Acclaimed as one of the greatest singers at present on the world lyric scene, Michele Pertusi was born in Parma, where he studied the piano and singing at the Arrigo Boito Conservatory. Then, he continued his studies under the guidance of Arrigo Pola, Carlo Bergonzi and Rodolfo Celletti. Since 1998 he has also been a regular guest of Teatro alla Scala, where he performed in several celebrated productions including Don Giovanni (title role), Le nozze di Figaro (Conte d’Almaviva) and Nina, o sia la pazza per amore (Il conte) under the baton of Riccardo Muti, Il turco in Italia and La gazza ladra (Gottardo) conducted by Riccardo Chailly, Don Carlo (Filippo II) conducted by Myung-Whun Chung. In recent years Michele Pertusi has established himself as an outstanding interpreter of Verdi’s roles such as Attila (La Scala, La Fenice Venice, Festival Verdi, Opéra de Liege), Filippo II (Festival Verdi, La Scala, Opéra de Lyon), Pagano in I Lombardi alla prima crociata (Parma, Macerata), Sparafucile (Festival Verdi, Wiener Staatsoper), Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra (Wiener Staatsoper, Turin, Comunale di Bologna), Conte Walter in Luisa Miller (Bayerische Staatsoper Munich), Da Silva in Ernani (La Scala), Massimiliano in I masnadieri (La Scala, Valencia), Procida in Les vêpres siciliennes (Opera di Roma).
First of all, thank you again for accepting my invitation! It’s a pleasure and an honour. We know that you were born in Parma, in a family of musicians who had a strong link with Teatro Regio: two of your aunts have sung in the Choir of this amazing institution, while another one was a student of the great Renata Tebaldi, am I right? So, you have always been surrounded by music, mostly by Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpieces. What is your first memory of his music?
It’s a great pleasure for me! This first question is a very beautiful one. No one has ever asked me this question. Well, I don’t remember exactly how old I was when my first encounter with Verdi’s music took place, I might have been 5-6 year old, I guess, but I know that it was Manrico’s aria Di quella pira from Il Trovatore sung by the tenor Mario del Monaco.
When you remember your childhood or even the conservatory years here, in Parma, what is the first thing that goes through your mind? What do you love the most about your hometown, besides its vast cultural heritage?
Being born in Parma, being very used to the city and its sociality, it’s hard for me to name what I love the most about it. Parma is a city that has lots of advantages and a few flaws, but, let’s say that the thing I love the most about my hometown is the food. I am a gourmand from this point of view. And then, of course, even though Parma is not considered an important tourist attraction, as Firenze, Roma or Venezia are considered, it is a city rich in history, culture and art. This is what distinguishes Parma – it’s a city that has an artistic vocation from many points of view. Food is also art! We, the citizens, are a bunch of passionate gourmands. I keep Parma in my heart for this, too.
Do you remember your first steps on the stage of Teatro Regio di Parma?
I stepped for the first time on the stage of Teatro Regio before I was even 15. I will always remember it: December 9th, 1979, the first musical rehearsal of the youth choir of the theater of Massenet’s Manon. There was the maestro Adolfo Tanzi, who unfortunately is no longer among us, but who I always remember with great affection as a person with great cultural and musical knowledge, and not only. He patiently prepared us for this production of Manon, which had its premiere in the month of May of the following year with great success. The cast, the choir and the orchestra were made of young people and the conductor was also young – Fabiano Monica, who unfortunately also left us 2 years ago. This is how my collaboration with Teatro Regio started. Of course, before all of this, I would attend passionately its performances with my parents and my grandparents. They usually refer to a concert of Verdian music, which took place in January-February of 1986, with Katia Ricciarelli as my official debut at Teatro Regio, where I had little soloist intervention. Actually, not many know that in 1982, I sang 2 phrases, a little role that was to be sung by those from the choir, in a contemporary opera, composed by Renato Falavigna, the director of the Conservatory in Parma, a great musician. This was my debut as soloist-chorist at Teatro Regio.
Read the entire interview here, in the 5th issue of OPERA Charm Magazine, dedicated to the 20th edition of Festival Verdi.0