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Interview with baritone Ionuț Pascu

Monday, 1 April 2024 , ora 10.34

On the 27th and 29th of March 2024, the Bucharest National Opera invites the audience to performances of Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca", the first performance being dedicated to baritone Eduard Tumagian who passed away on February 11th. The cast includes tenor Ștefan Pop as Mario Cavaradossi, soprano Iulia Isaev as Floria Tosca and baritone Ionuț Pascu as Scarpia, who gave us details in the following interview:

Mr Ionuț Pascu, you were telling me that you have already had two rehearsals. How are they going, how is the relationship with the stage partners, the orchestra, the conductor?

Yes, that's true. We have rehearsals in progress. In the Puccini year, of course, we are all excited to make this project a success. Tosca requires a very well coalesced scenic relationship between the partners because, as we know, verismo requires sincere and natural experiences. It is about unpleasant situations, but we have to show them to the audience in the most realistic way possible. We've already gone through a dress rehearsal, which has been smooth and free of technical problems, so we're starting out with hope and moving forward. I have two stage partners with whom we have already performed; we are not strangers to each other, which is an important point for us.

You will play the role of Scarpia. You told me that this is your first time in this direction by Mario de Carlo. How do you find the direction in this show?

There would be a lot to say if we were to take it like that, in detail, as a personal opinion, but as we all know we have to submit to a directorial vision, but I am sure that the way this version was presented to me I will find solutions to bring my own personality to this interpretation. It's a classic version, as we've always known it, with a period wig for Scarpia, period costumes, again, a plus I would say for a Puccini production. It's a dynamic production from which we get to watch exactly what Puccini intended and the direction allows us to do. There are no stage positioning issues. On top of that, the direction is permissive and in this classic version I think it is suitable as a concept for a Puccini anniversary.

Do you see Scarpia in a newer, more contemporary staging?

Of course! Being verismo, we can transpose such a character into contemporary times. Negative characters, as we know, have not ceased to exist, so we even have which personalities, perhaps even political ones, to relate to when it comes to the abuse of power, I think I've already said it all.

The first show, on March 27th, is dedicated to Eduard Tumagian who recently left this world. What does Eduard Tumagian mean to you?

It is hard to describe in a few words the relationship I have had with Eduard Tumagian for 15 years now. It was news that left a mark on me. First of all, he was a friend and a complex personality, which he generously shared with all who wanted to be close to him. He will certainly live on in my soul. He was a great international baritone. For me personally he was the first baritone voice I truly fell in love with. When I was 16, I listened to a record and wished at the time that I could ever come close, ever so slightly, to that timbre that matched my ideal vision of what a baritone voice was. The moment of our meeting, already in 2009, at the Bucharest National Opera, when he came and with the generosity I mentioned, he shared with us for the new production of Yevgeny Onegin, directed by Ion Caramitru, of his knowledge and polished each one of us. After that, we remained in a close relationship. This showed that he also appreciated me, but he liked to have discussions on cultural topics, even extra-musical ones, but in the musical field he was a scholar. I hope I can live up to this commemoration, because eventually everyone will think of me in the role of Scarpia, in this context, as a worthy successor, I hope, to the master Eduard Tumagian.

I'd like you to share with us a few moments from the next projects on your agenda. I see that you have two performances in April with Oedipus in Stefano Poda's highly acclaimed production and, at the Israel Opera, Dialogues of the Carmelites.

I also sing in Rigoletto in Tel Aviv. In the meantime, since I have arrived in the country, I have also been in demand in Iasi and Constanța for Nabucco and Rigoletto. I hope that everything will go smoothly and we will arrive in the next season with fresh strength and I hope to see us in these already established projects.

You are already at a point in your career. What roles do you want to tackle next?

Yet we remain in the hands of fate, as Oedipus shows us after all. I would like to reach, to enter the Wozzeck and Alban Berg area, this more special area, I want to discover as much Romanian music as possible. It is a desire that I am practically carrying out. At the moment I am working on some orchestrations of some chamber pieces, but which have an extraordinary musical and colouristic potential. I hope to succeed in this project this year. It is the 125th anniversary of the birth of composer Mansi Barberis. We are talking about the 150th anniversary of the birth of composer Alfonso Castaldi, without whom we would not have a Romanian school of composition, few people know. Probably, the master Eduard Tumagian also instilled in me this desire to discover things that with time begin to be covered by shadows. I have somehow made an artistic goal out of this, because I am making my contribution, and I hope it will be long-lasting, to the development of Romanian culture and bringing it closer to the public. We know very well what the pre-revolution period was like, in terms of censorship and under names that some know about, others don't know were censored, even if the value is indisputable. I'll tell you another name, Nicolae Brânzeu, a great composer. All I want is for people to start looking for information, to start asking questions.This year's Mariana Dumitrescu Centenary, I have not yet heard of him, an incredible personality of rare refinement on whose verses the greatest Romanian composers have written hundreds of lieder.

Interview by Jeanine Costache
Translated by Andreea Iulia Udroiu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu