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Q & A with Director Christopher Mattaliano

Director Christopher Mattaliano in rehearsal for Opera Colorado’s 2022 manufacturing of Rigoletto.
Photograph: Opera Colorado/Jamie Kraus

By: Suzanne Whitney

Christopher Mattaliano has worn many hats all through his profession—from stage director, to educator, to inventive director for opera corporations and music festivals, to a member of Opera America’s Board of Administrators. All through all points of his profession, there’s a throughline of considerate management and a deep dedication to collaboration as a method of creation. Take pleasure in this chance to get to know the stage director of Opera Colorado’s 2022 manufacturing of Verdi’s Rigoletto. Find out about his journey to turn into a stage director of opera, his collaboration with this forged, and even hear how he ended up at Woodstock as a twelve-year-old (sure, that Woodstock).

Tickets to Opera Colorado’s 2022 manufacturing of Verdi’s Rigoletto are on sale now.>>

How did you select to focus your profession, time, and inventive sense on opera?

As a child, I performed the French horn for twelve years. I fell in love with music at a really early age. I used to be fortunate in that my mother and father had been large music lovers, though their tastes favored the large band music of the thirties and forties, fifties—Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Duke Ellington, and other people like that. Nevertheless, classical music performed in the home now and again. My dad had three opera recordings, and I fell in love.

Three masked individuals work together in rehearsals.
Director Christopher Mattaliano working with singers Sharleen Joynt and Joshua Dennis. Photograph: Opera Colorado/Angelica DiIorio

However, I like all types of music. As a bit detour, I ought to let you know that certainly one of my claims of fame is that I used to be truly at Woodstock as a twelve-year-old.

My older sister was courting a man named Harry, who she ultimately married, and he labored for an ice cream firm in Central New Jersey. So, this fleet of ice cream vehicles was going as much as this music pageant in upstate New York in the summertime of 1969. Faculty was out, and Maria, my sister, on the final minute simply requested my mother and father, “Oh, shall I take the children with me?” the children being me and my little brother James. We drove as much as Woodstock and imagine it or not, I’m truly within the film! The digital camera begins panning the group whereas it’s raining and for about 5 seconds you see me sitting with my sister Maria within the rain.

However getting again to your query, by the point I acquired to varsity my curiosity began shifting extra to theater, appearing, and directing. So, I finally acquired my diploma in directing. Then I learn a ebook known as Maverick by director Frank Corsaro. Frank was one of many first theater administrators that began working in opera within the Sixties and Nineteen Seventies. I wrote to Frank and requested him if I might meet him. He was very responsive.

It turned out he taught an appearing class and directing workshop with opera singers in New York on the time. And so, I ended up taking his class, and he grew to become my mentor. When he came upon I had a really robust music background he inspired me to enter the opera. I assisted him for a variety of years on opera productions, after which I finally constructed a profession of my very own.

Nevertheless it all goes again to my mother and father having music in the home and my faculty system in Somerset, New Jersey, having a band class. So, I’m an enormous advocate for arts and training. I’m a poster baby for what it may well do for a child from a blue-collar household.

Since getting your begin as a stage director, you’ve worn plenty of hats. How have these completely different roles influenced one another?

Three men sit on a platform smiling and laughing.
Director Christopher Mattaliano solutions questions on Rigoletto with Maestro Ari Pelto and Bass Christian Zaremba.
Photograph: Opera Colorado/Angelica DiIorio

I believe a few of the greatest recommendation I ever acquired after I grew to become the inventive director of Pine Mountain Music Competition was to “take into consideration what has made you profitable as a stage director and apply that to operating a music pageant.”

As a stage director, it’s essential to alter your communication with every particular person. The way in which during which you talk with stagehands and the manufacturing staff is completely different from the way you talk with the conductor. You must converse a number of completely different languages in a figurative sense and decide how greatest to inspire them and get their greatest work out of them.

I’m additionally very sympathetic to each arts group now, whether or not it’s a symphony orchestra, an artwork museum, or an opera firm. It’s simply an extremely difficult time. I wish to do all I can to assist a company succeed. All the pieces from ensuring what we placed on stage is the most effective it may be to talking at a fundraising occasion. As a result of I ran an opera firm for a few years, I’m notably aware of the large image. You’re placing on an opera, but it surely’s half of a giant group, and that group has a relationship to keep up and develop with most people.

Inform us about your expertise educating, each at universities and younger artist applications. Does your instructional work feed your work with skilled corporations?

Boy, that’s one other glorious query. I really feel very lucky that my profession has been based mostly each within the skilled opera world, working with seasoned skilled singers, conductors, administrators, and designers, and within the conservatory world, working with very gifted, however inexperienced younger singers. I do discover the 2 feed one another. After I’ve spent a month educating, doing grasp courses, and dealing with college students, I discover I can deliver the openness, enthusiasm, and power of the classroom into the skilled rehearsal corridor. And after I’m working with younger singers, I deliver data in regards to the occupation, and the way profitable singers behave and advance their careers. I really feel very, very lucky to have a profession that’s deeply rooted in each the college world and the skilled world.

Gilda, a blonde woman is bent over crying in the out-of-focus foreground, while Stephen Powell as Rigoletto in jester's garb sitting looking at his daughter from above.
Stephen Powell performs the title function in Opera Colorado’s 2022 manufacturing of Rigoletto. Photograph: Opera Colorado/Matthew Staver

Let’s shift to this manufacturing of Verdi’s Rigoletto. Because you’ve directed it earlier than, how does it really feel to come back again to this opera?

Rigoletto is certainly one of my nice loves. I believe this is among the nice masterpieces in operatic literature. That is the ninth or tenth manufacturing I’ve directed. It’s a bit sobering to understand I first directed it in 1988. I had a music historical past professor in faculty named Dr. Acker, Jack Acker. He wrote a beautiful ebook known as, The Artwork of Sound. Dr. Acker used to say, “music is a treasury of the acquainted.” I believe what he meant by that was the extra acquainted you turn into with nice works of music, the extra they provide again, the extra nuanced your expertise turns into.

I’ve cherished this opera for a lot of, a few years. It’s certainly one of my favorites to direct as a result of it’s so properly put collectively, and as you turn into increasingly more acquainted with the work, the extra it offers again to you, the extra detailed your relationship with it turns into. I stated to Ari Pelto, Opera Colorado Music Director, “Gosh, I’m falling in love with this opera over again, and I’ve finished it 100 instances.”

I proceed to construct upon what I’ve finished up to now, but it surely modifications each time as a result of I’m working with a brand new conductor and a brand new forged. They every deliver their expertise to the method, and hopefully, your concepts merge and give you one thing particular. I at all times say the most effective thought wins. Simply because I’m the director doesn’t imply that I’ve the most effective thought.

It looks as if you could have an ideal working relationship with this forged. How did the rehearsal course of really feel for this manufacturing?

On the last room run, I made it some extent to go over to Greg Carpenter, The Ellie Caulkins Normal & Inventive Director, and say thanks a lot for offering such a wonderful forged. They’ve made my job a lot simpler. Certainly one of my directing academics in faculty stated that directing is 90% casting—in the event you forged the fitting individuals, they have a tendency to make you look excellent. And I might say Greg has finished a wonderful job of casting this opera, and it’s making me look excellent as a director. The singers are so good at their job, and that’s not me. You understand, I’m not a modest individual, however I’m a really sensible individual!

A man and woman in costume embrace, about to kiss.
Tenor Joshua Dennis and soprano Sharleen Joynt carry out in Opera Colorado’s 2022 manufacturing of Rigoletto.

I’ve 5 glorious performers within the lead roles. The viewers will see an actual detailed ensemble manufacturing with fantastic chemistry. Chemistry is one thing which you could essentially direct right into a manufacturing, however you hope it occurs. I attempt to create an environment the place each the soloists and the refrain are keen to take dangers and dive in collectively. That shall be mirrored within the efficiency.

It is a conventional manufacturing, however conventional in the most effective sense of the phrase in that it is vitally alive and really important with very excessive power. I’m lucky in having Joshua Dennis because the Duke, and that we’re on the identical web page when it comes to the Duke’s character. It’s the Duke’s character that actually drives the opera. He’s able to being fairly charming, however he’s additionally primarily a really darkish and troublesome character. I’m joyful Josh has been keen to go that route.

I’m additionally so joyful to work with Steven Powell (Rigoletto) once more. He’s finished the function many instances, and I’ve directed him earlier than within the opera. It’s nice to revisit the piece with Steven and decide up the place we left off. I draw upon his expertise within the function. I’ve additionally labored with Christian Zaremba (Sparafucile) earlier than so I can draw up on these former relationships and develop new working relationships, like with Joshua Dennis and Sharleen Joynt. It’s thrilling to see what they bring about to the roles.

You’ve talked about Rigoletto is certainly one of your favourite operas. Why do you suppose audiences will like it too?

Individuals at all times ask if Rigoletto is an effective first opera. I believe this is a superb first opera as a result of it flies by. It’s a narrative everybody can relate to. It feels a bit difficult when it comes to how girls are portrayed, however as somebody who has two daughters, the character of the Duke nonetheless very a lot exists on the earth. So, this story could be very well timed in that regard.

I believe that is Verdi’s sixteenth opera, he wrote twenty-six in complete, so he had been composing for a while. Individuals typically agree that Verdi’s genius comes along with this work—his sense of dramatic timing, his unimaginable reward for melody, and simply his depiction of the complexity of human relationships come collectively in a really profound and insightful method.

It’s an ideal work, and everybody is aware of “La donna è cell.” The tenor begins to sing it, and other people understand, oh, I do know this music! I’ve heard this earlier than a thousand instances. So, the music will sound acquainted to individuals, whether or not they’re opera buffs or not.


Come see director Christopher Mattaliano’s imaginative and prescient of Rigoletto realized on stage on the Ellie Caulkins Opera Home. Tickets are on sale now.>>

What else would you wish to find out about director Christopher Mattaliano? Do you agree with him that Rigoletto is Verdi’s masterpiece? Tell us within the feedback under!



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