Wednesday evening at Carnegie Hall brings the grand return to New York of a vilaine fille über-coqueluche:Giuseppe Filianoti, a.k.a. Don Peppino di Calabria. (I concocoted the “Don Peppino” moniker because, at one point, this blog was receiving hundreds of hits a day from people—or, perhaps, a person—searching for “Filianoti” or “Giuseppe Filianoti.” More on this anon.) Filianoti sings the tenor lead in Cilea’s rarely heard opera L’Arlesiana, an evening that, reportedly, may mark one of Opera Orchestra of New York’s final performances.
Next season sees Filianoti reprise his Edgardo in Lucia at the Met and for his San Francisco Opera début. In coming months, according to the schedule posted at his website, he portrays Werther and Alfredo in La traviata in Rome, Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon in Palermo, Alfredo in Naples, Hoffmann in Hamburg, and—an event that promises to make the earth itself tilt upon its axis—Rossini’s Otello opposite the Rodrigo of Juan Diego Flórez at Pesaro.
Now, vilaine fille fiercely loves her one and only sor romana—but she is not immune to sibling rivalry…
Don Peppino, vilaine fille was offended that you revealed spicy personal details (size 43 shoes!) chez la sor romana and not here. Do you have any spicy personal details to share with our readers?
Yes. I love doing spinning at the gym. I adore reading Borges and Sgalambro. I like taking bubble baths at midnight, with candles lit; playing with my son; staying at home in slippers from time to time; not shaving; taking walks in nature; eating well; learning to know myself; working in my garden; going to bookstores and to the movies; Italian fashion…
It certainly has. I decided to create it in response to repeated requests from the public.
vilaine fille receives dozens of visits a day from people who want to know whether Joshua Bell and Juan Diego Flórez are gay (poor fools). Can you set our readers’ minds at ease as far as you’re concerned?
Well, I have a beautiful wife and a two-and-a-half-year-old son. That should argue in favor of my heterosexuality.
Don’t let the ruffles and the wimple fool you, boys.
At a certain point, vilaine fille was receiving hundreds of visits a day from people looking for information about you. Do you have a large family, or could it be the dreaded Pazza di Filianoti™?
For now, there are three of us. I hope that soon we’ll be giving Riccardo (my son) a little brother or sister.
Can you tell us about your adventures since the last time New York heard you (in the Met’s Elisir)?
I’ve received so many kind e-mails from Americans. Sometimes I think: I had to sing in New York to finally experience such great satisfaction. Here it’s not like Europe, where the minute you open your mouth, they point a rifle at you. It was very gratifying for me. Suffice it to say that for both Lucia and Elisir, the spectators in the balcony showered me with confetti.
You’ll be singing Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at the Metropolitan, yes? Here’s a question I recently asked Maestro Luisi: In your opinion, are there “Italian” and “German” ways of making music?
Yes, I’ll be singing Tamino at the Met. There may be a different phonation (vocalization) technique due to the different vowel pronunciations. That said, it’s well known that the French, like the Germans and the English, enjoy hearing their operas sung in the original language but with an Italian vocal inflection—think of the happy marriage [one hears] in Wunderlich, Thill, Gedda… What I mean is: [You have to] bring the vowel sounds of the foreign language that you are singing as close as possible to Italian vowel sounds—pronounce the foreign language well, but avoid the nasal and guttural sounds that such languages have, in contrast to Italian.
This summer, you’ll be performing Rossini’s Otello in Pesaro, no? Which role will you sing?
Otello—without a doubt [sic] !!!!!!
Do you know Juan Diego Flórez? What do you think of him?
I do know him, and I greatly admire his voice. It will be a pleasure for me to work with him.
Three primi tenori on one stage: That’s one big heap of testosterone. Are we to expect memorable happenings—à la Matrix and Zizou, say?
I hope not. For my part, I prefer working calmly, in a spirit of respect for my colleagues. Problems arise only if others aren’t respectful. I’m a professional of the opera—not the circus.
Filianoti and Flórez: Like Cannavaro and Buffon… or Matrix and Zizou?
While we’re on the subject, how did you live through the World Cup?
I didn’t live through it. I don’t much care for soccer.
vilaine fille, who still hasn’t gotten over the ’94 final, couldn’t bring herself to watch the penalty kicks for several months! Did you watch them? Do you follow particular superstitions?
I watched them out of love for my country, but I’m not superstitious.
Our Azzurri triumphed in particular thanks to the play of Gennaro Gattuso, “Ringhio Nazionale”—a Calabrian like yourself, who has stated that peperoncino is one of his chief weapons. Do you make use of it?
I love peperoncino but, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s an effective weapon unless it’s used in someone else’s food. [N.d.R. Attenzione, Don Juan Diego!]
Giuseppe Nazionale, Ringhio Nazionale: Pride of Calabria.
“Let’s taste it without getting too burned!” That’s the motto of a website devoted to peperoncino. Does it apply to you, too?
According to a study by Dr. Tiziana Valpiana, “Peperoncino, thanks to its active ingredients, its taste, its color and—in short—its thousand different qualities, is one of the plants most suited to stimulating our sexual desire and giving us the power to satisfy said desire.” Can you vouch for this?
Well, I think that, being a vasodilator, it favors other kinds of… dilatations. But for that, one needs other natural resources, as well.
Can you suggest a typical Calabrian dish to our readers?
I adore la parmigiana, stuffed peppers, pasta with potatoes, swordfish roulades.
Your favorite singing partner (even a singer of the past)?
Literature, a singer and enchanter of the soul.
Do you have anything special to say about Cilea’s L’Arlesiana, an opera little known to New York audiences?
Along with Werther, I think it’s the opera I most love. First of all, a fellow Calabrian wrote it. Secondly, it hides within its recesses pure melodies that spring forth, free, from what I would call a universal soul—one that knows il male di vivere (“life-sickness,” “sickness of life”). L’Arlesiana is not only the famous “Lamento”—without question the opera’s high point [N.d.R: È un tenore…]—but also the continuous commingling of sleep and death, non-love and non-life, rendered masterfully in extremely refined music. IT’S A MASTERPIECE. THE THIRD ACT IS NOT TO BE MISSED, BELIEVE ME.
Tell us a little about your upcoming engagements—especially any new roles.
Coming up I have my débuts in Manon, Hoffmann, Rossini’s Otello, The Rake’s Progress, and La Clemenza di Tito.
Lately you’ve taken on Werther; you also have Don José (Paris) and Hoffmann (Hamburg) on your agenda. You seem to like these French crazies, no?
I’ve actually set aside Don José for now, but I have other plans for the future. My voice is very much at home “blooming” on French melodies. I think this is the most congenial repertoire for me.
Alas, it’s established fact that “La Gioconda” was not stolen but purchased by François I, king of France, after he invited Leonardo to work in France.
(*pouts*) The character you most resemble?
All of them. Besides singing, I love to take on the aspect of all the characters I agree to portray. I enjoy studying their psychology, becoming one with them.
vilaine fille, alas, can’t make it to Rome for Werther and Traviata—and, in any case, she’s scared witless of the Pazza di Filianoti™. Hoffmann in Germany, though… I’m thinking about it. Does the Pazza di Filianoti™ ever venture north of the Alps?
I don’t know. Honestly, I’d like to meet her. She was the first to go crazy for me on the Web. If I learn anything about her travel plans, I’ll let you know.
An appeal: Dear Pazza di Filianoti™, won’t you make yourself known?
Before you leave us, one more spicy confession?
I love New York—sopra ogni cosa al mondo, io l’amo. Ma ho paura, ma ho paura… that one day she’ll forget me.
In bocca al lupo for L’Arlesiana! We’re all looking forward to hearing you again at the Met.
vilaine fille has read some dire predictions about the année du cochon, but Master Rao has encouraging things to say. And who could argue with his conclusion?
Don’t wait for your happiness to come: immediately do yourself pleasure in different ways and savor all the great or small, total or partial joys that the stars will offer you every day with so much freshness. Make the most of life without delay!
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion
may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic
chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave
to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will
yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they
will be, by the better angels of our nature. —First Inaugural Address, 1861