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Pisaroni plays Caliban on Met’s “Enchanted Island”

Luca Pisaroni is coming off rave reviews for his performances as Leporello in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Don Giovanni (“charismatic and compulsively watchable,” according to the New York Observer). Next, the Italian bass-baritone will take another featured turn on the Met stage as Caliban, alongside Plácido Domingo and Joyce DiDonato, in The Enchanted Island – the company’s freshly conceived Shakespearean tableau of music by Handel, Vivaldi, and Rameau, conducted by renowned Baroque authority William Christie (Dec 31-Jan 30). In the new year, Pisaroni makes his Chicago Lyric Opera debut, reprising his acclaimed portrayal of Argante for a new production of Handel’s Rinaldo (Feb 29-March 24).
The Enchanted Island is the Met’s version of the Baroque tradition of pasticcio – a light pastiche of operatic snippets woven into a dazzling tableau, this time with the lovers from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream stranded on his otherworldly island of The Tempest. Along with Pisaroni as Caliban, the cast features Domingo as Neptune and DiDonato as Sycorax, as well as Danielle de Niese as Ariel and David Daniels as Prospero. The new production’s director and librettist is Jeremy Sams, with design by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch (who created the Met’s staging of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha). To Pisaroni, portraying Caliban is a unique theatrical opportunity: “Portraying the ‘bad guy’ is always satisfying, and Caliban is a monster, so I will have to push my acting skills to the limit,” he says. “And even if the music is from the Baroque period, I’m excited to get the opportunity to sing in a ‘world premiere’.”
When Pisaroni played another “bad guy” at Glyndebourne this summer – Argante in Rinaldo, his debut in the role – the U.K.’s Telegraph declared that the singer was “at the top of his game” as the treacherous Saracen king. Pisaroni says, “I am thrilled to make my Chicago Lyric Opera 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.”
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 in Rinaldo 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.”
Luca Pisaroni
Born in Venezuela and bred in Verdi’s hometown of Busseto, Italy, Luca Pisaroni established himself as one of his generation’s most captivating singers with his debut, at age 26, at the Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic under Nikolaus Harnoncourt. During his 2010-11 season, he was the Figaro of choice in productions of Le nozze di Figaro for three new music directors: Nicola Luisotti at San Francisco Opera, Philippe Jordan at Opéra de Paris, and Franz Welser-Möst at the Vienna State Opera.
Gaining renown for his dramatic versatility, Pisaroni made his house and role debut last spring at Houston Grand Opera as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro – this after more than 100 performances as Figaro in Mozart’s famous opera. About his performance as the Count, the Houston Chronicle said: “With his dashing looks and proud manner, Pisaroni exudes complete authority and magnetism. His potent bass-baritone unfurls with such grandeur and resoluteness that one can easily believe this is a fellow who has spent his entire life getting his way.”
Opera News got to the crux of the Italian singer’s talents, saying: “Pisaroni’s vocal personality is akin to the brewing of an inner storm that is then distilled into a well-articulated purity of emotion. The singer’s dramatic versatility cannot be overstated: his ability to execute written notes with consummate tone, translated directly into the essence of feeling.”
Luca Pisaroni: upcoming engagements
Dec 31; Jan 4, 7, 12, 14, 17, 21, 25, 28, 30
New York, NY: Metropolitan Opera
The Enchanted Island (Caliban)
William Christie, conductor
Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, director and designer
Feb 29; March 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24
Chicago, IL: Chicago Lyric Opera
Handel: Rinaldo (Argante)
Harry Bicket, conductor
Francisco Negrin, director
May 3, 6, 11, 13
Munich, Germany: Bavarian State Opera
Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro (Figaro)
Dan Ettinger, conductor
Dieter Dorn, director
June 3, 6, 9, 13
Vienna, Austria: Vienna State Opera
Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro (Figaro)
Louis Langrée, conductor
Jean-Louis Martinoty, director
July 14, 18, 27; August 2, 7, 16
Santa Fe, NM: Santa Fe Opera
Rossini: Maometto II (Maometto II) – world premiere of new critical edition
Frédéric Chaslin, conductor
David Alden, director
July 21
Santa Fe, NM: Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
J.S. Bach: Cantatas “Amore traditore” (BWV 203) and “Ich habe genug” (BWV 82)
Kathleen McIntosh, harpsichord
July 22, 23
Santa Fe, NM: Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
Schubert: Four songs from Schwanengesang: “Der Atlas,” “Aufenthalt,” “Ihr Bild,” “In der Ferne”
Jon Kimura Parker, piano

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