Monday, February 9, 2015

ARTISTS CORNER: Bass Ricardo Lugo

Ricardo Lugo
With a “resonant” bass sound Puerto Rican bass Ricardo Lugo is a versatile international artist in demand on the operatic and concert scene.  Mr. Lugo makes his Sarasota Opera debut this season in two roles; the Sacristan in Puccini's Tosca and as Bartolo in Mozart's The Marriage of FigaroHaving made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Un Barnabotto in La Gioconda, Ricardo has since sang the role of Hans Schwarz in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and has been involved in productions of Ariadne auf Naxos, Khovanshchina, Billy Budd, La fanciulla del West, Adriana Lecouvreur, Macbeth, The Gambler and Salome

Continue reading to learn more about how Mr. Lugo got his start in singing as well as why he enjoys the opportunity to sing two different roles at the same time. 

Q. Where are you originally from and where do you make your home now?

A. I’m originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, the second largest city in Puerto Rico. It is located on the south bordering the Caribbean Sea. In 1998 I moved to New York City to complete a masters degree at The Juilliard School. I live now in Ann Arbor, Michigan with my Wife and my four-year-old son.

Mr. Lugo in Don Pasquale
Q. What drew you to become a singer?  Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity?

A. What drew me to become a singer was pure luck and taking all the opportunities that were presented to me at the beginning. My original plan was to become a choir conductor and work with kids. I was inspired when I was a kid so I wanted to do the same thing for other students. When I applied to the conservatory in Puerto Rico, I did it as a voice major instead of as an education major due to the fact that at the moment I applied, I was not completely musically ready. In other words, it was easier to enter as a voice major than an education major. However, one thing led to another and here I am. I can’t complain. It has been a fun journey so far.

Q. What sort of singing did you do while you were growing up in Puerto Rico?

A. I started singing with a young chorus at my local church. I wanted to sing more so I joined the chorus at my middle school. I continued while I was in high school where my chorus teacher encouraged me to continue with music.

Q. Did you have other career aspirations in the works before you settled on singing?  

A. To be honest I did not have any other career aspirations before deciding to take music more seriously. Once I started I knew I wanted to continue a career or work in something related to music.

Mr. Lugo as the Sacristan in
the current production of
Q. You have two assignments at Sarasota Opera this season; The Sacristan in Tosca and Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro. What are the challenges in alternating between two different roles at one company? How do you avoid suffering from character identity crisis?

A. To tell you the truth I love playing different roles at the same time. In a way it gives me the chance to be very alert, fresh, and stay very focused as a singer-actor. In regards to singing, the two roles are very different, even though they are both character roles, that they don't give me any problems when it comes to singing. The key, in both the acting and the singing, is to keep it fresh and always give more. It is very important to always listen to the instructions but also give more of your talent. That is the key.

Q. You have sung the role of Bartolo before. What do you enjoy about performing this role?

A. I love it because it is a role of in opera that could be played in so many ways. From traditional productions to the more contemporary. Because of that it gives me the chance to expand and elaborate my interpretation in any direction. And it has also a short but very well written aria that showcases many vocal and histrionic qualities.

Q. Unlike many of the other roles in The Marriage of Figaro, Figaro and Bartolo are two characters who carry directly over from The Barber of Seville without much change. In your opinion, how does he evolve as a character from one opera to the other?

A. I think Bartolo has a lot of resentment towards Figaro. He resents that Figaro was the reason Bartolo couldn’t end up with Rosina, who becomes the Countess in Le nozze. That is why at the beginning of the opera he is trying to make Figaro’s life impossible. This is until Bartolo discovers that Figaro is both Marcellina's and his son.

Q. Are there any famous Bartolo’s from the past whose interpretations you admire?

A. They are so many great basses that have sung Bartolo from, Kurt Moll, Paul Plishka, Enzo Capunao to the most contemporary like Ildebrando D’arcangelo. I like to listen and admire all of them because they are or were incredible singers and also great actors.

Mr. Lugo in Fidelio at Michigan Opera Theater
Q. Beyond the musical work, what other kind of preparation/research work do you incorporate in the learning process?  Historical?  Character study?  

A. I start with the libretto. I then like to read the score to know what the composer has done with the words and what instructions he has suggested. Particularly what are the rhythm choices, especially with recitatives. Obviously with the advantage of the Internet and YouTube, I love watching and seeing what other conductors and singers have done with the roles and the music. Not to copy but to have another idea.

Q. In your career thus far, are there any performances or productions you sang in that particularly stand out to you or hold a special place in your heart??

A. I would say any chance or opportunity that you have as a singer should be treasured and should keep a special place in your heart. It is such a blessing and privilege to be able to offer your art to other people that in my opinion all of them are special. However, I just finished a run of Die Meistersinger at the Metropolitan Opera conducted by James Levine. The cast also included James Morris as Hans Sachs and other incredible collegueas. That was a magical experience, not only because who they are but how incredible their minds work and the admirable qualities as colleagues. That I would say was part of my tiny bucket list that by a miracle or talent I can cross off.

Q. What is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?

A. I personally have not had that many dramatic experiences on stage. However, I have to say that I have experienced some others while in rehearsals or on stage. They range from fighting between directors, conductors, and singers. In most cases that was “the clash of the egos”. We are so passionate for our art that we sometimes can't find compromises.

Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  Performance superstitions?  Good luck charms?  If yes, why?

A. Yes, I do have some rituals before singing. Just before my entrance either in concert, recital or a full opera, I like to take few minutes to think and thank all or most of the people who have made it possible for me to be here. Both people that are with us and the ones that have already departed. After that I kiss any part of the theater three times just for luck. At the end of the performance, I like to kneel down and with my hand rub the floor of the theater to smell the dust. It is like an homage to the sweat and tears that we and many other singers have left there. It is kind of bizarre but those are my rituals. Also I have a tiny elephant that a very important lady in this business gave me a long time ago and I carry it everywhere I sing.

Q. How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?

A. I love this job because it gives me the opportunity of discovering new places and knowing new people. Every time I go back to a place that I have visited previously or a new place, the first thing I look for are a library, a zoo, cultural attractions happening, farmers markets, and of course places where to eat and enjoy what the city have to offer. At home I love working with wood and creating things. Also I must say I love being a “home handy man.” It so gratifying being able to fix things in your house. From pipes, floors and anything I try to fix or destroy. Like my father use to say, “better to do it yourself and keep that money for fun”.

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