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Video Exclusive with Ravinia Soloist Saimir Pirgu

Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu

Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu

He’s a favorite with Chicago’s maestros. In March, Saimir Pirgu sang Lucia de Lammermoor with James Conlon at the Los Angeles Opera. In July, it was the Verdi Requiem with Riccardo Muti. He returns in February for a Mozart Requiem with Mr. Muti; and this week he joins Mr. Conlon and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia for Mozart’s Don Giovanni. “Conductors like to work with people they know very well. After the first experience with James in 2005, I think, in Bologna, he took me to L.A., and then we’ve worked together in other places like in Florence.” The 33-year-old Albanian tenor grins, “Around James or around Muti, you meet in different countries.”

Saimir Pirgu singing the Verdi Requiem with Riccardo Muti on Monday, July 6 at Redipuglia, the Italian World War I memorial. The concert marked the 100 anniversary of the outbreak of WW I.

Saimir Pirgu singing the Verdi Requiem with Riccardo Muti on Sunday, July 6 at Redipuglia, the Italian World War I memorial. The concert marked the 100 anniversary of the outbreak of WW I.

There’s a certain familiarity a seasoned tenor has, not only with conductors and other singers, but with his roles. He’s sung Don Giovanni in Vienna, Verona, Paris, and in other European capitals. Even with the very limited rehearsal time for these Ravinia performances at the Martin Theatre, the role of Don Ottavio, for him, only grows deeper, which might come as a surprise to some.

“Well, you usually think of Don Ottavio [the tenor role in Don Giovanni] as a sort of sappy, wimpy guy.” That’s according WFMT’s Carl Grapentine, who has given a number of lectures on Don Giovanni.

Placido Domingo, James Conlon, and Saimir Pirgu at LA Opera

Placido Domingo, James Conlon, and Saimir Pirgu at LA Opera

Pirgu sees it differently. From a recent conversation with WFMT, it’s clear he’s come to identify with his character as the everyman, as opposed to the reckless title character. “Don Giovanni is not Casanova. For me, Don Giovanni doesn’t like women. He just uses them.” Pirgu’s own character, Don Ottavio, differs in a way that’s “huge.” “When you think that your role needs to be more quiet than Don Giovanni. This big difference between Don Ottavio and Don Giovanni is our life…I need to make a man that loses everything. I don’t know if I will be married to Donna Anna, and the Commendatore has died…and the biggest problem: Don Giovanni is a good friend.”

More on Saimir Pirgu and James Conlon.

Performances of Mozart’s Don Giovanni are Thursday and Saturday at the Ravinia Festival. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro are Friday and Sunday.

 

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