A Mozartian Master – Legendary Bass-Baritone Ruggero Raimondi On Directing Mozart At The Maryland Lyric OperaBy Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Opera Online)
The Maryland Lyric Opera began with the mission of enabling the next generations of singers to have the opportunity to learn and perform alongside experienced opera professionals who have spent years developing their craft in front of the public on the world’s stages.
Now in its fifth year, the company has performed fully staged as well as concert productions with world class singers; this season alone the company is performing concerts for the first time, expanding its programming to broaden its audience. But expansion is ever at the forefront and at the close of the season, the Maryland Lyric Opera is set to bring legendary bass-baritone Ruggero Raimondi to direct the first of three Da Ponte operas, “Le Nozze di Figaro.”
Bringing A Legend Into The Fold
Raimondi, who was one of the leading Mozartians of his generation, has already signed on to bring each of the three famed Mozart operas, including “Don Giovanni” and “Così Fan Tutte,” to the company over a three-year span. Those familiar with Raimondi’s career as a bass-baritone know of his famed interpretation of “Don Giovanni” as well as his work in the last of the three operas as Don Ferrando.
“I think it is a marvelous idea. I am very happy and excited to do this. It excites me to work with new artists and companies and see what we can create with them,” Raimondi said in a recent conversation with OperaWire.
The idea behind Raimondi’s return to the U.S. was music director Louis Salemno’s. After having worked with Raimondi in Valencia, Salemno thought the bass-baritone would be a great asset to the company and with his experience in Mozart, there was no one better for the role.
But Raimondi had a better idea.
“He contacted me while I was in Madrid and he started to talk to me about doing a production of ‘Le Nozze di Figaro.’ I thought the idea was great but I suggested that we could also do the complete trilogy. It could be fascinating as well. The operas are about love and desperation and emotions that can be fascinating to see on stage,” Raimondi explained.
A Modern Lens
Throughout his career Raimondi performed “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Cosi Fan Tutte,” and “Don Giovanni” in various different roles and formed an extensive relationship with the composer’s works performing them with every major theater. He even has a movie version of “Don Giovanni” from 1979.
“Mozart and DaPonte are geniuses. They give you a liberty to work and the relationships within these operas are very modern,” he added. “It’s beautiful to see how the two constructed the characters so perfectly and therefore the work is almost complete.”
For Raimondi that was always what appealed to him and what always brought him back. He especially admits that the character can be seen through the lens of contemporary eyes because the themes.
“These characters talk about love with a certain liberty that you wouldn’t have seen in the past. So it is possible to identify with them today and it makes for a wonderful experience for the audience.”
A New But Simple Perspective
After having directed the works on numerous occasions, Raimondi is bringing a new approach and is excited to rediscover the operas once again. But the bass-baritone notes that the directing part is simple if you have the right elements and singers.
“There is really nothing to do. You just have to know the text and music and you have the character. I think it doesn’t have to do with whether or not I sang the works,” he emphasized. “It is easy for me because I know the texts and the music so well. But ultimately it has to do with the performers and their feelings. If we have singers who have a disposition to work on the music, the work will flow.
“It’s about activating your senses and if you have someone who doesn’t want to open up their feelings, then the work does not flow and the colors will not come out. Every human relationship has to do with the opera and the work.”
With his strong perspective on Mozart, Raimondi isn’t generating any concept at this point and is instead waiting to work with the performers.
“The ideas for ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ can only mature with the artists performing the roles. I can’t wait to see what these new artists bring to the roles. I also can’t wait to see the hall that we will be working in because that also influences the way I work. Then I can really start formulating and creating a very expressive and beautiful production.”
“Le Nozze di Figaro” will open on June 10, 2020 with subsequent performances on June 12 and 14 at the Kay Theatre of The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.