One could say that Argentinian tenor Marcelo Raúl Álvarez has adopted Milan. Legendary tenor Giuseppe di Stefano heard him sing at one of his auditions for Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, and urged him to move to Italy. Álvarez took his advice, and in 1995 moved to Milan, one of the most famous opera capitals in the world. He now lives about 50 kilometres from the city and its Teatro alla Scala. The opera house is currently right in the heart of its season, as it traditionally begins on 7 December, the day dedicated to Milan's patron saint Ambrogio. We spoke to Álvarez about his work and his experience of Milan both on and off stage.
Can you tell us about your first experience performing at Teatro alla Scala? What do you think is special about this opera house with respect to others?
I first sang at La Scala in 1998 in a production of Linda di Chamounix, and I am happy to say that it was a great success. The emotion of stepping onto the stage of La Scala is always very intense, because of the vast heritage of history and tradition linked to this theatre. The audience here can be very demanding, but they are always happy with a singer who sings from the bottom of his heart!
Which are the places you like to frequent when you are in Milan?
Milan is top for everything regarding shops, fashion. It's a bit like going to New York, you can find everything there. I like going to Ricordi in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele for sheet music and CDs, and in fact there are certain music editions, with red covers, that you can find nowhere else. We generally go to the bars close to the theatre, such as the historic venues in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. I often get taken to restaurants in various areas of the city, they're very good, and this is another of Milan's attractive features! I keep in touch with questions of fashion, and this is in part a necessity linked to my work. I love Armani, and my dinner jackets are all by Armani, I'm a regular at the store on Via Manzoni! I like them because only a couple of small adjustments have to be made to achieve an excellent fit. For more sporty clothes, I like Hugo Boss.
You have played Cavaradossi in Tosca and Rodolfo in Luisa Miller many times. What is your view on these roles, and can you give us some advance news on upcoming performances at La Scala?
Cavaradossi is a revolutionary, but he is also an artist. His love for Tosca is intense, but his inner drive is primarily fuelled by his passion for art. Romantic right up to the end, he dies in front of a firing squad believing in his lover. Rodolfo is a very different character, dominated by his father's powerful and overbearing character. The hate that he feels for his wicked parent polarizes his life from start to tragic end. Of course the two roles call for totally different stage approaches. As for upcoming performances, there's a lot going on, such as Un ballo in maschera at the Met in New York, and we're already looking ahead to 2015 which will be Expo year for Milan!
Living near Milan means that when you're performing in Italy you don't have to travel so intensely?
You're right, it's nice working so close to home. Now that I'm working on productions in Turin and Milan, I'm just one hour from home by car, which is very different from when I have to commute to the Metropolitan Opera in New York! I made great efforts to spend as much time as possible with my family. Without them, I would never have been able to develop my career to the level at which it is today.
Official website for Marcelo Raúl Álvarez: www.marceloalvarez.it
Teatro alla Scala info and bookings: www.teatroallascala.org. The main ticket office is in the Duomo metro station, open every day except holidays, midday-6 p.m.
Ricordi Media Store: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan, open every day 10.00 a.m.-11 p.m. (closes at 8 p.m. on Sundays).
Armani, Via Manzoni 31
Hugo Boss, Corso Matteotti 8/11, Milan
La Scala highlights 2012:
Don Giovanni, Mozart, 4, 8, 12, 14 January 2012
Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Offenbach, 15, 17, 19, 21, 24, 27 January, 1, 3, 5 February
Aida, 14, 16, 21, 23, 25 February, 1, 4, 7, 10 March
Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Strauss, 11, 14, 17, 20, 24, 27 March
Le Nozze di Figaro, Mozart, 23, 25, 28, 30 March, 10, 12, 14, 17 April
Tosca, Puccini, 22, 26, 28 April, 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 15 May
Peter Grimes, Britten, 19, 22, 24, 29, 31 May
Luisa Miller, Verdi, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 18, 21, 23 June
Manon, Massenet, 19, 22, 25, 29 June, 2, 5, 7 July
Don Pasquale, Donizetti, 30 June, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14 July
La Bohème, Puccini, 26, 28 September, 1, 4, 8, 10, 12, 19, 222, 24, 26 October
Siegried, Wagner, 23, 27, 31 October, 4, 18, 22 November
Rigoletto, Verdi, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17 November 2012
Excelsior, Marenco, 18, 20, 22, 25 January, 2, 4, 9 February 2012
Giselle, Adam, 18, 22, 24, 26, 28 February, 9, 13 March
L'altra metà del cielo, Vasco Rossi, 31 March, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 13 April
Marguerite and Armand, DSCH concert, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 18, 20, 23 May
Onegin, Tchaikovsky, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18 September
Raymonda, Glazunov, 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 13 October 2012
Daniela Barcellona, mezzosoprano, 16 January 2012
Ian Bostridge, tenor, 30 January
Mariella Devia, soprano, 26 March
Edita Gruberova, soprano, 14 May
Elina Garanca, mezzosoprano, 4 June
René Pape, bass, 16 September
Rolando Villazon, tenor, 11 November 2012