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Interview with tenor Ștefan Pop

Thursday, 12 October 2023 , ora 10.13

From the 12th of October to the 9th November, tenor Ștefan Pop will perform the role of the Duke of Mantua in Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto in a series of 8 performances at the Royal Opera House London - Convent Garden.

More details from tenor Ștefan Pop:

Ștefan Pop you're back at Covent Garden, this time for a series of eight performances of the opera Rigoletto. This is a 2021 production, directed by Oliver Mears. I understand that, in some ways, this staging is completely different from anything you've experienced before as the Duke. So, what's it like?

Again and againat the Royal Opera House. Indeed, Oliver's production is completely different, because there are a lot of details. I could say that on every line I have something to do, but what's different from other productions is that everything has been thought through exactly on character and word for word, which for me can only make me finally want to give the Duke out of me, one hundred percent. With all the productions of Rigoletto I've done, it's about time it was a thought-out Rigoletto, exactly on the word. The Duke is exactly how the role should be, in that he entertains himself from the first act and by the end he doesn't care about anything but himself, because, unfortunately (because I'm not that character), that's how it was written and that's how it should be. Apart from Ella mi fu rapita where you actually see not two faces, but ten faces I would say, you even see the romantic and sensitive Duke. I guess after all, every man in this world, no matter what he is like has all sides inside. I'm glad it was such a well thought out production by Oliver. We worked very hard, three and a half weeks, day in, day out, two rehearsals just for the direction, but most and most of all I'm glad that Julia Jones, the master I'm working with for the first time... Talking to her one day - when you're younger it helps to be young, but really it's a role that needs two voices. You need a very lyrical voice and a spinto tenor voice, which you very rarely find. Whoever sings it very young is either much too early and has a lot to suffer, and whoever sings it the way I sing it now, with 15 years' career experience already, is diverse. I mean, the voice is starting to be thin, but especially with my experience in belcanto, it helps me very, very much. I could say that, in fact, after my last debut at the Staatsoper Berlin in Don Carlo, I find the role of the Duke five times easier than before. It's very exciting. The approach I have now to the role is totally different from the approach I had, including two years ago in Modena, for example, when I did the last Rigoletto that paid homage to Luciano Pavarotti. That's why I say it's going to be a different Duke, it's really going to be different, for me, in every way. Plus, I feel at home at the Royal Opera House now. Last year I had three titles, this year two titles, because in January-February I'll be back again, with our one and only Angela Gheorghiu for four performances of La boheme. The Puccini year will start with Puccini, at the Royal Opera House.

Four Romanians will also be in Boheme on the London stage, as you were last winter, because alongside you and soprano Angela Gheorghiu - whom you just mentioned, Simona Mihai and Zoltan Nagy will return in this production of Boheme.

That's right. Simona is at home here, I understand she has been singing here for more than 15 years. She lives in London. It's true, we are four Romanians, which can only honour us.

Last winter it was you, Bogdan Baciu, Simona Mihai and Zoltan Nagy. Did you have a different feeling than usual when you played in this formation?

If Angela Gheorghiu had been with us last winter, she would have been the perfect Bohemian for me. Bogdan Baciu and I have sung together many times and we did the Academy together with Zoltan, so we are really the three Bohemians after all, which is a luxury, to be able to be together on stage all three of us. That's as good as it gets.

Let's get back to this week's Rigoletto. You're part of a cast that features Mongolian baritone Amartüvshin Enkhbat in the title role, South African soprano Pretty Yende as Gilda, and mezzo-soprano Ramona Zaharia as Maddalena.

Finally, a real Maddalena, that's where I was going! Ramona is a first class singer, no doubt about it, I mean Maddalena for her is like nothing for her. She's an intelligent singer, she's beautiful, we get along very well. In addition, I would say that the whole cast this time in London, in Rigoletto is a super top cast, because we get along very well and we all actually have the same vision, everyone wants to make music, not to prove who they are alone. I have sung with Amartüvshin before, I remember his debut in Rigoletto and his European debut at the San Carlo in Naples with Maestro Nello Santi. Finally, we are doing Rigoletto together with a conductor who is old school. Julia Jones has conducted many times in Parma, she knows the pianist Simone Savina very well, which I was very surprised on the first day, and she conducts just like alla scuola italiana, meaning where you have to sing, she gives you freedom to sing, she breathes with you, which only makes the performance promising and perhaps unique, I hope. Both Amartüvshin and I have more robust voices and if there is no conductor to be with you all the time I don't know if the perfect combination comes out. But in this case, it will certainly be a dream. And Pretty Endre... it doesn't get much better than that! We did a belcanto concert together, the first time (last year or two if I'm not mistaken) at the Bellini Theatre in Catania, where we performed Rigoletto, Lucia, Norma and we already got along very well, but now, after so many rehearsals, it's something else entirely. I can't wait, because I know it will be something unique!

So there will be these eight performances of Rigoletto at Covent Garden, recently you had a series of performances in Berlin with Giuseppe Verdi's Don Carlo, in the spring you will be in Tokyo. Just to mention a few of your appearances in the current season. What is the most anticipated moment for you in this season that has just begun?

I'm really looking forward to making my debut in a month's time in Macbeth (Macduff), although it doesn't sound like a very exciting role, but I think the character is unique and the aria in particular is very difficult to play. I'll be making my debut in Munich, which is very welcome for my career. Then I'll have plenty of Bohemia next year. I have Bohemian at the Royal Opera House, and then I'm going to Berlin. I have Butterfly with Sonya Yoncheva, we're finally going to sing together. I have Boema in Trondheim, in Tokyo, I have a concerto in Tokyo. I have Don Carlo in Dresden, again. I'll have Verdi's Recviem at the Dresden Philharmonic. Songbook recording, Norma recording. There are a lot of projects. I'm going back to Paris next year... I'm going back to London next year for two more contracts and Berlin as well.

For the first time, I recorded my first album, Verdi, in Marseille in August. Entirely Verdi, dedicated to the great and unique composer Giuseppe Verdi, because I debuted at the Rome Opera Theatre with Traviata and after that you already know my history with Verdi very well. I was very connected to Verdi, especially since I have been studying in Parma for eight years already. My first solo album will be Verdi, and next year I will record two or three more albums, with God's help. There are projects, but you never know.

So the Verdi album will be out soon...

...in May-June, next year. I'm glad I have the opportunity to record, because that way it will remain something for all our listeners and I say, at least the first album, Verdi, I dedicate to my girls. It's due out this year, next month if I'm not mistaken, Tosca, which I recorded at the Berlin Philharmonie last year. That's how I got to be listened to by producers and they've offered me to do more projects together, which is great. I wasn't supposed to record Tosca, I was there at the last minute instead of Fabio Santori. Finally, the long-awaited moment I've been singing for 15 years (I've really been waiting to have an album of my own for a very long time) finally happened. I recorded it just now and it will be out exactly next year to celebrate my 15 years.

Interview by Florica Jalbã
Translated by Vlad-Cristian Dinu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu