• The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Massimo Giordano

    [Opera Lively interview # 115] This interview with Italian tenor Massimo Giordano demonstrates the singer's nice personality. His answers are very compelling. Enjoy!


    Artistic Biography

    After his graduation from the Giuseppe Tartini Musical Conservatory in Trieste, Italy, Massimo Giordano won the Lirico Sperimental A. Belli Contest in Spoleto, which opened the door to his operatic debut in 1997 as the protagonist in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito at Teatro Caio Melisso. In his second role as Alfredo in La traviata, he was only able to sing during the dress rehearsal due to an earthquake that devastated the Teatro Nuovo. He then sang the role of Ernesto in Don Pasquale at Trieste’s Teatro Verdi, for the great rejoicing of his former classmates.

    His voice’s purely romantic color could only evoke Werther, the classic romantic hero. After the preview at Valli in Reggio Emilia in 1998, doors of theatres everywhere opened wide for him. The following year saw him in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette with Mariella Devia at Regio di Parma, and in 2000 came his success in Le jongleur de Notre Dame at the Opera di Roma. Giordano subsequently inaugurated 2001 as Fenton in Falstaff, first under Abbado and then Maazel in Salzburg. Chailly conducted him time and again in Verdi’s Requiem around Europe and in 2005 he sang the Requiem in Rome with Gelmetti in memory of John Paul II.

    In 2006 he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in Manon by Massenet alongside Renée Fleming. Anna Netrebko was his partner in 2008 in another Manon in Vienna.

    With her, Massimo then went on a triumphant tour throughout Europe in 2009.

    The Metropolitan saw him in L'elisir d'amore alongside Angela Gheorghiu.

    Next, and with his voice developing into the lyric tenor range, Massimo took on Cavaradossi in the main theatres of the world, then Don Jose in Carmen in Berlin and Vienna in 2009-2010; followed by Don Carlo, without deserting Alfredo in La traviata and Rodolfo in La bohème. These roles took him to La Scala, the Metropolitan, the Staatsoper theaters of Vienna, Munich, and Berlin, the Royal Opera House, and the Opéra de Paris.

    By now, Massimo has been heard from Sydney to Tokyo, including Chicago, Zurich, Dresden, Madrid… and he has been to festivals such as Salzburg (Fasltaff with Abbado) and Glyndebourne (Eugene Onegin with Vladimir Jurowski).

    Recent and future projects inlude the role of Forest in Verdi’s Attila, in concert at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2013; in 2014 the role of Maurizio of Sassonia in a new production of Adriana Lecouvreur at the Wiener Staatsoper, and Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut at the Easter Festival at Baden Baden, under the direction of Simon Rattle heading the Berliner Philarmoniker.

    For more details, consult the singer's official website at www.massimogiordano.com


    2013 sees his first solo album: Amore e tormento (Love and pain) is released thanks to an exclusive contract with BMG. Accompanied by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Ensemble conducted by Carlo Goldstein, he sings about love with arias by Puccini, Verdi, Cilea, and Umberto Giordano, with pieces from Tosca, Andrea Chenier, Turandot, L’arlesiana, Adriana Lecouvreur and others.

    The album includes the following tracks:

    The album includes the following tracks:
    1) Puccini - Manon Lescaut - Donna non vidi mai
    2) Cilea - Adriana Lecouvreur - La dolcissima effigie
    3) Giordano - Andrea Chénier - Come un bel dì di maggio
    4) Puccini - Tosca - E lucevan le stelle
    5) Verdi - Don Carlo - Io l'ho perduta! ... Io la vidi
    6) Cilea - L'Arlesiana - Lamento di Federico
    7) Puccini - Tosca - Recondita armonia
    8) Giordano - Fedora - Amor ti vieta
    9) Puccini - Le Villi - Torna ai felici dì
    10) Verdi - Simon Boccanegra - O inferno! ... Sento avvampar
    11) Puccini - Madama Butterfly - Addio fiorito asil
    12) Puccini - Turandot - Non piangere Liù
    13) Ponchielli - La Gioconda - Cielo e mar

    Bonus track: Giordano – Marcella - Dolce notte misteriosa

    It can be bought from the singer's website shop, by clicking [here] or on Amazon.com, [here].

    The singer can be also seen and heard on this blu-ray disc (DVD also available):

    He is featured on these two operas recorded on CD:

    The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Massimo Giordano

    © 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.

    Credits - Questions by Opera Lively journalist Mary Auer. Photos of the singer were recovered from his website where photo credits are not given - we'll be happy to add the credits if we are told what they should be; meanwhile this is fair promotional use.

    Mary Auer for Opera Lively - If we may, let’s begin by talking about your new album, “Amore e Tormento,” which was released on the 6th of May. This CD is your first recording since you signed with BMG Rights Management as their first classical recording artist. Can you tell us how your signing with this label came about?

    Massimo Giordano - I have always wanted to record an album and waited many years to do so. Finally, when I thought it was never going to happen I met a woman named Ashley Bettis who told me about BMG and what they call their “ Master Right Model”. It works in the reverse way of your usual record deal. The core focus of this model is to give the artist pure artistic freedom. For a classical artist this is something that is very fundamental. On October 29, 2012 I signed the deal with them that would allow me the freedom to choose everything from what arias I wanted to sing to how I wanted my album cover to look. Every detail I can more or less make the decision. It is almost like working in a structure of an independent label but still by benefiting from the strong brand name of Bertelsmann Music Group. I really think it’s the business model of the future.

    OL - How did you develop the themes for your album? And how did you select the arias that you’ve included here? Some of these are from roles you haven’t yet performed onstage.

    MG - When I chose the arias I did not want to follow a stylistic or chronological logic but convey to the listener the emotion of tormented and suffered love, which is an emotion we all feel in real life at least once. For this reason I have chosen arias that even in their sequence tell the evolution of love and suffering related to it even though I have never sung some of them and some I will never sing in the theater.

    Also, I always loved arias like "Come un bel dì di Maggio" or "Non piangere liù" and to have the chance to record those arias for me has been a challenge but overall a great achievement because some of these operas will belong to my future repertoire and I wanted to prove to myself and to the audience that I was able to fulfill this challenge.

    OL - When you record arias, does it help to have sung the role in a staged performance before? Or does it make little difference in your interpretation of the aria?

    MG - Of course it helps to have sung the role in a staged production. Naturally, if it is an aria that I have rehearsed over and over again, it makes it a bit easier technically to sing. However, if it is a role like Mario Cavaradossi that I am singing over and over again I have to really think how to make it special and unique so that it does not become too sterile.

    Also, since I have performed it before the recording it gives me a lot more confidence versus recording an aria that I have never sung in a theatre. In fact, I also choose arias that are not in my repertoire but will be in the future and on the contrary I choose as well arias that I will never ever sing in a theatre, which was the greatest of all challenges. I really wanted to overcome this challenge and prove to myself and to my audience that I can really do it.

    OL - You’ve also recently made a music video directed by Marisa Crawford, which was filmed in Naples and off the coast of Amalfi. Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea for this video, and your choice of music for it? [The image below is from this video]

    MG - I have to say, filming this video was great fun and a very memorable experience for sure. I collaborated with my co-producer, Ashley Bettis who introduced me to Marisa Crawford, a very talented fashion film director and photographer. Ashley and I really wanted to create something that was as “close” to me as possible and therefore we chose to travel to Naples, near where I was born. I love the old films like "Dolce Vita" for example and I wanted to make a music video that was a representation of real southern culture and cinematography and avoid a “commercial” approach.

    In the old Italian films from the 60’s its not always about the architecture of the cities but rather a representation of the people that are brought to life as well as cinematography that shows off their way of life. We all worked very diligently to also translate the text of the aria into beautiful imagery with a real story board like you would see in a film or in the theatre. I wanted it to be almost like it was the soundtrack for my own film and to translate it through film.

    OL - The German journalist Stefan Kruecken has been working on your biography, called “The Miracle of Boscoreale,” which is going to be released this year. How did you meet Herr Kruecken? What did you think when he suggested the idea of a biography?

    MG - I was introduced to Stefan Kruecken by Ashley Bettis. She always told me I had a beautiful life story to tell, so she said to me “why not have someone write it.” I have to say I was a bit uncertain at first because sometimes you don’t realize the life you have had until you see it through someone else’s eyes. In fact, I better understood her vision only after I travelled with Stefan Kruecken to my birthplace, Pompei. We spent about four full days in Pompei and Boscoreale where he followed me around. I showed him all things belonging to my youth including a local bar where I went with my father during the FIFA World Cup in the 80’s. It had been such a long time since I was there. We also travelled to the village of Boscoreale that was the village I actually grew up in.

    To travel back to the area that I come from and see the poor living conditions of the people and the debris all over the place with Mount Vesuvius in the horizon brought back so many memories and naturally stories to tell. After this experience of sharing my life story with Stefan I realized sometimes it takes seeing it transposed through a writer on paper to grasp that - my God! I come from a place and a life so far from the glamorous world of the opera!

    OL - You’ve sung at major opera houses around the world, and many of them have been in Germany and Austria. Those two countries are well known for their avant-garde opera productions, the so-called Regietheater. What are your feelings about this?

    MG - To be honest, I have spent the majority of my career on the stages of Germany and Austria so these opera houses and their audiences are very dear to me. I am completely supportive of modern productions and I am by no means a purist in this aspect. However, I do think that often in “ regietheater” there is a miscorrelation of what is “modern”. To create an entirely different story completely out of context with the libretto does not make it “current”. There is a very definitive line between what is “modern” and what is a completely made up story by a director. I remember I was once told by a director- “Massimo, it does not matter where things move – as long as they are moving.” In my opinion, are these discussions about the productions really constructive?

    OL - These types of productions are less popular in Italy and the United States. What other differences have you observed in the countries in which you have performed? How different are audiences in Italy from those in Germany or Great Britain, or audiences in France or the U.S.?

    MG - Interesting question. I would say worldwide audiences are enthusiastic and supportive of the artists. I feel like worldwide where I have sung all audiences respect the musicians. There is not one country I prefer to perform in over another. I think the differences I have seen in my career are more about the audiences and their reactions to the actual production itself.

    I would say Germany is by far the most liberal audience because of the topic of the previously mentioned “ regietheater.” I would say in Italy, they are the most conservative audience as Italian opera belongs to our culture and therefore the audience wants to see the roles and regie presented and interpreted as the composer wanted. In my experience I would say Italy has the most “ pure” audience and this is something that I can appreciate and respect as opera is something that belongs to our country throughout history. I think the American, British and French audiences are the most “easy going” audiences. They like to be entertained and do not get so caught up in the discussions of the stage direction, but rather just enjoy the performance, the music and an evening at the opera.

    OL - You make extensive use of online media: Facebook, Twitter, your web site, even your own YouTube channel. How important are social media for your career?

    MG - To be honest, I never used any social media until I knew I was going to release an album. I manage my own Facebook, Twitter and Youtube even if at the beginning I was a bit “ slow” to understand how it works. It is important to me that I use it personally and that I do not have a PR agency or Marketing firm do it. I decided if I was going to use social media I wanted it to be really me, Massimo. I think social media is the future to market yourself as an artist. Honestly, I did not realize I had the large fan base I have until I started using Facebook. It used to be that people would send you “fan mail” by the regular post office; now it has turned into a “ Facebook wall post”. Who would have ever thought it? I used to take time answering fans by a simple letter; now it has turned into a 5 second response through the Internet.

    I think its also a great tool to keep your fans close to you and to easily engage yourself with the click of a button. Most importantly, it is a nice way to share personal things with your fans that before was not possible unless it was some kind of feature or interview in a print publication or the television. It is really the best way you can interact directly with those who support you in your career.

    OL - You really try to stay in touch with your fans. What is the most valuable feedback you receive from them?

    MG - I think the most valuable feeback I have received from them probably is their beautiful words of encouragement and appreciation. To be an artist on the stages is also a very demanding job and sometimes the critics can be very tough. In addition, you spend so much time on the road away from home... This also makes this job difficult and tiring. It seems like such a simple answer, but I have to say that I think it’s a good feeling to know that they are there to support you regardless of what the critics may say. At the end of the day the audience is the most important because you are the one who is there to share your music with them and make them happy by doing so.

    OL - When we look at your roles, we see that they are concentrated mainly in the Italian and French repertoires, yet they still represent a rather broad vocal range. You sing lyric parts such as Rodolfo in La Boheme, Alfredo in La Traviata, and Gounod’s Roméo, but you also sing spinto roles such as Don José, Cavaradossi, and Don Carlo. How do you see your voice developing?

    MG - I started with Mozart and then did a lot of singing in the French repertoire - Roméo et Juliette, Manon, Faust... I love the French repertoire. It is very intelligent, refined, with profound roles, as they are not often found in the Italian repertoire. I would like to sing these roles more often. And what I really regret is that I have sung so little Mozart. But it's like this: Italian tenor - Italian repertoire. And you have to sing what's perfect for your voice. I started with Falstaff and L'elisir d'amore. Then came Traviata, Bohème, Tosca, and now the heavier parts open. As a singer it takes a kind of journey through the repertoire. That is fine for me; I just miss Mozart. Giacomo Lauri-Volpi said: "the perfect tenor develops from Othello and Falstaff" - and that would be to reach the goal in my life as a tenor.

    OL - When you sing a role frequently, such as Cavaradossi, how do you keep it fresh and from becoming routine?

    MG - This is really tricky. I can say that especially after this past 2012-2013 season as I sang so much Mario Cavaradossi, it is really so difficult. I have to say that sometimes when you would think that it is easy because it's always the same music over and over again, it ironically becomes the most exhausting. I think in order to keep it fresh you must not focus so much on the technical side, but rather on the interpretation that comes from deep within the soul. I think to sing from the soul is the only way to truly avoid something becoming too stagnant. When it comes from the heart it is never the same and this is the most important thing if you are singing it all the time. If you just focus purely on the technical aspect then you for sure will have a superfluous sound.

    OL - How do you see the character of Cavaradossi? It seems he and Tosca both have trouble trusting each other.

    MG - Mario Cavaradossi is the perfect romantic hero: he is an artist, a revolutionary rebel and overall he is in love! It's a very intense and lively relationship of two very young people, I don't think they are more than 25 years old. There is a great element of joking between the two of them: Tosca plays to be jealous and Cavaradossi pretends to be annoyed and teases her. But there is a great tenderness between these two characters and when the circumstances require they are ready to sacrifice themselves for each other.

    OL - Don Carlo is sometimes sung in four acts, sometimes in five; sometimes in Italian, and sometimes in French. Which version of this opera do you prefer, and why?

    MG - Don Carlo is a very demanding role irrespective of it being sung in French or Italian, in four acts or five. I always say I am never going to perform another Don Carlo again, then somehow the occasion to sing it again always arises. After I performed Don Carlo in Berlin is 2011 the opportunity came to sing it in the Netherlands. Then here I am again just recently singing Don Carlo - the five act version - in Florence. I would say only because of the of vocal endurance I prefer to sing the four act version otherwise I have to say the music of the five act version is so beautiful! It is sad to not sing it despite the fact that is so technically difficult.

    OL - You are scheduled to sing Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur next February at the Vienna State Opera. Will this be a role debut for you?

    MG - Yes, I will be singing Adriana Lecouvreur next February in Vienna. However, this is not a role debut for me; only a new production with Angela Gheorghiu and the stage director David McVicar.

    OL - What are your thoughts on the character of Maurizio? He’s intentionally maintaining romantic relationships with two different women, one of whom is married.

    MG - Maurizio of Saxony is a character who really existed; a great historical character. The Colautti libretto doesn't do him justice. Already the play of Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé was problematic, and the collaboration between Cilea and Colautti was not the happiest. Luckily in the opera there is the marvelous music of Cilea to balance everything.

    Maurizio was the illegitimate child of the king of Poland, and really the wish to regain the kingdom lead him to entertain the relationship with the princess of Bouillon for motives of political opportunity. It can seem a cynical and calculating aspect, and probably is, but we also needs to compare it to a very different epoch from ours (although these things, and even worse, they happen today as well). He strongly belonged to a sexist society. In the opera he says to Adriana that he wants to marry her, asking: "Do you accept my glorious name?" This is an affirmation of an unbelievable machismo, but those were the times.

    Maurizio was famous for his courage. He was almost reckless in battle. He was a famous leader, but also an enlightened strategist and his treatise on the art of war, although it diminishes the importance of firearms, has some aspects that even today are advanced. In short, he was a complex figure in a very complicated historical period. He was also a Don Giovanni; was a handsome man, famous for his physical strength, and sowed illegitimate children around Europe. His love, however, was certainly Adriana, who is also famous and revolutionary in a way that forever changed the art of acting.

    OL - If we could now, let’s talk a little about your background. You were born in Pompei, and though neither of your parents was a professional musician, your father had a beautiful singing voice, didn’t he? How important was music in your home life while you were growing up?

    MG - I was born in Pompei but grew up in a nearby village called Boscoreale. These are both two small villages located just outside of Naples. Neither one of my parents were musicians however my father had and still has a wonderful voice. Unfortunately, he did not have the opportunity to ever study music or pursue a musical path in life. Music was a large part of my life growing up but only in the conservatory in Trieste where I studied the flute, but not at home, unless you want to count me practicing the flute for my parents, which I have to admit that I seldom ever did. However, I do remember my grandfather, who had no education at all let alone a musical education, listening to records of opera from his chair in the living room. Actually, it was not just a record player, it was a phonograph. This was the only time I can ever recall hearing opera as a child.

    OL - When you were a teenager, your taste in music tended toward hard metal rock. When did you develop a serious interest in classical music? I know that when you were eight years old, your family moved to Trieste, where your father took a job at the G. Tartini Conservatory. You enrolled at the Conservatory yourself, to study flute.

    MG - I was a very very rebellious teenager. Although I studied the flute in the conservatory, I was not well behaved enough nor did I have the temperment to practice the flute and really study it outside of the conservatory.

    OL - What made you decide to study flute? Were you thinking of a career as an orchestra musician at that point?

    MG - My family and I moved to Trieste and the only job my father was able find was a position as a janitor in the conservatory. Because my father secured a job at the conservatory, this allowed me to attend school there. I entered into the classroom for flute only because there was no space in the classrooms of other musical disciplines. At the time all seats were filled in all of the classes. I never even liked to play the flute as I always wanted to play the guitar. I think when I was a child, I wanted to be some kind of rock star. I definitely never thought of or had interest to be an orchestra musician; I just wanted to sing and play the guitar and listen to rock and roll.

    However, upon graduation from the conservatory for flute, I entered the school again to study voice. I met a teacher named Cecilia Fusco who really helped guiding me and training me vocally. I would say it was when I met her that I really took an interest in classical music. From that point on, I listened only to classical music on my cassette player. Around 19 years of age I really became serious about learning, and completely submerged myself into listening to old recordings.

    OL - How old were you when you attended an opera for the first time? Do you remember which one it was?

    MG - I was 19 years old when I saw my first opera. I remember I went together with my father Alberto to see Don Pasquale in Trieste.

    OL - After your singing talent was discovered and you entered the Conservatory’s vocal training program, you went on to have a very successful career as an opera singer. But do you still play the flute for your own enjoyment?

    MG - I have not picked up the flute and played it in many years. Maybe I will one day. I still have my flute at home and sometimes my daughter on occasion is playing it. Maybe my son will play it one day. However, he is still very young.

    OL - When we think of a tenor who is also a flutist, we naturally recall Benedikt Schach, for whom Mozart wrote the role of Tamino in The Magic Flute. Schach actually played the flute himself when he sang this role. If you were offered an opportunity to sing Tamino in a production where you would also play his flute solos, would you consider it?

    MG - This is a role that I would one day love to sing! Of course I would consider playing the flute solos! I would just need to train and study as much with a flute teacher as I do with my vocal coach! But yes, absolutely, I would love to do this!

    OL - You made your opera debut as Mozart’s Tito Vespasiano. You said that you regret not having sung more Mozart - do you plan to revisit this repertoire, somehow?

    MG - I would love to sing more Mozart and the time that I did sing Mozart was much too short. I have not performed Mozart since the early days of my career. In fact, I do not sing Mozart anymore. Like I said, I think because I am Italian – I quickly received roles in Italian repertoire early on and pursued Italian repertoire only to help advance my career. However, I deeply regret not singing more Mozart because I really truly love his music.

    OL - At the conservatory, you studied with Cecilia Fusco. Over the course of your career, you’ve sung with many famous conductors. Which persons do you consider to have been the most important influences in your career? What did you learn from them?

    MG - Cecilia Fusco taught me the basics of the art of singing. But I also remember Maestro Aldo Danieli. He continues to teach me all the operas. During my career I have had the honor of singing with almost all the greatest conductors in the world and each of them gave me something, enriching me as interpreter and as musician. In the early years I owe a lot to Gianluigi Gelmetti, who wanted me to inaugurate twice the Rome opera season, including in 2000, the year of the Jubilee. Thanks to a hearing with Claudio Abbado, I sang in Salzburg in 2001 in a memorable production of Falstaff. Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Chailly, Yuri Temirkanov and everyone else... I really do not want to hurt anyone by failing to mention him. Each one of the greatest I've met has taught me something, allowing me to mature and grow, a path that certainly does not feel exhausted.

    OL - Of course, your career keeps you very busy, but when you do have some private time, I understand you love to play chess. Do you find this relaxing, or do you like the mental concentration it requires?

    MG - I find chess very relaxing. Yes, it does require mental concentration. I know when I can no longer focus on a game of chess on the computer that it means that I am really tired. It is relaxing for me but is also a sign that I am in need of a good rest!

    OL - Another one of your interests is classical paintings. Some of the world’s greatest artists came from Italy. Who are your favorites, and what about their paintings appeals to you? Do you paint yourself?

    MG - No, I don't have this talent, but painting is an art that literally magnetizes me. When I am able I always try to visit the museums of the cities where I sing, and also with my family we love to do it in our free time. I remember at the National Gallery in London to have been in contemplation of "The Ambassadors" by Holbein the Younger for a long time. I was completely fascinated. Recently the same thing happened to me at the Uffizi in Florence, in front of the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. I know, I'm talking about some of the greatest masterpieces of world art; it may seem banal, but when I am impressed with a painting the thrill for me is really strong. Unfortunately I don't have specific preparation to appreciate the art of painting - it's more a matter of skin feelings. I always try to visit the museums within the limits of the little time I have available, and at each visit there are always exciting new discoveries.

    OL - What else can you tell us about your personality and your interests? What kind of person are you?

    MG - I think I am pretty easy going and simple. I am interested in paintings, chess and most importantly just spending time with my children since I am away from home so much. Nothing is better then time at home with my children.

    OL - You and your wife have two children, and you live in Trieste. Do you parents still live there as well?

    MG - Yes, my father and mother both live in Trieste as well as my sister Marilena with her husband and children. We are one big Italian family.

    OL - How old are your children? Do they have an interest in music, or have you ever taken them to operas in which you’re singing?

    MG - My daughter is 13 and my son is turning 5 soon. My daughter is very creative and has a really good eye for photography and design. I think my son has a bit of musical interest. He currently is taking piano lessons and is really focused even for a 4-year-old. Time will tell as I think that he is still a bit too young. My children do travel often with me, but rarely actually sit and watch the opera. I do not think they have much interest on it and I do not force them. I just let them be kids.

    OL - Thank you for a fascinating interview, Mr. Giordano!


    Let's listen to the singer (unfortunately we have to tolerate the ad that comes before the video clip, but the clip is very beautiful, featuring the singer's native land in the Naples region):


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