Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Meet Our Singers: PATRICK CARFIZZI, Don Magnifico

Seattle Opera is fortunate that bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi has a special fondness for our rainy city and opera company. Carfizzi has given us terrific performances over the past six years in a variety of repertoire, most recently his complex Ping in Turandot. Before that, he sang Dr. Bartolo in The Barber of Seville, and returns now for Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola, another Rossini baddie. This talented comic, versatile actor, and great singer spoke to me recently about the complicated character he plays, Cinderella’s monstrous, pompous, insufferable, relentless, and yet somehow appealing step-father.

Patrick Carfizzi on opening night (click to listen)

Patrick, first of all Don Magnifico is a big sing. Tell us, if you would, about your three different arias in this opera.
Three different arias, three distinct fantasies, all going in the same direction. His first aria is this fantasy that came directly from his subconscious: this dream in which he envisioned himself as the great flying donkey! And he dreams that his offspring, his daughters, are the feathers from said donkey! That’s his introduction, and shows his bizarreness.

Daniela Pini (Cenerentola) and Patrick Carfizzi (Don Magnifico) in rehearsal for La Cenerentola
Alan Alabastro, photo

That’s his entrance aria! What a character!
“Here I am! I’d like to talk to you about the fact that I’m a donkey.” Some people dream that they are kings, some that they are wizards...I want to be a flying donkey.

Have you sung A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
I have, yes. The role of Bottom. Ah, yes, the various asses that I play...

Patrick Carfizzi as Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dreamat Central City Opera, with Anna Christy as Tytania

Is it the same psychology, there? In that one, you actually wear a donkey head...
In a way it’s similar. We have a man who is clearly an ass. He’s stubborn, arrogant, confident way beyond his depth.

But Bottom isn’t malicious.
No, but neither is Magnifico, really; he is greedy, and that’s what drives him to wickeness.

More so than actually enjoying hurting people.
Exactly. He’s not evil, he’s just greedy, and greed gets the better of him. With Bottom, it’s a greed for wanting praise from the audience, adulation, love.

Patrick Carfizzi played a baddie at Seattle Opera in 2009, when he sang Nourabad in The Pearl Fishers, with Mary Dunleavy as Leila and William Burden as Nadir
Rozarii Lynch, photo

So that’s your subconscious fantasy, in your first aria, “I want everyone to know what a giant ass I am!”
Really, I want to be noticed. I’ll do whatever I have to do to be noticed. If that means putting on a donkey suit and flying across the face of the moon, so be it: I will do it.

Patrick Carfizzi rehearses a scene from La Cenerentola with Dana Pundt and Sarah Larsen as Clorinda and Tisbe
Alan Alabastro, photo

And your second aria, the wine cellar aria...
That’s my fantasy coming to life. If I could dream up the perfect position for myself, in the prince’s court, it would be this wine steward. Then I really wouldn’t have to care about things, I’d have this excuse of being drunk all the time. “Oh, wait, can’t drink that, I haven’t tasted it yet.” Here we have his fantasy, starting to come to life.

Patrick Carfizzi's fantasy as Ping in last summer's Turandot (Click play button to listen)

That moment of “I’ve been put in this position, oh boy!”
Yes, and he’s well advanced in his thinking. As far as he’s conccerned, his daughter is already married to the Prince. He doesn’t care which daughter. And then in the third aria, I’ve got the job, I’ve done my duty and married off one of my daughters, the other may be crying in a heap of rags but I really don’t care about that...

In your third aria, you’re imagining all these supplicants coming to you and asking for favors. And this is where you have the most obscene patter singing, when you’re going through the list: “This one wants this, that one wants that, too much, too much! Leave me alone, leave me alone!”
That’s correct, that’s the one that really journeys. The first aria is a dream, the second is a static commentary, but the third is a real journey. Going from the high point of the dream, which is: “I’ve walked in the palace doors. The world is open to me. There are servants and everything at my feet, and it’s bliss.” But now I start getting nagged and bugged. Everyone wants something. This one wants this from me, that one wants that from me. At first it’s kind of endearing, and then it’s a nightmare, a mess. And finally: Enough! “Basta!”

What a strange fantasy.
It’s the downside. “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.”

How odd that in his own fantasy, he understands that it will be a nightmare.
He knows it will deconstruct a bit for him.

Patrick Carfizzi works with director Joan Font at La Cenerentola rehearsal
Alan Alabastro, photo

What’s different about this production here in Seattle compared to when you did it in Houston?
There’s a maturity now, to Joan’s concept of these characters. He’s now done this opera many times; his understanding of the characters is richer and more layered, and he’s imparting that to us, building more dimensions to each character.

Also, when this production was done for the first time in Houston, that was Joan’s first Rossini comedy. He has done others since.
Yes, I just did Italiana with him, I’ve done Barbiere with him. He is so connected with Rossini’s music, with the natural comedy and flirtatiousness that Rossini writes into his music. And the character—both character interactions in the big ensembles and in the arias and duets. A great example is the hesitation of the prince and Cenerentola in their first duet. There’s such anticipation and awe, so true to life, and Rossini writes that beautifully. And Joan is hooking into it so well.

Jose Carbo (Figaro) and Patrick Carfizzi (Dr. Bartolo) in The Barber of Seville at Seattle Opera, 2010
Rozarii Lynch, photo

A couple years ago, we saw you here in Seattle as Dr. Bartolo in Barbiere. How does that role compare to Magnifico? Which night in the theater tends to be more fun?
They’re both fun for different reasons. Bartolo is fun because he’s so much more of an ass. Magnifico is an ass, but he’s fun because it’s more of a journey over the course of the show.

At least he’s open to people and events in the world around him.
He has no choice. He needs to get his daughter married, that’s his mission, and he has to go very far to do it. Bartolo is so trapped in himself, he is almost immovable, as a person. Which makes life very difficult for him. Whereas Magnifico will do anything: he will whore himself out to the lowest bidder if it means he gets free wine.

Patrick Carfizzi as Ping in Turandot at Seattle Opera, Summer 2012
Elise Bakketun, photo

1 comment:

  1. Hallo, SeaOp bloggers!
    Great interview with Carfizzi!!
    I look forward to an interview with Giacomo Sagripanti, whose conducting I have admired in Lübeck, Germany (Boito's "Mefistofele" and a symphony concert on 25 November 2012. He is a candidate for Generalmusikdirektor in Lübeck; Ausrine Stundyte (Cio-Cio-San in Seattle and an ensemble-member in Lübeck hope he gets that position!!!
    Win H.