An interview with

Luca Lombardo

Role in Les Contes d'Hoffmann: Hoffmann

Luca Lombardo's performance in Les Contes d'Hoffmann will surely be one of the great highlights in our upcoming run of performances. If that remark seems like speaking the obvious, one has to examine his credentials to fully appreciate what Singaporean audiences will be getting: A native French singer portraying one of the most beloved roles in the French lyric-tenor repertoire, Mr Lombardo has made Hoffmann one of his signature roles with close to 60 performances under his belt, including the premiere performance of our production in Opera Nice.

Mr Lombardo will be making his Singaporean debut on the opening night of our Les Contes d'Hoffmann production on 13 March. Here, he shares with us his excitement about performing in Singapore.

SLO: Hi Mr Lombardo, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Are you looking forward to your engagements in Singapore?
Luca Lombardo: Of course! I'm very glad and excited to come to your wonderful land and collaborate with artists from your country.

Describe your voice to those of us who have not heard you live.
I belong to the lyric tenor category. My voice can be used to sing the lead tenor roles of operas by Verdi, Puccini, Massenet and their contemporaries.

Hoffmann is one of your signature roles. How many times have you performed this role?
I think I've sung it around sixty times.

The role of Hoffmann is one of the longest and most demanding in the lyric tenor repertoire. Do you need to do any special preparations when getting ready to perform this role?
I think the most important thing is to rest a lot and to sleep very well the night before the show. I love to play tennis and performing Hoffmann requires the same level of stamina as a match in five sets. Also, I prefer not to eat too much before the show but take energetic foods during the performance.

You took part in the premiere of this production in January in Opera Nice. Tell us what is so unique about this production?
First of all, the direction of Paul Emile Fourny who essentially went back to basics with his approach, guiding the actorís motives as written in the libretto and avoiding all the artifices and excesses that we are used to seeing in Hoffmann. Working under his leadership also makes you feel like you really belong to a big family. Lastly, I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with very good friends like Annick Massis and Giorgio Surian again. (Ed: not appearing in the SLO production).

This will be your first time working with a Singaporean company, with a predominantly Asian cast. As a native French speaker performing a French opera, what inspired you to take on such a unique project?
As I had answered in your first question, it's very exciting for me. I did already Carmen in Hong Kong and le Roi d'Ys in Beijing with partially Chinese casts, and I must say that in both cases the results were amazing. I was really impressed by their pronunciation!

Do you have any favourite singers that have inspired your work in opera?
This is probably not an original thing to say but I am very much inspired by the work of Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. For Hoffmann my model remains Neil Schicoff: we once alternated between the roles Don Josť and Hoffmann at La Bastille and the collaboration with him was very instructive.

Tell us a funny story of your working experience with Placido Domingo in Verdiís Otello?
I don't have a funny story about our work in Otello, but I have one with Placido when I sung La Traviata directed by his wife Marta: I asked him during rehearsals about what he thinks of my performance, hoping for some feedback so that I could improve on my singing and acting. His reply was: "I think you should cut your hair"!

Did he think the rest of my performance was perfect?
I hope so! But seriously he is a wonderful man and definitely the most complete singer of the history of opera.

What CDs or DVDs have you bought recently? Care to recommend any?
I've bought Manon from Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim, sung by Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon. What a wonderful couple! Carmen at London's Royal Opera House with Anna Catarina Antonacci and Jonas Kaufmann is amazing too; even though I have sung two hundreds performances of this opera I was still very impressed by their performance.

Lastly, tell us why we should all come and see the Singapore Lyric Operaís production of Tales of Hoffmann?
First of all, because coming to the opera is always a feast to the senses. Secondly in this time of crisis it's very important to think of culture and not only of trading and money. Finally because it's an international team of talents and we are going to give you all that we have to satisfy you!

Les Contes d'Hoffmann runs on 13, 14, 16 & 17 March 2009. Get your tickets now at SISTIC.