Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ten Questions With... Tenor Carlo Ventre Believes in Destiny and Thinks Pinkerton is a Putz

Carlo Ventre is one of the nicest men I've ever had a chance to work with and it is always a privilege when he performs on our stage. Carlo first joined us in 2005 in Simon Boccanegra and then returned to us last season as Radames in Aida. Since then he's had some important debuts and received some much deserved critical acclaim. It is always nice to read good things about good people.

Carlo returns to us later next year to sing the role of Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, a role he has become known for over the years. I was able to catch up with Carlo and talk about his upcoming appearance with us and a bit about the character of Pinkerton.

So, without further ado, the next installment of our ocassional series called "10 Questions With..." which is actually eleven questions this time around for those paying attention.

San Diego Opera (SDO): First, welcome back to San Diego Opera! We last saw you last year as Radames in Aida. Before we begin, is there anything new in your life that you would like to share with us?

Carlo Ventre (C.V.): It has been a very intense year, with many debuts I had at different theaters (with big success with Aida and Tosca at the Arena di Verona), Leipzig, Hamburg, etc... ,in 2009 a return to Lyric Opera of Chicago with Cavalleria Rusticana and many other debuts at different theatres already decided for the future, with titles such as La Forza del Destino, La Fanciulla del West, Otello etc…

Furthermore, I moved from Puglia to Northern Italy, to Verona, where my agency is located as well as where some of my friends live, and from where it is easier to travel for the many trips I must take now during the year. Imagine that the area where I live in Verona is called ''Destiny Quarter''!

SDO: You sing Pinkerton with us in Madama Butterfly, a role you’ve sung many times. I am wondering if you can tell us a little bit about the character.

C.V.: Pinkerton is a difficult role to interpret as he has an unpleasant nature; one must consider that at the time opera takes place, his behavior was quite normal. Pinkerton paid for the fake marriage and didn't take it seriously, but such things were accepted at the time. Certainly today it seems cruel to us.

SDO: I hear this will be one of your last performances of Pinkerton before you retire the roll from your repertoire. How does that feel?

C.V.: I am not actually retiring it, but certainly I will perform it less. Also because now the theaters are asking for a more varied repertoire, and it is a role which doesn't pay off in the end, because of the character as well as from an interpretative standpoint. Today, due to my artistic and vocal development I am being offered more complex roles and basically ones that are more difficult and more gratifying!

SDO: Is there a part of Pinkerton that you relate to?

C.V.: As far as his character is concerned, absolutely not. He was from another time. Only at the moment when he throws all of the relatives out of the house when they insult his wife would I react the in the same way.

SDO: Is there a moment in this opera that is a favorite of yours?

C.V.: I love the music of the 'Bimba dagli occhi piena di malia' duet of the first act and its charm. And in the second act, Butterfly's second aria - and not just the most famous 'Un bel di vedremo', I mean the entire scene when Butterfly reveals to Sharpless that she has a child, and the scene and aria which follows ''Che tua madre dovrà prenderti in braccio..." the intensity of the music of this moment, set to the libretto of Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, is simply incredible.

SDO: Tell us about your introduction to Opera? When did you first hear it? What made you realize this was the path you wanted to pursue?

C.V.: My first introduction to opera was in Uruguay, my native country. Once, while I was singing in church as usual, there was a woman who heard me and took me to the local conservatory. It was there at the age of 15 that I made my debut as 'Parpignol' in La boheme. This first experience with the stage and opera literally swept me off my feet and from that time on I would never leave that world; it felt the most natural for me. I have had to overcome enormous challenges in order to follow my path.

SDO: Being a professional Opera singer you spend a lot of time traveling, meeting different people, exploring new locales. What do you like best about this aspect of your job?

C.V.: To have the privilege of discovering new countries, cities, meeting people, the culture of many places all over the world which I otherwise wouldn't have the chance to discover, and doing all of this while at the same time working in my profession, which after all, is my greatest passion.

SDO: What do you like the least?

C.V.: Packing. I hate packing. It is so annoying! And, naturally to not be able to sleep in one's own bed and and have one's own things around - I am always missing the cd or book I would most like to read - and, to not have the time to see friends and spend enjoyable, relaxing moments with them.

SDO: We (begrudgingly) must admit there is more to life than Opera. So, do you have any hobbies?

C.V.: Tasting local cusines, and cooking; I am a passionate cook. I love to cook for my friends and myself. I would like to do more sports, as I did in the past, but in order to avoid the risk of getting ill or catching a cold it is better to stay indoors in front of the heater!

Is there a book you are dying to get people to read?

C.V.: Not particularly. Reading depends on my mood; I like to read books that have to do with my profession, vocal technique or biographies of famous singers of the past...

SDO: What is in your cd player/iPod right now that is not Opera related?

C.V.: I love tango, a Uruguayan singer named Julio Sosa who had a great baritone voice and was a wonderful interpreter and who unfortunately died very tragically in a car accident when he was young. I listen to him when I travel, especially when in my car. I also listen to lighter music and pop - not just opera!

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