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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

‘It’s easy to make people cry, not so easy to make them laugh’, says Italian baritone Massimo Cavalletti

Diversity and inclusivity might be the cornerstones of Dubai Opera's genre-hopping opening months – with everything from West End musicals to a magic show coming up – but the venue's serious pedigree will be established over launch weekend with the staging of two classic operas.
Massimo Cavalletti. Brescia /Amisano © Teatro alla Scala
Massimo Cavalletti. Brescia /Amisano © Teatro alla Scala

Diversity and inclusivity are the cornerstones of Dubai Opera’s genre-hopping opening months – with everything from West End musicals to a magic show coming up – but the venue’s serious pedigree will be established over launch weekend with the staging of two classic operas.

Following Placido Domingo’s gala opening show on Wednesday (August 31), Thursday (September 1) the new venue will stage a performance of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, a touching nod to the country’s past.

Best remembered for the male duet Au Fond du Temple Saint, Bizet wrote the three-act opera in 1863 when he was in his early 20s, paving the way for the landmark Carmen a decade later. It will also be performed on Saturday, September 3.

On Friday, September 2 meanwhile, there will be a performance of Rossini’s much-loved comedic masterpiece The Barber of Seville, which is ranked as the sixth most-performed opera by Operabase. An encore performance will take place on Sunday, September 4.

Both operas will be presented by the orchestra of Trieste’s Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, who will also back Domingo, and remain in town for a sixth night on Monday, September 5 to host Opera Without Words, a gala celebrating some of the most memorable instrumental overtures, preludes and interludes from Italian opera.

Being Figaro

Celebrated Italian baritone Massimo Cavalletti takes the starring role in The Barber of Seville as the titular cupid coiffeur, Figaro.

A matchmaker who becomes embroiled in subterfuge to help lovestruck Count Almaviva marry Rosina – stealing her away from her scheming guardian, Bartolo – Figaro has gone down as one of 18th-century opera’s best-loved comedic foils.

“Figaro is like a storm in the repertory,” says Cavalletti. “His character is very inventive for Rossini’s age – when he arrived, everything changed.”

Already established as a comic hero in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in 1786, Rossini used the same 1775 French play that inspired Mozart – Beaumarchais’s The Barber of Seville – as the basis for his opera of the same name.

The arrival onstage of Rossini’s Figaro is signalled by Largo al Factotum, one of the most famous arias in opera. Despite having performed the role several times – including a run at Milan’s historic La Scala last summer – it remains a precious moment for Cavalletti.

“This is my entry, and it stops the stage,” he says. “When I arrive, it’s a tsunami that destroys everything before and everyone after.”

The 38-year-old Cavalletti has tackled many of opera’s biggest roles, including Marcello in La Bohème, Falstaff’s Ford, Rodrigo in Don Carlo and, most recently, the title character’s brother in the Met’s new production of Manon Lescaut. Yet Rossini’s funny Figaro presents unique challenges.

“It’s easy to make people cry – but not so easy to make them smile,” he says. “It’s a very hard role – if you were to weigh me after the performance, I am sure I will be at least two kilos lighter, because Figaro is running and jumping around the stage all night. I hope the air conditioning will be on in Dubai – or it will be three kilos.”

Cavalletti has few concerns about acting an ambassador for opera in unconquered territories, stressing the inclusivity of Rossini’s score and the production by the Trieste company, with whom he is working for the first time.

“I don’t know anything about how people [in Dubai] feel about opera – but I do know they will see a very funny and clear show – very easy to understand for a new audience that has never seen opera before,” he says.

“I’ve performed opera all over the world, and some emotions are the same everywhere – everyone understands love.”

• Tickets from Dh300, visit www.dubaiopera.com

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: August 30, 2016 04:00 AM

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