Q & A: Vladimir Stoyanov On His First Verismo Opera & ‘The Queen Of Spades’

By Francisco Salazar

Bulgarian baritone Vladimir Stoyanov is one of the leading singers of his generation performing in many of the world’s leading companies. He has performed in such theaters as the Plovdiv Opera House, La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, Berlin State Opera, Vienna State Opera, Zürich Opera, Teatro Real, La Fenice, Teatro Regio, Teatro Massimo, Royal Swedish Opera, and  San Francisco Opera, among others. But there was always one major house missing from that list. He’s set to change that this January when he appears at the Royal Opera House in “The Queen of Spades” under Antonio Pappano (he will also be working with the legendary maestro for the first time as well).

That auspicious debut follows another interesting first-time for the baritone. Over the years he has also become one of the leading exponents of the Verdi repertoire and has also made a few excursions in the Russian and the Bel canto repertoire.

But he had never tried out the verismo repertoire. Until now.
This past month he finally stepped into the role of Carlo Gerard in “Andrea Chénier” at the Teatro del Silenzio, performing alongside legendary tenor Andrea Bocelli.

OperaWire had the opportunity to speak with Stoyanov about “Andrea Chénier,” his Royal Opera House debut, and future roles he would like to incorporate into his repertoire.

OperaWire: Tell me about working with Andrea Bocelli. What was it like to work with the tenor and how did the process change? How many times have you worked with the tenor?

Vladimir Stoyanov: It was my first time working with Andrea Bocelli and it was a wonderful experience, rich with positive emotions. Andrea is an extraordinary person and musician.

OW: Tell me about working at the Teatro del Silenzio? What were some of the joys and what were some of the challenges?

VS: It was pure joy with a perfect organization. The technical staff of the Teatro del Silenzio is filled with amazing professionals and Andrea and his wife Veronica were perfect hosts! It was great to learn about their wonderful family and they made me feel at home.

OW: It’s your first verismo role. What is exciting about performing Carlo Gérard? Do you have any favorite moments?

VS: Yes, it was my role debut. Carlo Gérard is a very complex character because he has different feelings towards Andrea Chénier. Initially, there is hatred and rivalry which transforms into esteem and friendship at the end. To emphasize all these emotions and be able to transmit it to the audience is very exciting. And I would have to that my favorite moment, of course, is Gérard’s monologue: “ Nemico della patria” and the duet with Maddalena.

OW: What are the biggest challenges of the role? How do you view the character? Do you think he has any villainous moments or do you think he acts as a sign of the time?

VS: The great challenge of this role, as I have already said, is to be able to underline the different moods of Gérard’s character, scenically and musically. It’s always difficult to interpret a wicked person and Gérard has villainous moments, for example, it’s evident abuse of political power when Gérard writes the letter that will condemn to death Chénier later he will try to correct this error..but, it will be too late. This kind of hate is dictated by his jealousy of Maddalena. Then there is the Gérard that fights for human rights: brave and strong, and loved by the people.

OW: Acting-wise, how do you approach him. How do you view his relationship with Maddalena and what do you think he feels for her?

VS: I believe that Gérard in relation to Maddalena has strong feelings from the erotic-sexual point of view. I could not call it “pure love” because he wants to physically possess her and says: “I want to make you mine! I want you!”: certainly not a romantic feeling.

OW: How does Giordano’s music differ from what you have performed before? What are the biggest challenges of performing verismo works and how do you think it will affect the way you perform other repertoire? Do you expect to add other verismo roles in the future?

VS: For me, there is nothing different in the approach as far as the voice is concerned. It’s always the same technique. It is common now to think that the “verista singer” must shout, sob, or compete with colleagues in the production of decibels to “express well” the concept of the composer. In my way of seeing things, the “secret” is to know how to deal with different operatic styles without distorting your own phonatory apparatus and always keeping the “belcantista nucleus” which is at the base of the lyrical singing technique. This art is not measured in decibels! In opera singing, there is a “mystical component” that can not be measured, monetized or simply classified with a “wow.” A harmonious voice well-produced in its simplicity can caress the human soul and touch more deeply the intimate cords of each one of us.

I do not think I am going to enlarge my repertoire in addition to “Andrea Chénier” just for the reasons I explained. The phonatory apparatus must be kept as harmonious, and this implies performing the same roles over a long period of time and not jump from role to role as it happens. This is my modest opinion.

OW: You’ll be making your debut at the Royal Opera. Why is Yeletesky so important in the Russian repertoire and what excites you about this work?

VS: Yes, I will debut at the ROH in London in January 2019 as Yeletsky and I am extremely happy about it. “The Queen of Spades” is Tchaikovsky’s absolute masterpiece and Yeletsky is entrusted with one of the most beautiful arias of the entire 19th-century opera – “Ya Vas lublyu.” In the direction of S.Herheim, Yeletsky assumes the role of the absolute protagonist as he becomes the narrator of the entire story.

OW: How does it differ from Tchaikovsky’s other music? What are some of your favorite moments in the piece?

VS: Yeletsky, compared to a Eugene Onegin, is not a leading role in terms of stage and musical presence but more like the Verdi baritone characters that I usually sing. But, in this production, thanks to the stage director, Yeletsky becomes the leading character and for me, it was a huge challenge.

OW: Why is it exciting to perform it at the Royal Opera House?

VS: It’s important for me to sing at the ROH in London, first of all, because I have waited 20 years to be invited and ROH is a temple of the opera world, one of the most important stages in the world. Moreover, I am very happy to collaborate with Maestro Antonio Pappano because I respect him very much, and I think it will be a joy to work together in this production!

OW: What other roles do you want to explore in the future?

VS: My future is Verdi as you can imagine. I can’t wait to debut the role of Doge Francesco in “I Due Foscari”  in Parma for the Verdi Festival 2019. I will also return to the role of Rigoletto, a role that I really love at the Bregenz Festival in Austria, and in Valencia. Then in China, I will be Germont in “La Traviata.” But a role that I haven’t sung yet and that I would very much like to sing is Simon Boccanegra.


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