astounding." And the Associated Press singled out a key episode Pisaroni shared with DiDonato: "Part of what makes that scene so moving is the amazing performance by Pisaroni as Caliban. Although he sings up a storm elsewhere in the opera, here, without uttering a word but using facial expression and body movement, he indelibly conveys his character's grief, anger and, finally, acceptance."

As for Pisaroni's Windy City performances in Handel's Rinaldo, the singer says: "I am thrilled to make my Chicago Lyric debut as Argante – it is one of the most vocally challenging bass-baritone roles in the entire Baroque repertoire. The famous entrance aria `Sibilar gli angui' contains an incredible – almost disturbing – number of high notes. And the second aria, `Vieni, o cara' – which happens almost immediately after the first – forces the singer to show both sides of Argante's personality: a warrior and king in one moment, a passionate and almost insecure lover in the next." 


Around the time of his Glyndebourne performances as Argante, Pisaroni revealed to the UK press that he prepared for the "come-from-nowhere, 100 miles an hour in two seconds" virtuosity demanded in the "Sibilar" aria by playing soccer with the stagehands right before making his entrance. "It's an aria of fury!" he exclaimed, "You must have the whole body warmed up, not just the voice." The results proved the method right, as The Independent declared that Pisaroni's performances inRinaldo made for "smashing singing." And Opera Today said: "Argante can be a relatively small part, but Luca Pisaroni made it central, by the sheer force of personality in his singing... This Argante is more than a match for Armida."

This spring and summer, Pisaroni will reprise his beloved Figaro in productions of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro in Munich (May 3-13) and Vienna (June 3-13). And the singer will carry the title role in Santa Fe Opera's world premiere staging of the new critical edition of Rossini's Maometto II (July 14-August 16). A love story set against a backdrop of the Venetian colony of Negroponte, Maometto II includes some show-stopping coloratura arias. See this YouTube interview for Pisaroni's thoughts on the opera's "very relevant" story for today, as it tells of an impossible love set amid struggles between the worlds of Christianity and Islam. He also talks how "incredibly challenging vocally" the role of Maometto II is – and how his "jaw dropped to the floor" when he saw Samuel Ramey sing it at La Scala in 1994, a performance which sparked Pisaroni's desire to take up the part someday.

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