• The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Saimir Pirgu

    This is the tenor everybody has been talking about. He was recently featured in Opera News Magazine and was on the cover of Opera Now. His success of late has been tremendous. I interviewed Mr. Pirgu for Opera Lively via Skype teleconference, the day before his debut at San Francisco Opera, and was impressed with his friendly and relaxed demeanor [Opera Lively interview # 61]. I look forward to seeing him live on stage at the Met in March 2013 (I have tickets for his Traviata with Diana Damrau and Plácido Domingo). Our readers will enjoy this endearing interview.

    © Fadil Berisha

    © Opera Lively - Disclaimer: this exclusive interview is copyrighted by Opera Lively with all rights reserved, and is not to be reproduced without express authorization. Brief excerpts can be used after consultation (use the Contact Us form) as long as proper credit and a link to the full interview on Opera Lively are provided. Links to the interview can be posted without authorization.

    Saimir Pirgu
    Fach: Light lyric tenor
    Born in: Elbasan, Albania
    Currently in: Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Tebaldo), San Francisco Opera. Opening night was on September 29. Subsequent performances are tonight, and October 11, 14, 16, and 19. Tickets [here].
    Next in: Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore (Nemorino), Wiener Staatsoper, November 8, 2012. Verdi's La Traviata in December at Teatro San Carlo, Naples. Next Metropolitan Opera appearance, La Traviata (Alfredo Germont, alongside Diana Damrau and Plácido Domingo), March 14, 18, 23, 26, 30, 2013, and April 3, 6, 2013 - tickets [here]

    Artistic Biography

    Born in 1981, he started his musical studies in 1989 at the Liceo d'Arte in his hometown Elbasan (Albania) as a violinist and continued studying singing at the Conservatories of Tirana and Bolzano (Italy), with Vito Brunetti, who is still his teacher. After moving to Italy, he won in 2002 the International Competition "Enrico Caruso" in Milan and the "Tito Schipa" International Competition in Lecce.

    He made his debut at the Rossini Opera Festival with Il viaggio a Reims and Adina. Later he started an important collaboration with the Wiener Staatsoper, winning the prestigious prize "Eberhard Waechter Gesangsmedaille" for his interpretation of Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore. At Teatro Comunale di Ferrara he sang Ferrando in Così fan tutte directed by Claudio Abbado and repeated the role at the Salzburger Festspiele with Philippe Jordan.

    Important debuts followed, bringing him to the major opera houses throughout the world such as the Hamburgische Staatsoper, the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich; the Berlin Staatsoper, the Teatro dell'Opera and Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome, and Teatro alla Scala in Milan. He regularly sings at the Opernhaus in Zurich, at the Covent Garden in London, at the Teatro Real in Madrid; he has also had his debuts in Valencia, at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna and at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, not to forget the Châtelet in Paris and Opéra Bastille, the Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège, the Teatro Regio di Parma, and the Teatro Maggio Musicale in Florence.

    The Duke - Rigoletto - Teatro São Carlos - Lisbon, 2007

    He collaborated with conductors like Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Daniele Gatti, Seiji Ozawa, Franz Welser Möst, Gustav Kuhn, James Colon, Antonio Pappano and Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

    Among his principal roles it is worth mentioning Idomeneo (Idomeneo), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Ferrando (Così fan tutte), Nemorino (L'Elisir d'Amore), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Fenton (Falstaff), Alfredo Germont (La Traviata), and Il Duca di Mantova (Rigoletto). He sang the role of Idomeneo at the Styriarte Festival Steirische in Graz, conducted and directed by Harnoncourt and the role of Duca di Mantova in Rigoletto at the Opernhaus in Zürich.

    His US debut was in 2008, singing Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi at the Los Angeles Opera, Woody Allen directing, James Conlon conducting. He's been to Santa Fe Opera in La Traviata, and to the Metropolitan Opera House in Gianni Schicchi. He is scheduled for future performances at Chicago Lyric Opera and will be back to the Metropolitan Opera House.


    CD solo Album "Angelo Casto e Bel", Universal label
    Blu-ray disc of Die Zauberflöte at Teatro alla Scala, OpusArte label
    DVD of La Bohème in Bern, SF label
    DVD of Idomeneo, Styriarte label
    CD of La Cambiale di Matrimonio, Dynamic label
    CD of Elena e Constantino, Dynamic label
    DVD of La Traviata, Dynamic label
    DVD of La Cambiale di Matrimonio, Dynamic label
    Concert DVD "Opera Night", ArtHaus Musik label
    DVD of Il Burbero di Buon Cuore at Teatro Real, Dynamic label


    © Fadil Berisha

    The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Saimir Pirgu

    Opera Lively - Hi, Saimir, how are you?

    Saimir Pirgu - Good, thank you. So are you in New York?

    OL - No, in North Carolina.

    SP - Oh. What time is it there?

    OL - 8 PM, three hours ahead of San Francisco.

    SP - North Carolina, huh?

    OL - Yep. You know, people from elsewhere sometimes don’t think much of our state… but we have six opera companies here. We have some good opera.

    SP - Six? Wow!

    OL - OK, let’s start the interview. Can you tell us a little more about yourself? You began music studies when you were nine years old at the Liceo d’Arte in Elbasan, your hometown, and you originally studied the violin. Did music play an important role in your home when you were growing up?

    SP - I started to play violin when I was six years old. At that time we were in the last years of Communism in Albania. They controlled the elementary schools, and then they sent talented people to music school. Probably if they hadn’t sent me to school, I would not be a musician. I would not have had this connection with the music.

    I loved to play the piano when I was very young, but they insisted that I play the violin. I think it was actually good for me, because the violin is better to prepare you to have a good ear. It helped later too, with the vocal music. At the time I didn’t like it, but now I think “thank God that I played the violin.”

    OL – How did you go from playing the violin to singing opera?

    SP – I started singing, I think, in 1995. I saw one of the concerts with The Three Tenors. I was playing the violin at school, but I watched the concert on television, and thought that probably it would be a good idea to sing. But I didn’t know if I had the voice. So I just started to imitate Carreras, Domingo, and Pavarotti, these three beautiful opera singers. I was just fourteen or fifteen years old and I hadn’t realized that I could actually do it. I asked a teacher at school – “can I sing or not?” He said, “yes, you are a wonderful tenor, but you have to go to Tirana and learn, and then you should go to Italy where there are better schools than here, because here we just study instruments.”

    I can say that I’m a product of The Three Tenors, because without this concert I wouldn’t have realized that I wanted to be a tenor.

    OL – Fantastic! Then from Tirana you went to Bolzano, right?

    SP – Yes, I stayed in Tirana until the age of eighteen, I finished the Conservatory in Albania, and I transferred to the Conservatory in Bolzano. My teacher there, Vito Brunetti, was a very good teacher. I spent two years in Bolzano and then I started to do competitions in all of Italy. It was easy for me. The first day I met Vito Brunetti, he said “in one year you’ll be able to sing; you’ll need good technique but you’ll be able to learn everything.” I went to the Enrico Caruso Competition in Milan when I was 20, and won it.

    OL – Wow, how was it?

    SP – It was in 2002. This Caruso competition was just for tenors. There were 80 tenors there and I was the youngest. For me, I wasn’t there hoping to win; it was just to figure out where I was with my voice. Then all the elimination rounds started and in the last one before the Final, I started to realize that I would probably win it. And the Jury was made of great singers like Giulietta Simionato, Luigi Alva, Giuseppe di Stefano… big stars. They decided to give me the prize, and I was very excited.

    If you are twenty, you don’t realize that things can move so fast. I thought I still needed to go slowly and make sure I could sing better. I wanted to do one more competition. I went to the Tito Schipa International Competition in Lecce and won it too. At that moment I realized that I would be an opera singer for real. I thought I was lucky the first time, but when I won a second time, and I realized it wasn’t luck.

    OL – It was talent!

    SP – [laughs] Yes… I just started to think, “oops, OK, I’ll probably indeed be an opera singer!”

    OL – Fabulous! So, Giuseppe di Stefano, huh? It must have been something, to meet him!

    SP – Yes!

    OL – So, tell me more about the decision to move to Italy.

    SP – Albania was a very closed country. It started to open up to the world in 1990, but even ten years later in 2000 the situation hadn’t changed a lot. We went from communism to democracy but it felt like it was still the same thing. It was difficult for me, as a young boy, to go to Italy, to Western Europe, and sustain myself there. We didn’t have any money. I had some support from my school, but my family was poor. They could support my life in Albania, but not in Italy. Still, I thought that I needed to go to Italy because it was the country of bel canto, the country where people spoke the original language of opera, and knew opera very well.

    This is why I went to Italy and not to a place like Vienna. I wanted to learn the Italian language and the Italian culture. I think I it was a very good decision, for me.

    OL – Yes, it seems like it was! So, when you started there to immerse yourself in all that operatic culture, did you have singers who were role models for you?

    SP – When I first got there, coming from Albania, there was so much information I had to absorb, I couldn’t even realize what was going on. But six months later I met Luciano Pavarotti. I mean, I met the best of the best! I was in Bolzano, and thirty kilometers away in a resort town called Smarano, Pavarotti was there, spending his vacation in a big hotel. He was staying there for three weeks, and he asked if there were any talented singers who he could hear. He just wanted to spend time with young people who could sing.

    So my teacher Vito Brunetti came to me and said, “Luciano Pavarotti is here and he wants to hear you. Do you want to sing for him?” I said, “yes, of course!!!” [laughs] Who wouldn’t say yes? It was a great opportunity! So yes, in 2001 I met Luciano Pavarotti for the first time, and after that we became very close friends and he taught me everything.

    OL – Wow, that’s incredible! So, let’s talk a little about your repertory. Many of the roles you’ve sung so far are those we might expect for a young lyric tenor. How do you see your voice developing? Are you planning to stay with the light lyric tenor repertoire?

    SP – Yes, if you start at age twenty-one or twenty-two, you need the lighter roles. My first role was in Così fan tutte with Claudio Abbado conducting. At that age you can’t sing Otello or Ballo in Maschera, you’re very young and you need to take care of your voice. So I necessarily started as a light lyric tenor, but I’ll probably actually stay in this repertoire for a good while, because I think it’s the most beautiful repertoire a tenor can sing. You have an opportunity to sing a large number of roles – Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, some Verdi, and the French repertoire with Gounod and Massenet. I love bel canto. I started ten years ago; now I’m thirty-one. Sometimes tenors stay in this repertory for thirty, forty years. I’ve started the light Verdis with La Traviata and Rigoletto, and little by little I’ve been moving to the French repertoire with Faust, Roméo et Juliette, and Manon. Let’s see what happens for the next years. “Chi va piano va lontano!” [Those who go slowly, go far].

    OL – OK, very good. We usually think of Mozart writing for lighter voices, but one of his roles that you’ve sung – Idomeneo – has often been sung by spinto tenors: Plácido Domingo, Siegfried Jerusalem, Jonas Kaufmann, or Waldemar Kmentt. And Idomeneo has some incredibly difficult music, such as the aria “Fuor del mar.” (See video clip below with Saimir singing the aria)

    SP – Yes, I have been singing Mozart since I was twenty-two, with the most accomplished conductors like Abbado. Then Maestro Harnoncourt asked me for Idomeneo. But you need to understand that I sang that with his own period orchestra [the Concentus Musicus Wien], not with the Wiener Philharmoniker. It’s a completely different sound. He was doing the original version of Idomeneo with all the agilità. It’s not the same version that Domingo did. Sometimes they cut the agilità parts. A singer like Carreras cannot do the complete Idomeneo. Singers like Francisco Araiza or Gösta Winbergh can sing it very well.

    Mr. Harnoncourt was after someone who was not just a light tenor, but not too big a tenor. I think it was the right time for me do to this role, and it was one of my best roles.

    OL - Do you think this is the most difficult role you’ve sung so far?

    SP – At the time when I sang it, it was. Not exactly because of the tessitura, which is similar to that of Cosi fan Tutte or Don Giovanni. And the orchestration is typical Mozart as well. But if I were doing it at the Metropolitan Opera, I’d be in trouble, but there where I sang it (in Graz), it was fine, because it was a theater with fantastic acoustics, the orchestra was very small, with the Baroque sound. If I were doing it with the full sound with James Levine or Riccardo Muti, it would have been completely different.

    Because the role of Idomeneo can be for a lyric tenor, or for a dramatic tenor. You need to decide what kind of tenor you want. Harnoncourt didn’t want to do it with someone like Ben Heppner or Domingo. He wanted someone with a voice type more similar to Araiza’s, able to sing all the notes of the role.

    OL – What roles have you found to be even more difficult, ever since?

    SP – Recently I did two Russian operas, Iolanta [Tchaikovsky] and Rachmaninoff’s Francesca da Rimini. These are probably the most difficult roles I’ve done. They are completely different from what I was used to doing, and it was the first time I sang Russian music in the Russian language. Actually I have a feeling that Iolanta has very good writing for my type of voice, but Francesca da Rimini is too much. I think I’m ready for Iolanta but probably I should only be singing Francesca da Rimini again fifteen years down the road. And the orchestration for it is so big. The more voice you have, the better it is.

    [Let's listen to the tenor in this difficult role in Rachmaninoff's Francesca da Rimini]

    OL – Have you ever tried contemporary opera?

    SP – Never, never… and I’ll probably not do it.

    OL - There are a number of composers who were active at the same time as Mozart or Rossini, but whose operas are infrequently performed. You’ve made a video recording of one of them, Martin y Soler’s Il burbero di buon cuore. One thinks also of Paisiello, Cherubini, Mayr, Auber, Spontini, or Paër, to name just a few. Do you have any interest in exploring this repertoire?

    SP – Yes, there are some operas in this repertoire that I feel I could sing, but it depends on the colleagues, the conductor, and the stage director. These composers wrote some very good operas here and there, but there is a reason why they are not as famous as other people, so to make them better you need a very good team. Maybe I’ll look at some new production of an opera by say, Spontini, and I’ll look at the score, and if I like the music, why not? There are many interesting roles. But for me, it is very important to look at with whom I’m singing, who is the director, and most importantly, who is the conductor.

    OL – What does the conductor need to do for you so that you feel very comfortable?

    SP – For a young singer, the conductor is the most important person. He needs to be experienced. A young singer can do well with a conductor like Harnoncourt, but if he works with a conductor who is just out of the Conservatory, who started with this music last year, he won’t be able to learn anything from him. These very experienced conductors can make a young tenor learn more and more; they have the expertise to take all the good from your voice and from your musicality and teach you how to use them in the right moment. This really makes a huge difference. When you have a great conductor, you sing much better.

    OL – So, you’ll be having your opening night in the role of Tebaldo tomorrow, at San Francisco Opera in Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi. Can you tell us a bit about this character, and his psychology?

    © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera - September 29, 2012 - Tebaldo - I Capuleti e i Montecchi

    SP – It’s not a big role. In this opera there is this triangle, with Romeo and Giulietta, and this bad boy Tebaldo. But he is not so bad as the same character in Gounod’s opera.

    OL – Well, in Gounod’s, he gets killed. [laughs]

    SP – Yes, Gounod’s is closer to Shakespeare. Here it is completely different. Tebaldo is just in love with Giulietta, and there isn’t that much of a difference between Romeo and Tebaldo. In this production, she feels excited about Romeo because he is someone new, while she has known Tebaldo for a long time. In Bellini’s opera, it is not so clear why Romeo and Giulietta are in love with each other.

    OL – What about the vocal side of it?

    SP – Yes, I have a wonderful aria in the beginning of the opera. Then I have a wonderful duet with Joyce DiDonato. It’s a big scene, a most beautiful duet. Are you coming to the performance?

    OL – Unfortunately that one I can’t. But I have tickets for your Traviata at the Met in March.

    SP – Oh, too bad. I’d explain to you what happens in this scene with Joyce, but it is too difficult to explain, you need to see it! It’s like a vocal duel. It’s one of the most beautiful pages in all of opera, I think. But it’s not a difficult role. It’s a good role to sing. One day I’ll sing Romeo.

    OL – How is it to work with Joyce?

    SP – It’s fantastic; I mean, she is one of the most wonderful colleagues I’ve had. As a singer, maybe she is *the* most beautiful one I’ve worked with. She is just wonderful. I’ve known her for ten years. We sang together in Pesaro; I was a little boy. She was singing there for the first time, an opera by Rossini in the Rossini Opera Festival, Adina. So yes, I’ve known Joyce for ten years and we’re very good friends. I’m very happy to sing this role with her, and with Nicole Cabell.

    © Karen Kriendler Nelson - Joyce DiDonato (Romeo) and Saimir Pirgu; after-party on opening night, San Francisco Opera

    © Karen Kriendler Nelson - Saimir Pirgu and Nicole Cabell (Giulietta), after-party on opening night, San Francisco Opera

    OL – We’ve interviewed Joyce for Opera Lively as well; she is wonderful. OK, tell us about your experience at the Colón in Buenos Aires doing the Mercadante opera, I due Figaro, recently in September.

    SP – Yes, Teatro Colón, with Maestro Muti. I did something that I had never done before: I prepared an opera in two weeks. I was singing Berlioz’ Messe Solenelle with Riccardo Muti in the Salzburg Festival. At this moment he was having some problem with his tenor for Buenos Aires, and he said “Mr. Pirgu, please, I’d love for you to come with me to Buenos Aires to do this opera I Due Figaro, but the problem is, we’re opening in one month. Would you be able to learn this opera with this sort of timing?” I said, “Maestro, I don’t know; probably, but I’d need someone to work with me every day.” And he said, “Yes, we can arrange for that.”

    So suddenly I was in a plane going to Buenos Aires. And it was beautiful music, very new for me. It’s like in between Rossini and Donizetti. It’s fantastic bel canto music. It was the most beautiful experience I had this year. Beautiful music, beautiful conductor, great colleagues, and the theater is so beautiful! Argentina is a beautiful country! Everything was so exciting! We had ten days down there, very intense, but they went very, very well. I loved it.

    OL – Nice! Of the roles which you haven’t sung yet, are there any that have a very strong appeal for you, that you really want to sing?

    SP – There are many roles that I’d love to sing, but probably the one I’d most like to perform now, is in the French repertoire: Faust. I just did Roméo et Juliette and it went well. So I’d like to take on Faust, probably in a small theater, and then let’s see what happens.

    OL - You sing regularly at the Zürich Opera. Under Alexander Pereira, Zürich developed a reputation for finding and nurturing young talent. What have your experiences with this house been like?

    SP – Yes, I started there very young. My first opera in Zürich was La Traviata with Renato Bruson and Eva Mei. After this first Traviata Mr. Pereira asked me to come back every year. I’ve sung there very often. I sang there Rigoletto, Falstaff, Gianni Schicchi, and then Mr. Pereira went to the Salzburg Festival, I did the Verdi Requiem at Salzburg, and he invited me there for the Berlioz Messe Solennelle with the Wiener Philharmoniker and Riccardo Muti which I just did. Probably next year I’ll be there for a concert, and in 2014 for an opera, still to be decided which one. There are two or three possibilities and I need to say yes or no to them. At the moment I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll be there.

    OL – Tell us more about Zürich Opera.

    SP – It’s a repertory house. They perform practically every day. You need to be well prepared for everything. People need to sing a different opera every night. Today it’s L’Elisir, tomorrow it’s Rigoletto, and after tomorrow it’s Traviata. It’s not a house where you can do experiments. You need to know these roles very well. They have mostly traditional performances, unlike some of the German houses that do a lot of Regietheater.

    OL – What do you think of Regietheater? Recently, you sang Don Ottavio in a production of Don Giovanni by Franco Zeffirelli, a director known for his very elaborate and traditional stagings. But you’ve also sung in productions by Richard Jones, who is known for his unusual or unconventional stagings.

    SP – Some stage directors want to do something new; want to introduce interesting things in the opera. I like it. For me it’s not important if it is modern staging or classic staging, it’s whether the production is stupid or not. You can have stupid modern productions but you can also have stupid classic productions [laughs]. Sometimes the modern productions have a lot to say. What is important is what people can say with their productions. I’ve worked with the best directors, and the worst directors. [laughs]

    These stagings by Zeffirelli and by Richard Jones were completely different, but they both worked very well for me. I had a very good feeling with the Zeffirelli, but also had a wonderful feeling with Richard Jones. Theater with Richard Jones can be very, very interesting – probably not in the United States, but for the European public his productions – or at least most of them, not all – can be very, very interesting, very good. You have to do more; to be more prepared, you have to do a lot on the stage. You need to be a good actor to work with him; it’s not just the voice.

    But I’m not for some of the most extreme German productions. I think they get some strange ideas sometimes. They change the roles, and they change the sense of the operas. But when the idea behind a modern production is good, I’m open to everything.

    OL – Recently in Florence, you sang in a gala concert with Angela Gheorghiu, and you were also Rodolfo in a performance of La Bohème in Barcelona in which she sang Mimi. What is like working with her?

    © Alessandro Moggi - Concert with Angela Gheorghiu - June 2012 - Teatro alla Pergola, Firenze

    © Alessandro Moggi - Concert with Angela Gheorghiu - June 2012 - Teatro alla Pergola, Firenze

    SP – I think she is one of the most wonderful and beautiful colleagues I’ve worked with. I did the concert with her, and in Barcelona it was my first Rodolfo. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. I mean, I’m singing my first Rodolfo on stage, and my Mimi is Angela Gheorghiu! What better could I have? I’m a very lucky man! She is so musical! Her musicality is just wonderful. She never leaves you alone. She is always with you. This was very important to me. She is not just doing her part in the opera, she is singing Mimi *with* you. Many singers can’t do this, and she does it very well.

    OL - You travel all over Europe and the U.S. How do you deal with the stress that so much traveling brings with it?

    SP – Yes, it’s a lot of stress. But see, I’m only thirty-one. Stress is OK at this age [laughs]. But yes, it’s not so easy. I’m staying here in San Francisco for forty days, then I’m back in Vienna, then in Toulouse, and then in Naples, and probably I will go home for New Years’ Eve, I don’t know when it will be possible to go home. But I like it. At this moment I have the feeling that this is my life, and I’m doing it. It’s a lot of movement but I like the stress. I cannot say that opera is just my job, I feel it’s my life.

    But yes, it’s a lot of stress. Today it’s dress rehearsal, tomorrow it’s opening night, after tomorrow I have interviews; yes, it is difficult, but it is good at the same time. Look, I’m thirty-one and I’m seeing the entire world. I was in Vienna, I was in Paris, in Japan, in South America, in Santa Fe, all the most beautiful countries… and I’m singing there… But you cannot have everything, some things you have to give up in order to support this lifestyle, so there is a price to pay, but I’m happy and I like it, and I’m willing to support this life for the sake of my singing.

    OL – Great. But you’ve been having a lot of success and exposure. You’re thirty-one years old now – in other words, still very young. You’ve sung at most of the world’s leading opera houses; worked with the most famous conductors; made almost ten CD and DVD recordings so far . . . an enormously successful career, by any standards. Are you concerned at all about the possibility of burnout? Recently you were featured in important opera magazines, including Opera News, and the Opera Now cover feature. Do you think that your growing success will bring you problems, on a personal level?

    SP – I don’t know what is happening. Yes, this is my moment. I’ve been singing for ten years and then suddenly all these things are lining up for me. But I didn’t lose my way when I had big changes in my life; going to Italy, launching a career at age twenty-one; so I don’t think I’ll lose it either now that I’m thirty-one. I need to be prepared for the next years. My voice is changing. I’m not a *young* tenor any more… I am a *tenor.* And people are interested in knowing what is happening with this guy from Albania. I’m having all this success and these publications are writing about me and even featuring me on the cover. But I’ve not changed after appearing on the cover of Opera Now magazine. I’m the same Saimir that I was yesterday, or ten years ago.

    I’m singing more beautiful roles, or more important roles with more important people. I mean, I’ll be singing La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera with Plácido Domingo. This could not have happened ten years ago. But it doesn’t change *me.* It doesn’t change my life. I know very well where I am.

    OL – Good for you! Please tell us about Saimir Pirgu, the person. How do you describe yourself in terms of your personality? What do you like to do besides opera?

    SP – Ooff… To express this… I think I’d have to switch to Italian. Do you understand Italian?

    OL – I do.

    SP – OK. [He switches to Italian – we’ll reproduce it here already in English translation] The life of a tenor is almost exclusively his voice. There is not a lot left for his personal life, as a singer. At this moment I’m the slave of my voice. Everything in my life depends on my voice. But I’m very young, and so on the other hand, being the slave of my voice doesn’t necessarily mean that I can’t have fun. I have everything that a young boy can have. I’ll say that I’m a lucky man. I have a lot from this life. I’ll stay in this moment of my life, with my voice, and with everything else that I love.

    OL – But so, you do have limitations because you need to engage in your preparation routines, watch what you eat and drink, etcetera, right?

    SP – I’m not so strained, but I do need to be careful. I mean, I’m singing in important places. Tomorrow I have my opening night at San Francisco Opera; so today I cannot go to the beach or stay out late or drink alcohol. So I need to live with this problematic issue of the voice, but I also need to *live.* And I love what I do, I’m very happy.

    OL – You seem to be easygoing, and throughout this interview you had this relaxed attitude and smiled a lot. You do seem to enjoy life.

    SP – Yes, that’s exactly how I am.

    OL – What do you like to do for fun?

    SP – Other than opera? I like to go to the games… to the beach… I love the beach very much. When I have free time I like to go to places where there is a lot of sun, and I like snorkeling. I’m fortunate because in Albania we have wonderful beaches. When I have the opportunity to go back home I love to be with my family, my twin brothers, my nephew, and my friends. Like everybody, I like to be, like we say in Italian, “amato da tutti” [loved by all]. I’m a very simple guy.

    OL – I can tell that you are a really nice guy. I look forward to meeting you in person in New York in March.

    SP – So you’re coming to New York just for the opera?

    OL – Yes, like I said, I live in North Carolina, but I go to New York City three or four times a year for the opera. I was just there; saw the season opening night with Anna Netrebko.

    SP – How was she? Was she good?

    OL – She was great! And I interviewed her in person, she is so charming!

    SP – Oh yes, she is. I mean, she is fantastic! So you come from North Carolina to New York City to see the operas. America is so huge. I don’t see clearly where North Carolina is.

    OL – It’s on the East coast, right in the middle, if you trace a line from Florida to New York. It’s a little more than one hour flight to New York.

    SP – Oh, so you’re in a good position. What else do you do?

    OL – I’m a doctor.

    SP – You’re a doctor? What kind of doctor?

    OL – I’m a psychiatrist.

    SP – Oh wow! Wow! You have a busy life, man! Working as a doctor, and traveling for the opera! I’ll be happy to meet you in New York!

    OL – Thank you, Saimir. I loved the interview.

    SP – Fantastic. Bene, ciao.

    OL – Ciao.

    SP – Grazie mille!


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    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      I do remember Mr. Pirgu singing in Il burbero di buon cuore at Teatro Real, some five years ago. Nice voice. And a nice guy, too.
    1. Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
      Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) -
      We've included two new pictures taken at the after-party following the opening night of I Capuleti e i Montecchi at San Francisco Opera on 9-29-12, with Saimir Pirgu (Tebaldo) in the company of his co-performers Joyce DiDonato in the trouser role of Romeo, and Nicole Cabell in the role of Giulietta.

      All pictures included above were used with authorization.
    1. HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
      HarpsichordConcerto -
      Another worthy read. And what a unique one: a psychiatrist interviewing an opera singer on opera matters!
    1. Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
      Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) -
      Well, in that regard, not unique... I've always been a psychiatrist... and by now I'm clocking more than 60 interviews. That's one of the reasons I tend to always insert some questions about the psychology of a character.
    1. Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
      Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) -
      Saimir's PR agent sent us this link to a nice article that has just appeared about him in the New York Times:


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