Striking a Balance – Luca Pisaroni On His Traveling Family, His Learning Process & His Favorite Mozart RolesBy David Salazar
Being one of the most in-demand artists around is never easy. But Luca Pisaroni has found a way to balance his professional and his personal life in a way that the two work together.
In a recent interview with OperaWire, the bass commented on his lifestyle, his approach to learning new roles, and his reinterpretation of old ones.
Always at Home
For many artists like Pisaroni, traveling can be a true challenge. Being away, weeks on end, from family and close friends is a truly difficult lifestyle.
“Being a singer and a performer is a lonely activity. Onstage you have relationships, but when it is over, you are in your own thoughts. I go through the entire piece and think about every moment and how I can improve it,” the Italian singer stated.
The loneliness is often exacerbated by having to go into an empty hotel or apartment room with only those thoughts hanging around the artist.
But this is not the case for Pisaroni, who has managed to find a way to keep his entire family with him, including his wife and two dogs, Lenny and Tristan.
“At the beginning of my career when I met my wife, we didn’t travel that much with the dogs,” he noted. “But we realized that it was beneficial to travel with them all the time because we feel at home wherever we go. And I never miss them. It is a blessing and I feel lucky because I can be in San Francisco or anywhere and as long as my wife and dogs are with me, I feel at home.
“If they are there then I don’t feel that I need to be anywhere else. And it makes my job easier.”
Moreover, having his wife and dogs around is an inspiration for him.
“I love that my wife is always there for me to help me be the best artist I can be,” Pisaroni added. As for the dogs, he simply enjoys the love they give him.
“They are not dogs. Lenny is a Golden retriever person. Tristan is actually a person. He has a personality that is endlessly fascinating,” Pisaroni added. “They communicate with each other without saying a word. Sometimes I look at them to see how they interact and it always makes me smile.”
One Step At A Time
Another major challenge that most singers these days face is the high demand for new repertoire from a wide range of houses. Some of the top singers are constantly asked to add numerous roles per year.
Some singers can jump from role to role with relative ease. Pisaroni isn’t one of those.
“I can’t study something two weeks before I rehearse. I know some colleagues do this and I envy them because that means more time for the movies or paragliding. But it doesn’t work for me,” the bass explained.
In these past 12 months, Pisaroni was tasked with learning seven new roles.
“It was amazing, but it’s a lot. It’s a little bit too much. The thing about singing is that it isn’t just learning the music. It is about making it your own,” he added. “And this takes a lot of time. I always like to study things well in advance because I notice that when you sing something and then leave it and go back, it is completely different.
For example, his first “Maometto II” took him a year and a half to learn.
“I knew it was challenging. And every time I would go back it got better and then worse. And then better. It’s a process,” he established.
Pisaroni noted that he employs a few other tricks to ensure success for himself. First up is writing a list of his upcoming roles so that he can keep track of what he has on tap.
His other major trick is to repeat sections every single day.
“If I repeat it a little bit every day, I learn 70 percent of it without memorizing. Then I don’t have to worry about memorizing,” he revealed.
Most importantly: “I have no life. I am constantly studying new roles. When I am not working, I am studying.”
Living the Mozartian Dream
Pisaroni’s life currently revolves around the music of Mozart. He is coming off a successful run as the Count in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and has just started a few performances of “Don Giovanni” at the Vienna State Opera.
Both roles are of utmost importance to Pisaroni, who noted that he prefers the Count in “Figaro” to the titular character.
“The Count is more baritone-bass and Figaro is more bass-baritone,” he revealed. “I love to sing Figaro but I find the Count more vocally challenging.
“Dramatically he is also so much more interesting. There is so much more to say and tell with him. Figaro somehow is a bit one color. Just a little bit. He is always happy and then he is not happy. But you don’t see the imagination and wit that is in Rossini’s Figaro.”
Regarding how he views the Count, Pisaroni noted that he “is a guy around 40 who used to be incredibly attractive and had a lot of power with the women of the castle. And all of a sudden he is older and he sees that they don’t look at him the same way they used to. And maybe Rosina is not as adventurous as he is. He is bored in his marriage. He’s having a midlife crisis. And his obsession with Susanna is because she is the only girl completely immune to his advances. This drives him nuts and that’s why he is so focused on her and obsessed with her. “
He also loves the way the character shifts throughout the opera.
“He goes from completely self-assured to receiving this letter that tells him his wife is cheating on him. He is then enraged. Then he goes from being violent to having to say he’s sorry. And by the end of the second act, he doubts what is going on. With the third act, it is the only love duet of the entire piece. It is between Susanna and the Count, which I find interesting. And in the fourth act he flirts with the Contessa and it ends with one of the most beautiful moments in all of music, the end.”
An Old Friend
The other Mozart role that Pisaroni absolutely loves is Leporello, one with which he has a long association at some of the world’s greatest opera houses.
“I love Leporello because it is so human and so connected to the audience. It is so us,” he noted. “It is a human being that witnesses someone unbelievable and he is just amazed at being around. He has an extraordinary life through the life of Don Giovanni. He’s awkward. He lacks coward. He is like a normal person.”
In the current production he is singing, he is paired with baritone Ludovic Tézier in the title role. The two worked together in Paris and Madrid on “Figaro,” but this will be there first time working together in this opera. For Pisaroni, this will lend an interesting dynamic to the performances because, for him, the relationship between Leporello and Don Giovanni is the key to a successful production.
“One of the most important things is that they depend on each other. They could not do what they do without each other,” he explained. “One thing I always play, even when Leporello is upset or tired, he still loves him. I think the piece doesn’t work if Leporello isn’t commited to Don Giovanni. It is all in the recitatives, even when he is so angry, he still says that you have still got to love this guy.
Gemini That Needs Variety
Aside from his work with the Mozart operas, the bass is gearing up for more roles, more concerts, and more recitals, variety that he relishes mightily.
”Let me put it this way, I am a Gemini and I get bored very easily,” Pisaroni noted. “And so the idea of having a career that is only opera terrified me from the very beginning. To go from one project to the next always terrified me. And I think what is amazing about this art form is how diverse everything is. And how much variety of repertoire there is. Which is kind of weird because there is a tendency to categorize singers and tell them what they can or can’t do. In the 50s, this never happened. Everybody sang everything. Walter Berry sang Bach, ‘Fidelio,’ and modern music. It has always been my desire to have as much variety as possible.”
He is also excited about continuing a project close to home, the “No Tenors Allowed” concert tour with father-in-law Thomas Hampson.
“People can see our connection on stage and we both have great instincts,” he noted. “I can see that people enjoy it very much. It is a fun project with unusual repertoire. People don’t actually know a lot of that repertoire. And they really enjoy it.”
He noted that in 2019 they will be adding more performances for the program and there will even be American songs and duets intended to cater to American audiences.
“I’m excited to see how the audiences respond,” he noted.
They’re just as excited to see him perform.