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.