Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

10 Questions for...
Vittorio Grigolo

October 27, 2011

Vittorio Grigolo
Los Angeles Opera’s 2005 production of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette returns to the stage next Sunday. As you may recall, the last time around the show featured two white-hot young talents, Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon. I personally saw the show five times, and it will likely remain a high water mark of my opera going career for some time. Los Angeles Opera is poised to have that special lightening strike twice with this upcoming revival when two more incendiary young stars will take on the starring roles. One of those vocalists, who will also be making his Los Angeles debut, is tenor Vittorio Grigolo. Grigolo, besides being ridiculously handsome, has had a hugely successful recording career and recently released his latest collection, “Arrivederci” in this country. And at 34, he is taking world opera stages by storm. He’s well known to La Scala audiences and is frequently seen in London, Vienna, and throughout the rest of Europe. He’s appeared alongside Placido Domingo (singing The Duke of Mantua to Domingo’s Rigoletto), and his list of regular costars includes the likes of Gheorghiu and Fleming. (He'll be singing the Duke again in Milan next season under Gustavo Dudamel who'll be making his own La Scala debut at that time.) And he’s just getting started. Best of all, L.A.’s charming Romeo was kind enough to make some time to answer 10 Questions for Out West Arts.
  1. What role would you most like to perform, but haven't yet?

    I would love to perform Werther. I love the music and the character throughout the entire role, and who can resist the gorgeous aria “Pourquoi me reveiller”? Sooooo melancholic but so beautiful at the same time...and I always love to be a poet!

  2. What role would you never perform, even if you could?

    Otello, of course. :-)

  3. You'll soon be making your Los Angeles Opera debut as Romeo in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. What are the biggest challenges in playing one of music and literature’s greatest young lovers?

    The challenge is to be a lover...to be or not to be...there is no other possibility. Sometimes opera singers lose themselves in the score and the difficulties of their roles, forgetting the great and unique dimension of the drama. You have to play it as if it were real. It has to be as realistic as possible in order to let the public feel and connect with the play. It is not only about power and projecting and beautiful sounds, it’s about drama—better to call it melodrama— where emotions have to be held in control but still be emotions. The role has many dangerous parts. You need always to be in control and understand how to arrive at the end of the play after three hours with the same fresh sound in the voice as in the beginning....but I always love to challenge myself and the aria is a big, huge deal....soft but passionate and with a high note on the climax. Who could ask for anything more!!!

  1. You’ve had a very successful recording career to date all over the world. What’s the inspiration for your latest Sony recording, “Arrivederci”?

    “Arrivederci” is a very important record. It means a lot to me and where I come from: my background, my taste in the music of my country, and the feelings you get through those incredible masterpieces. “Arrivederci” means “see you soon,” and that is the first point of this album. It starts out very classical and guides the listeners to a magical trip through pure, classical opera to “popera”....Caruso was my example. When the project came along, I wanted to find special music that could express and in a way continue all the great feelings, love and passion my country reflects in music, especially in this century. I am very proud of the results and I think that this playlist creates an intimate relationship with the listeners. We always have to remember, though, that an album is not a real live performance. That is why I am asking listeners to come: "arrivederci...on stage!!!"

  2. Although you’ve performed widely in Europe, American audiences are just getting to know you. What’s the best thing about performing for American audiences?

    They are always happy. I find every theater and country has a very different audience. I have a huge love for Americans and their gratitude, love and appreciation for art. They really enjoy artists when they feel they are committed to them. It is a great feeling to return to the stage for your bow after the performance because you know that if you did well and you gave everything, they will give it back to you. In Washington and at the Met it was like this. I hope it will be the same here.

  3. Which music made you want to sing opera?

    Hmmm, I think it was anything my father would play while shaving in the bathroom.....a huge variety.

  4. A composer proposes a new opera with a part especially for you. What person or character would you most like to have written for you?

    Anything that makes me feel like a gladiator.

Vittorio Grigolo and Nino Machaidze as Romeo and Juliet in Milan Photo:
Brescia and Amisano
  1. You've worked with many of the major conductors and vocalists in the opera world over the length of your career. Is there someone you haven't worked with yet you'd like to?

    Of course, there is always somebody I am looking forward to walking onto the stage and meeting. I am really looking forward to working with Gustavo Dudamel in Rigoletto at La Scala in Milan next season. I think it will be a sensational production! Also, I would like to do music with Daniel Barenboim and Valery Gergiev...incredible musicians!!!

  2. What's your current obsession?

    Forgetting the words while I am performing. Sometimes I jump from an opera to another without much time and sometimes I just feel scared I will not be able to remember all of it...it isn’t funny!!!!

  3. With which of your operatic roles do you have the most in common?

    Romeo, of course! The role I am doing at the moment is always the one I have the most in common with. I have to be happy and always excited even when we repeat those roles. Of course, it’s often in different productions, and here in L.A. it seems to be a very special one. The director Ian Judge is extremely knowledgeable and inspiring. He definitely added a lot to my Romeo. Energy, passion love and drama will not be missed!!!


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