The Yellow Gloves: No Tenors Allowed – Luca Pisaroni and Thomas Hampson back in Toronto
Dear Luca, this musical occasion in Toronto must be pretty exciting. However, we know it is not the first time for you in Canada. What struck you about Toronto and what do you expect from the Canadian public in this occasion?
I have beautiful memories from Rossini’s “Maometto II” that I had the pleasure of singing at the COC in 2016. It is a company where you work very well and that has a very attentive audience. I am very happy to return to Koerner Hall after my solo recital in 2014. It is a hall with an incredible acoustics and a very enthusiastic audience.
What does it mean for you to have the opportunity to sing with an opera star like Thomas Hampson?
It is a great pleasure to be able to share the stage with an artist like Thomas. We have already presented many concerts of “No tenors allowed” but every time we have a lot of fun as if it were the first. Thomas is not only a great singer but also an ideal partner with whom to share the stage for his acting skills and for his great musicality. It is a mere detail that he’s also my father-in-law…
From Mozart to Rossini to more modern Twentieth-century tunes, what is the rationale behind this choice?
We have chosen a program that presents variety and style differences. Beginning with Mozart through Bel Canto and concluding with Verdi. In the second part, we focus on arias from the Italian, German and American repertoire to show our more playful side. We want to show that the repertoire for baritone and bass-baritone is very complex and interesting, and often underestimated.
What are the songs and arias from the public should be looking forward to in this program?
I believe that the audience will especially love the duets. From the explosive vibe of the “Puritans” to the high drama of “Don Carlo.” I hope the audience will be able to feel the energy that Thomas and I share when we’re on stage together.
Talking about your experience in North America: what can you tell us about the opera world in the New World compared to the European environment? What are the pros and cons?
My debut in America dates back to 2005. It is a country that has been very generous with me and has offered me so many artistic opportunities. I am very grateful to all those companies that believed in me and allowed me to debut in beautiful and challenging roles. At the moment, Thomas and I are at the Houston Grand Opera for the world premiere of “The Phoenix”, a work based on Lorenzo Da Ponte’s life. We are both playing the great poet and librettist at different times in his life.
Will we be able to listen to you again soon in Toronto?
At the moment I have no future plans but I hope to be back in Toronto very soon.
Dear Mr. Hampson, we recently admired you in Hadrian for the C.O.C. Could you tell us a little bit more about your role and the challenges you had to face? In general, what are the highlights of this opera in your opinion?
Creating a role is a singular experience. There’s nothing quite like singing something that’s completely new, knowing that you, as an artist, have absolutely no prior frame of reference for the piece. Same goes for the audience. I think some of the biggest challenges come into play when you’re doing a lot of the prep work long distance. It takes some time for everyone to get on the same page on a new work, and it’s much easier to collaborate on changes and new ideas when you’re working as a team during rehearsals. Looking back on Hadrian, without question one of the musical highlights for me is the love duet between Hadrian and Antinous and entire musical relationship between the two in Act 2 and 3. They are truly emotional, honest and beautiful. The music and text complement each other beautifully in that section, and it’s a genuine reflection of their love.
How can opera speak to a contemporary audience? To be successful, do you think it is a matter of subjects or musical style or both of them?
Both the story and the musical style are vital in contemporary opera. There are some works out there that focus strongly on one or the other, but it seems the new operas that have lasting impact somehow find a balance between the two. Producing modern stories is certainly one way to draw audiences in; when older stories form the basis of a new opera it’s important that the themes are relatable to audiences today.
As you will be back in Toronto, we will be able to enjoy your voice paired with that of Luca Pisaroni. Where does this duo project stem from?
This project is truly “all in the family.” Luca is not only a great singer, but also my son-in-law, and over the years the more we collaborated on stage, the more we thought about getting a concert program together. Especially one that takes the spotlight away from those pesky tenors for a bit! [He smiles] It keeps us on our toes, and is also a great way to get the family together on the road.
You and Luca present a multifarious repertoire, from Mozart to Richard Rogers, via Rossini and Leoncavallo. What are the arias which the audience should be looking forward to?
We have a wonderful program prepared for the audience in Toronto, and there are always surprises. Singing Mozart with Luca is always something we enjoy doing together, since our first-ever collaboration on stage was “Don Giovanni” at the Salzburg Festival in 2002. We also love musical theatre and the Great American Songbook, so we hope everyone will enjoy some of those classic tunes as well.