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Musings from Marcello Giordani as He Prepares Benvenuto Cellini for the Met
Seventeen years have passed
since his professional stage debut as the Duke in Rigoletto.
Since that evening in Spoleto, Italy, Marcello Giordani
has had many professional ups and downs.
Ultimately, his successes have outweighed all else and he has
one of the leading tenors in the world.
Vocal difficulties dictated a six-month sabbatical in 1994, and
that time to work on his technique, returning to the Opera stage with
skill and excellent musical resources.
Today, he is one of the most recognisable and respected tenors
Opera stage and performs in all of the world’s major Opera houses. He has been positively reviewed by the New
York Times, Opera News, Washington Post, Associated Press and countless
publications. With a long-awaited Naxos
disc of tenor arias released in the US this November plus his
performances this month
in the title role of Benvenuto Cellini
with the New York Metropolitan Opera, Giordani has been
exceptionally busy. Fortunately, he was
able to take a few moments to talk with us about his life, his career,
hopes for the future.
Naxos: You are easily one of
the most sought-after tenors in the world today. How
do you measure your success?
At what moments do you feel most successful?
Marcello Giordani: I think
that one cannot
measure success, but it feels nice for me when I am hired over and over
by respected opera companies and when I perform and feel as though the
remember me. When I feel that I have
the respect of the public, then I feel successful.
N: You performed several
times with Georg Solti at Convent Garden.
You said of your performance in La
Traviata with Solti in 1995, “It was like singing Traviata
for the first time in my life.” Why?
MG: Because it was like
rediscovering the score. He knew what he
wanted and he knew exactly
what each performer could offer. That
is the quality of a great Maestro.
Conductors like Solti, Levine, and Muti are not only musicians;
kind of like therapists. They
understand each performer and manipulate the voice to create the most
sounds. That is why they are great—they
important was the time you spent working with George Solti to
your successful re-emergence onto the Opera stage?
MG: Very important.
He gave me back my self-confidence.
In many ways, he was like a father-figure to me.
He had a way with the musicians. He
displayed a wonderful sense of humour
without losing the respect of the orchestra and performers. When I am depressed or feeling down,
thinking of him brings me back up. I
miss him, as I am sure that others do.
in your career, it was said that you preferred the bel
As you move further in your
career and are asked to perform a multitude of roles, you seem to be
more toward the dramatic tenor roles.
Do you find yourself choosing certain types of repertoire more
think that the process always depends on the voice and its development. Some tenors as they progress develop into
the heavier roles. I have many requests
for singing the dramatic tenor roles, and I am slowly developing toward
role. I sang bel canto for ten years
and for that I am thankful. It put me
in a good position, because I can now move slowly and smoothly into the
repertoire. Another discussion that we
could have, though, is about what we consider heavier repertoire. Personally, I think of much of Verdi’s work
as bel canto (that conversation, however, would take a couple of
N: You say that every young
singer should start his musical studies with Mozart.
MG: I am glad that you
ask. This is one piece of advice that I
really want to give to the
young singers. I never sang Mozart when
I was young. That is my only
regret. Mozart is like medicine for the
throat, and is the best training for a singer, especially in recitative
breath control. Many hear Mozart’s work
and think that it must be easy to sing.
If one is prepared, Mozart sounds
easy but really it is not. He wrote
some very difficult recitative such that, if one has not learned proper
support, one cannot even finish the aria.
It is very good training.
N: What would you say has
been the defining moment in your career so far?
MG: It was, without a
doubt, my Metropolitan Opera
debut in 1996. That is the theatre that
everyone dreams of performing in, so when you go there and perform for
first time, you really feel as though you have earned it.
Of course, singers also dream of debuts at
La Scala or Convent Garden. When I was
performing as a young singer at La Scala and at Convent Garden, I was
of my debut at the Met. The arrival of
day gave me a feeling of great satisfaction.
N: You have expressed a
desire to sing the works of Mahler, especially Das Lied von der Erde. Is that ahead in the near future?
MG: Unfortunately, no. I love Mahler, like any music lover. Mahler leaves your soul in turmoil, puts your
feet on the ground
and forces you to evaluate life and its realities.
Sometimes we need those kinds of experiences.
N: I understand that you
were the first Italian in the history of the Metropolitan opera to sing
role of Lensky in Eugene Onegin. Is
it a goal of yours to break new ground by
performing roles not usually attempted by Italian tenors?
MG: It is always a goal
of mine to try new
ideas. Singers are like painters. We are always looking for new colours and
attempting to paint new rainbows. If we
don’t feel this way, then maybe we need to change occupations.
N: What other roles do you
hope to create?
MG: I have, in my
schedule, forthcoming performances
in Carmen, La Gioconda and Manon Lescaut. I dream of one day also performing in Andrea Chenier and La
Fanciulla del West.
N: I notice that in your new
release on Naxos you perform several arias from Il Pirata,
which you performed at the Met during its 2000/2001
season. Have you performed in all of
the operas represented on the disc?
MG: I have performed in
most of them, yes. The ones in which I
have not performed, like
Carmen and Il Trovatore, will appear
in my schedule in the next couple of
N: On December 4th
you begin your run in the title role of the Metropolitan Opera
production of Benvenuto Cellini. Besides
rehearsals, are there certain things
that you do to prepare for your performances?
MG: Well, I am just a
normal human being, so I am not
doing anything special, really.
Approaching a role like Cellini requires a lot of research, not
vocal preparation. I engaged in a lot
of historical studies. I studied the
places where he lived and the time in which he lived—the people and the
customs, and then I looked at the
score and decided on a musical approach.
First, though, I learned about the man.
I read his autobiography; I visited Florence and Paris, and did
in-depth study of his life, so I went to the first rehearsal very
prepared. When I sing a role like
Cellini I feel as though I am not Giordani anymore, but that I am the
himself—I am Cellini.
N: Brian Kellow, who
interviewed you for Opera News, called you one of the best and
today’s tenors when he was interviewed by NPR.
What are your thoughts on the idea that you may be the “fourth
following Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti?
MG: First of all, I
really appreciate Brian Kellow’s
opinion. It is always nice to be
recognized but, frankly, I do not believe in the idea of “fourth tenor”. I just want to be myself.
N: One hundred years from
now, what would you like for people to remember when they think of
MG: Marcello Giordani who? [Laughs]
Seriously, if they still
think of me, I want them to
say, “He was a wonderful singer but, more importantly, he was a good
being.” I feel that it is so important
these days to be a good person.
November 2003. This interview is the property of Naxos.com and
may not be
reprinted without permission.