Monday, December 16, 2013

ARTISTS CORNER: Bartitone Marco Nisticò

Baritone Marco Nistico

ARTISTS CORNER:  Italian born baritone Marco Nisticò's impressive combination of beautiful tone, exquisite artistry, and superior stagecraft has delighted audiences throughout North America, South America, and Europe. In 2013-14 he returned again to the roster of the Metropolitan Opera for the premiere of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys and sings Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore with Teatro dell’ Opera in Rome. He also returns to Sarasota Opera this winter to reprise the role of Figaro in The Barber of Seville, a role he sang with Sarasota Opera in 2008.  

Q. Where are you originally from and where do you base yourself out of today?
A. I am from Naples, Italy. I live in New York City, on the Upper West Side. One block from Maestro DeRenzi, which is very good, because he has a nice espresso machine and gives me coffee from time to time… 

Q. Why Opera?  What drew you to become a singer? 
A. My father is a singer and a voice teacher.  He’s my voice teacher in fact. I was born into this.
I heard opera every day, from my father’s students at home and attending his performances. When I was growing up, opera was ubiquitous in Italy, everybody would know opera tunes and in elementary school we would learn to play “Va Pensiero” from Nabucco, on our flutes (I was not very good at it).  However, that trend was already changing. Pop music was growing and things changed dramatically. Now most people know that Italy is the birthplace of opera, but never go to a show.

Marco Nistico as Dulcamara in
L'elisir d'amore in Bregenz
Q. What singing did you do as a teenager?
A. I don't know. It just happened.  As a teen I hated opera and did not want to sing.  However, I think I was kind of "destined" to fall into it. One day I asked my dad to help me sing a song I was learning a bit better (for a university assignment I was doing for Sorbonne in Paris).  After that, I was stuck...

Q. What are you looking forward to most about performing the role of Figaro in this season’s production of The Barber of Seville?
A. Figaro is one of my favorite roles. One of the first roles I ever sang. I have sung Figaro in at least 6 different productions and many performances. There have been some in Europe (Wexford in Ireland, Holland, Bulgaria, and Bologna in Italy), Mexico (Guadalajara and San Luis Potosì) as well as here in the United States (Toledo, OH, Opera Festival of New Jersey, and, of course, Sarasota Opera).  I love the free spirit of the character and the music goes perfectly with it.

Q. What is your process for preparing a role for performance?
A. I read the libretto and try to analyze the poetic aspect of the words. I then go to the music and sing it as much as possible, by myself and then with a pianist. Anyway, Figaro, it’s a role I have done many times.

Q. What do you want the audience to know about your character?  What do you find most challenging about this role?
A. Figaro is the smartest guy in the room (and I say “guy” because Rosina is at least as smart). He is also a revolutionary, since he’s a servant who always wins against his masters. What is challenging about the role of Figaro is the fact that it has been sung by all the great baritones of the past and there are some inevitable comparisons. However, I really enjoy being this character.

Marco Nistico as Guglielmo in Cosi Fan Tutte at the Teatro Regio di Torino
Q. You have been a steady presence at Sarasota Opera for several seasons.  You must enjoy singing here.  What do you think makes Sarasota Opera so special that people return season after season?
A. To me what is really special about Sarasota Opera is the emphasis on doing things in the proper style, the importance of language, the care we must take on the connection between words and music, the highly professional production values. It is the fact that serving the composer is the most important thing. It’s the long rehearsal period that allows all of us the time to really explore the characters and their music. And it’s Lido Beach… yeah, that one too.

Marco Nistico as Guglielmo in Cosi Fan Tutte 
at the Teatro Regio di Torino
Q. You have performed all over the world.  Do you find audiences behave differently in all the different countries you perform in?
A. Perhaps… some audiences are more responsive than others. Some like to let you know clearly how they feel and if they like what you do. Some are more quiet during the show, but very enthusiastic at the end. In South Korea we had to go to the hall of the theater right after the show, in costume, and sign autographs for at least an hour. Everybody wanted their kids to take a picture with us… Anyway, I like every kind of audience. Without them, there would be no show. 

Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?
A. Maybe this one: During a performance of The Barber of Seville, the orchestra did not come in and I had to sing a cappella a good part of my duet with Rosina. At the moment it was not “fun”, but now it’s a good story to tell. And I will never forget my Rosina’s face, looking at me as to say: “good luck with that, buddy”.

Marco Nistico as Rigoletto
at Sarasota Opera

Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  Performance superstitions?  Good luck charms?  If yes, why?
A. Not really. Just relax during the day and then warm up before performance. I tend to eat only chicken and rice the day of a performance and bring at least a banana in my dressing room.

Q. How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?
A. I enjoy watching Netflix. I also go to the gym and spend time with friends.

Q. What music do you listen to when you are driving in the car or commuting around New York City?
A. I don’t own a car. The rare times I rent one I listen to NPR (talk). I do not listen to music while “commuting” around NYC. I want to be in touch with the people around me.

Q. How do you stay connected to family and friends when you are “on the road”?  Do you keep a blog?  Website? Facebook?  Twitter?
A. I really do not like personal blogs. I use Facebook, emails, Skype and the phone to talk to family and friends. I talk with Marina, my wife, several times a day on the phone. Blogs?? Unless you are a professional writer, That’s pure vanity…

Marco Nistico (right) as Figaro in Sarasota Opera's 2008 production of The Barber of Seville

Don't miss Marco Nisticò's return to Sarasota Opera as the schemeful Figaro in The Barber of Seville opening February 15th and running for 9 performances through March 21st.  Tickets are available online at or by calling (941) 328-1300.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

ARTIST PROFILE: Bass Harold Wilson

Bass Harold Wilson
ARTISTS CORNER:  Bass Harold Wilson will make his Sarasota Opera debut this winter as Daland in this season's production of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman.   Mr. Wilson has already established a respectable career worldwide performing regularly with companies such as the Metropolitan Opera, Tulsa Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and in concert at Carnegie Hall.  We caught up with Mr. Wilson as he prepares for the upcoming season.  We asked him to answer a few questions about his life as a singer and what he is looking forward to the upcoming winter season with Sarasota Opera.

Q. Where are you originally from and where do you make your home now?
A. I grew up in Charlotte, NC. I currently live in Mount Holly, NJ which is about 40 minutes from Philadelphia, PA.

Q. What drew you to become a singer? Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity 
A. I always enjoyed singing, but it wasn’t until I scored the highest marks during an All-State Choir audition that I realized I had some talent.

Q. Did you have other career aspirations in the works before you decided on singing?
A. I also studied Computer Science at University, but decided to put all my effort into Music during my Junior year.

Q. What can you tell us about this character? Why should the audience care about him?
A. Daland is a blue-collar worker, the Captain of a ship. As his daughter grows up, he really hopes to find someone to take care of her. He jumps at the chance to marry his daughter off to the Dutchman. Of course, the gold and jewels he would receive in exchange for her hand in marriage don’t hurt his enthusiasm.

Q. What are you looking forward to most about performing this particular role?
A.  I am looking forward to working with old friends and new ones. I’m also looking forward to working in Sarasota.

Mr. Wilson as Ramphis in Aida
with Opera Birmingham
Q. Is there something unique about your process when preparing a role for performance?
A. I have the unique opportunity to continue to work on many roles with my mentor and teacher Giorgio Tozzi who passed away in 2011. He left a wonderful legacy of recordings. One of his most famous recordings is singing Daland with George London as the Dutchman and Leonie Rysanek as Senta. I always listen for how sings a phrase. Where he takes a breath and which words are the most important to him. These are the things he would have told me in a lesson. I do not try to have the same sound he had since every voice is unique.

Q. Beyond the musical work, what other kind of preparation/research work do you incorporate in the learning process? Historical? Character study?
A. I often try to read the book/play that a libretto is based on. I always try to pay attention to people everywhere I go. There are so many different types of people out there, and I use these observations as a character study for the roles I’m preparing.

Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?
A. I was once in a production where the director and the tenor almost got into a fist fight.  

Mr. Wilson as Osmin in Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio
with soprano Kathleen Kim at Minnesota Opera
Q. During a performance?
A. Roberto Alagna jumped into the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Tosca. I was singing the Jailer and we were supposed to play chess against each other (don’t ask me why, but it’s a part of the new production). Cavaradossi should give up the match by laying his King down on the board. Instead Roberto “raked” all of the pieces onto the floor. Some of them went into the tracks of a trap door that was needed for the finale of the opera. I spent the next couple of minutes picking up every last piece while trying to stay authoritative and sing my lines at the same time!

Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals? Performance superstitions? Good luck charms?
A. I’m not very superstitious.

Mr. Wilson as Oroveso in Norma with Tulsa Opera
Q. How do you relax in between performances? What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?
A. I am an avid golfer. I bring my clubs on all of my gigs (weather permitting). If I’m not rehearsing, you will probably find me on a golf course. I’m available for any Member-Guest tournaments during my stay in Sarasota! ;o)

Q. How do you stay connected to family and friends when you are “on the road”? Do you keep a blog? Website? Facebook? Twitter?
A. I have a website (, a personal Facebook account, and a Twitter account (but I rarely use Twitter). I could be convinced that there is merit in have a “Fans of” page, but as of now, I do not have one.

Do not miss Mr. Wilson in his upcoming performances in Richard Wagner's The Flying Dutchman which runs for 7 performances between March 1st and March 23rd, 2014.  For more information and tickets, go online at or call (941) 328-1300.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sarasota Opera's "Die Fledermaus" Hits the Stage!

"Walk, don't run, to get your tickets to this life-affirming show." - Richard Storm, The Herald Tribune
"This is an enjoyable, fresh Fledermaus..." - June LeBell, The Observer

"Hilarious and delightful" - Martin Clear, Bradenton Herald

Sarasota Opera opened it's 55th season on November 1st with a revival of the company's production of Johann Strauss, Jr.'s Die Fledermaus.  Below is the opera synopsis accompanied by photos from the production to give you a glimpse into the show.  

Remaining performances are November 5th, 7th, 13th and 15th.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (941) 328-1300 or online at 
The home of Rosalinda and Gabriel von Eisenstein, near Vienna

Soprano Angela Mortellaro as Adele
A man’s voice is heard serenading from the street as Adele, Rosalinda’s chambermaid, reads an invitation to attend Prince Orlovsky’s grand party. Rosalinda refuses Adele’s request for the night off, since Eisenstein, her husband, is scheduled to begin a jail sentence that very evening. The serenader returns; it is Alfred, Rosalinda’s former admirer, who obtains a promise that he may visit Rosalinda later that night.

Soprano Danielle Walker as Rosalinda, Adele's employer

Tenor Joshua Kohl as Alfred, Rosalinda's lover
Baritone Sean Anderson as Eisenstein
Baritone Matthew Hanscom as Dr. Falke

Eisenstein enters, furious with his lawyer Dr. Blind whose incompetence has lengthened his stay behind bars. Dr. Falke arrives to invite Eisenstein to stop at Orlovsky’s party on his way to jail and Eisenstein, anticipating a fun evening ahead, agrees to attend. When Eisenstein goes off to dress, Rosalinda decides that with her husband away and Alfred at hand, Adele should not stay at home after all.

When Adele and Eisenstein leave Alfred returns to seduce Rosalinda. Frank, the warden of the prison, arrives to take Eisenstein into custody but mistakes Alfred for Rosalinda’s husband. Fearing a scandal, Rosalinda persuades Alfred to protect her reputation by pretending to be Eisenstein.

Baritone Steven Condy as Frank, the Warden

Prince Orlovsky’s villa

The party is hitting its stride when Adele arrives. Falke promises Orlovsky an amusing comedy called “The Revenge of Dr. Fledermaus.” As soon as Eisenstein is introduced as a Frenchman, “Marquis Renard,” Falke writes a note inviting Rosalinda to the party. 

Mezzo soprano Blythe Gaissert as Prince Orlovsky

Eisenstein and Adele recognize each other, but Adele laughs off his comment that she resembles his wife’s chambermaid. Prison warden Frank is announced as “Chevalier Chagrin.” 

A masked Hungarian countess (in reality the disguised Rosalinda) arrives. 

Smitten by the mysterious noblewoman, Eisenstein promises her his chiming watch if she will unmask, but Rosalinda manages to steal the timepiece away from her husband without revealing her true identity.

To demonstrate her Hungarian authenticity, Rosalinda sings a song of longing for her homeland. 

Falke explains to the amusement of the party guests that once after a costume party, Eisenstein left him drunk and asleep in his bat costume under a tree; when Falke awoke the next morning, he was surrounded by taunting children. Dr. Falke hints that one day he will take revenge on his friend. As the clock strikes, Eisenstein and Frank hurry on their separate ways to the jail.

The prison warden’s office
Baritone Constandinos Tsourakis as Frosh, the jailer
Alfred annoys the drunken jailer Frosch with his constant singing. Returning drunk from Orlovsky’s party, Frank falls asleep in his chair. The doorbell rings and Frosch admits Adele. She confesses to Frank that in reality she is the chambermaid in Eisenstein’s house. The bell rings again; Frank, recognizing Eisenstein (as “Marquis Renard”), tells Frosch to hide Adele and her sister.

Eisenstein and Frank reveal their true identities to each other. Frank, however, is skeptical because he has already arrested “the real Eisenstein.” They are interrupted by Frosch who announces a veiled lady. Frank goes to meet her as Frosch shows in Dr. Blind. Eisenstein forces Blind to surrender his clothes and glasses so that he can use them as a disguise.

Rosalinda meets with Alfred to warn him that Eisenstein is on his way. Her husband re-enters, now disguised as Blind. Accusations mount until Eisenstein takes off his disguise. Rosalinda confronts him on his behavior at Orlovsky’s party by producing his watch. 

As Falke arrives to enjoy seeing his revenge on Eisenstein, Rosalinda forgives Eisenstein for his flirtations. Everyone decides that the previous night’s confusion can be attributed to Champagne the King!

Conductor - Victor DeRenzi
Stage Director - Stephanie Sundine
Scenic Designer - David P. Gordon
Costume Designer - Howard Tsvi Kaplan
Lighting Designer - Ken Yunker
Hair & Make-Up Designer - Sue Sittko Schaefer
Chorus Master - Roger L. Bingaman

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

DIE FLEDERMAUS Returns to Sarasota Opera November 1st!

Baritone Sean Anderson as Eisenstein
in the 2006 Sarasota Opera production
of Die Fledermaus
Sarasota Opera will open its 2013 fall season on November 1st with the  operetta Die Fledermaus (The Bat) by Johann Strauss, Jr.  Sparkling and effervescent, Die Fledermaus gradually became a global hit after its premiere on April 5, 1874, and is the most performed operetta in the world!
Even though operetta was the musical genre du jour in mid-nineteenth century Vienna, the form did not begin there.  The origin of the form  was in Paris during the 1850s.   Composer Jacques Offenbach was having great success with one act comedies poking fun at politicians and aristocrats which proved to be a nice alternative to the increasingly serious French grand opera.  Offenbach’s theater was packed with patrons eager to enjoy evening s of light musical entertainment. In a short time, the popularity of these operettas (operette in French) swept through Europe, particularly in Vienna, where Austrian composers began trying their hand at creating works of similar style.
The most successful of these was Johann Strauss, Jr.  In addition to writing Viennese waltzes that are still played today, Johann Strauss, Jr. is famous for taking the French operette form, layering it with some Viennese flavor, and creating the Viennese operetta; His most famous and beloved being Die Fledermaus.         

Die Fledermaus premiered on April 5, 1874, at the Theater an der Wien was well received by the audience.  It enjoyed 16 initial performances in Vienna then quickly made its way around Europe with varying degrees of success.  It wasn’t until the early 20th Century that audience enthusiasm solidified its stature as a cultural landmark and the work is now presented regularly around the world.

Sarasota Opera's 2006 production of Johann Strauss, Jr.'s Die Fledermaus
An elaborate revenge scheme is hatched by Dr. Falke to expose the womanizing ways of his friend Eisenstein.  The previous winter, following a masked ball, Eisenstein left his friend Falke drunk and asleep under a tree in a bat costume (hence the name of the opera “The Bat”).  Falke has now invited Eisenstein to enjoy a final night of frivolity, before he departs for a short stint in jail, at an elaborate Viennese ball hosted by Prince Orlovsky.  Falke tricks Eisenstein into flirting with his own wife, Rosalinda, who is disguised as an Hungarian countess.  A comedic evening, full of hidden identities and amorous intrigues, results in this charming story where ultimately champagne reigns as king!

Baritone Sean Anderson, who won critical acclaim as George in last season’s Of Mice and Men and Iago in the 2012 production of Verdi’s Otello, made his Sarasota Opera debut as the scheming Eisenstein in 2006.  Of his return in the role, Mr. Anderson says, “I always look forward to performing in Die Fledermaus, or any operetta for that matter, largely due to dialogue.  Opera singing is demanding without the addition of spoken text that must, must be on par dramatically with the sections which are sung. To strive to do both with artistic integrity is a challenge I relish bending my skill towards.”       
Mr. Anderson will be sharing the stage with a large cast of Sarasota Opera favorites.  Soprano Danielle Walker (A King for a Day, Carmen) will sing the role of his wife Rosalinda; Soprano Angela Mortellaro (Hansel and Gretel) will sing Adele, Rosalinda’s chambermaid; tenor Joshua Kohl (Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Giovanni) as Alfred, Rosalinda’s former lover; baritone Matthew Hanscom (Of Mice and Men, Turandot) as Dr. Falke, a.k.a “The Bat”; and mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert (Rigoletto, La rondine), as Prince Orlovsky, the host of the Viennese Ball where Falke’s plot unfolds.  Stephanie Sundine will direct and Maestro Victor DeRenzi will conduct the Sarasota Orchestra.  Originally written in German, this production will be sung in English in a translation by Marcie Stapp.  And like all productions at Sarasota Opera, subtitles will be projected above the stage. 

With tickets starting at only $19, this is a wonderful opportunity to see one of Johann Strauss, Jr.’s most celebrated works come alive.  Performances are November 1, 3(m), 5, 7, 13, and 15(m).  Evening performances begin at 8pm and matinée performances (both weekend and weekday) begin at 1:30pm.  For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Sarasota Opera Box Office at (941) 328-1300 or visit us at

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sarasota Opera Celebrates Verdi's 200th Birthday in Style!

On October 10, 2013, members from the Sarasota Opera community and the Sarasota community in general gathered to celebrate the 200th birthday of the legendary Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.  The celebration began at the Selby Public Library with the unveiling of several Verdi themed exhibits followed by a musical presentation.  Immediately following the library presentation, guests were directed to follow a red carpet across the street to the Sarasota Opera House to continue the celebration.  

At the Opera house, guests enjoyed an "All Access Pass" to Sarasota Opera which included backstage tours, costume and make-up demonstrations, conversations with our stage directors, and several musical programs in the courtyard, atrium and on the mainstage.  The event rounded out with a community sing of Verdi's famous chorus "Va, pensiero" from his opera Nabucco in the opera house.  

Here are some photos from the day:

Red carpets were rolled out to greet our guests and guide them from the Selby Public Library to the Sarasota Opera House. Special thanks to the Sarasota Film Festival for loaning us the carpets.

Bass-baritone William Roberts performing before a captive audience at the Selby Public Library 

We had over 300 people in attendance who were the first to see the
Verdi exhibit and enjoy the musical performances.

Tenor Marvin Kehler and soprano Jennifer Townshend offered the famous Brindisi from Verdi's La traviata

This was the crowd waiting to get into the Opera House to begin the birthday celebration

Guests enjoyed backstage tours with Director of Production Chris Van Alstyne...
and music rehearsal for the community sing of Verdi's famous chorus "Va, Pensiero" from Nabucco

Audrey Bernardin, from our wigs and make-up team, offered demonstrations on applying stage make-up.

Beverly Hogan Fleck, from our wardrobe staff, telling guests about costumes at Sarasota Opera.

Linda Carson of ABC 7 Sarasota - WWSB reported live from the Opera House.

Tenor Jon Jurgens, mezzo soprano Samantha Weppelman, soprano Jennifer Townshend and
baritone Jesse Malgieri performing the famous Act IV quartet from Rigoletto.

Their captive audience.
Soprano Alexandra Batsios singing "Sempre Libera" from Verdi's La Traviata to a captive audience.

Mezzo-soprano Briana Elyse Hunter singing "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's The Barber of Seville.

The courtyard audience.

Sarasota Youth Opera, artists, musical staff, and audience all joined together to sing Verdi's famous chorus "Va, pensiero". Maestro DeRenzi conducted from the pit.
The cupcakes that greeted guests on their way out of the theater.

Verdi's 200th birthday cake.  

Tickets for the 2013-2014 Sarasota Opera Season are available by calling (941) 328-1300 or on our website at  Don't miss a note of this spectacular season of opera!