Foto: Jiyang Chen, Leporello Teatro alla Scala - Brescia & Amisano
Luca Pisaroni is in Florence for a recital, and he accepted my invitation for a coffee and a chat at home.
SD: Luca, welcome, thank you so much for coming!
LP: Sorry for being late, I just drove down from Trento, it’s a longer drive than I thought. The public has no idea of the sacrifices a singer must make.
SD: How so?
LP: Well, it’s a lot of work, and so many different things one has to handle. Just imagine any opera performance: There is the singing, the movements, the props, then maybe the light blinds you or the orchestra is a bit out of tempo… The older I get, the more miraculous an opera production seems to me. There is so much that can go wrong!
SD: I’m glad to see that you’re finally working a bit more in Italy. Do you plan on coming to live here?
LP: Certainly not, not as long as I have a career. Of course there are worse places to sing than La Scala, and it was quite moving for me to come back to Milano, after all I studied there, but my career is in Europe.You see, at the Staatsoper in Vienna, they know their budget fours years in advance. And a few years ago, I was invited to sing in Venice and they called me two weeks before the performance to tell me that their budget had been cut by some 20%. This kind of thing could never happen in Austria. My wife and I live in Vienna, and people there are just so committed to the music, it’s really part of everyone’s life. In Italy, this culture has disappeared over the last years.
SD: Although you live in Vienna, I get the impression that German still isn’t your favorite language?
LP: I speak German at the post office or the grocery store, but with people that matter or in situations that matter, I am too conscious of my shortcomings to be really at ease. I prefer talking in English. Also at work, during rehearsals, everybody speaks English, and of course it’s very important to understand the stage director. Sometimes you need careful explanations to understand the stage movements and his view on your character. So I got a language coach when I started to study and I speak English with my wife and my family in Vienna.
SD: Modern productions don’t seem to bother you?
LP: At this point I have to quote Waltraud Meier, who said that it’s not so much about modern and period but about intelligent stagings. A modern production can be very intelligent and then I enjoy myself a lot. They help me find out new things about the characters I’ve been playing and about the story itself.
SD: I have the impression that here in Italy, period productions are more frequent?
LP: In Italy, everything is about beauty. Beauty of sound is primordial to most singers and conductors. Harnoncourt killed me on that. When I did my first production with him, as Masetto. There is this scene where Masetto gets beaten up by Giovanni, and I had to sing this line to Zerlina „Ah Zerlina, soccorso“ and I - sings - did something like that. At that point Harnoncourt stopped me and said: Look, you’ve just been beaten up and you hurt all over, do you think you could produce a sound like that right now? - So I tried to do it like this - sings - and Harnoncourt said: Yes, that’s it. You see, what matters is the truth of the story and the characters and sometimes it has to sound ugly in order to sound truthful. To me, as an Italian, that idea came as a shock.
LP: No! A revelation! That idea came as a real liberation to me, it helped me a lot with my career.
SD: Luca, how do you see the future of classical music?
LP: Oh we are a disappearing species. When I teach master classes, I’m quite brutal with my students, I tell them to get a bread and butter job as well.
SD: Is it the competition with Asian singers?
LP: No, no. These are often fantastic technicians, I’ve heard people who sing ten times better than me, but they don’t have the Western culture, they simply don’t have this background of history and stories that we are used to and that is needed to really understand operas. It’s this culture in itself that is slowly dying I’m afraid…
SD: You have this great career, you are singing and traveling all over the place - is there a drawback, a downside to it?
LP: No, for me there really isn’t. I can only do it because my wife is always with me. There is no way I could live this life alone, I need to share the experience, the excitement. If I were alone, it would be like coming out of a movie and having nobody to talk about it.
SD: Yes, it always looks so sad when one sees the singers walk away on their own after a show…
LP: Exactly, I couldn’t do that. So I’m very grateful to my wife for allowing me to do the job I love.
SD: You are one of the lucky few who do what they really were born for, right?
LP: Yes, I simply love my job, I love to sing and to learn new roles and to be on the stage. The audience gives me so much back for what I give, after a show I really have more energy than before.
SD: As a performer, you bring to life what other people have created. Do you sometimes feel the need of creating something that lasts yourself?
LP: No, I can’t say that I do. I have to create my characters, over and over again. And even if I felt the urge to write or paint or whatever, right now I simply don’t have the time. This year I made seven role debuts, that, plus the concerts, plus the other operas - well you can imagine how little time that leaves me. Speaking of which: I have to go now, rehearsal for tomorrow.
SD: Thank you again, Luca, it was great having you here!
LP: Thank you, see you tomorrow.