The Education of Luca Pisaroni: The Met’s Seductive Leporello Is a Rising Star

An opera devotee since boyhood, he plans on a long career

Luca Pisaroni. (Photo: Marco Borggreve / Metropolitan Opera)

Novelists are known to love reading fiction, and most visual artists make regular rounds of the galleries, but opera singers, with surprising frequency, are not opera fans.

Maybe that’s because opera is so intense and demanding that its practitioners, once they get offstage, have no interest in a busman’s holiday. Or maybe it’s because opera these days isn’t the popular art form it once was. In its early history, tunes from new works were sung in the streets, like Beyoncé singles; now, the canon largely set, audiences are for the most part limited to the rich and white. Whatever the reason, for many singers opera is their job, and just their job. They perform in Traviata, but in their spare time they’d rather listen to Taylor Swift.

Then there is the bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni.

“I really do love it,” he said in a recent interview at a hotel lounge across the street from Lincoln Center. “Guilty as charged. I’m an addict; I have no problem in saying that. I always have been. When I was going to high school, I loved opera so much that I would not eat so that I could buy CDs. My parents would give me an allowance for a week and I used to go to La Scala almost every night. So every evening I had to go to the opera I would not eat. I’m serious.”

As he talks with shining-eyed enthusiasm about the memorable Scala performances he saw in the 1990s, it can be hard to keep in mind that Mr. Pisaroni is himself a singer, rather than just a fan, one of those people you see every night in standing room.

At 36, he has already quietly entered the top ranks of opera. He is featured in two major new productions—and, no less important these days, two “Live in H.D.” broadcasts—at the Met this fall, playing Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Caliban in The Enchanted Island, the new Baroque pastiche whose story melds The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The two roles neatly summarize Mr. Pisaroni’s small, carefully chosen repertory of mostly Baroque and Classical roles. “I pay very much attention to what I can sing and what I can’t,” he said. “I always thought singing should be free. If it’s not free, it’s wrong.”

The result is that he has cultivated a smooth, rich voice that flows out with ease over its entire range. Tall and boyishly handsome, he is a Figaro with an undercurrent of melancholy; a Guglielmo, in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, simultaneously shocked and aroused by his seduction of his friend’s fiancée; an almost disconcertingly seductive Leporello.

He was born to Italian parents in 1975 in Venezuela, where his father ran a large chain of auto-parts stores. The family returned to Italy when Mr. Pisaroni was 4 and he grew up in Busseto, a small town whose claim to fame is that it was Verdi’s home for much of his life.

The Education of Luca Pisaroni: The Met’s Seductive Leporello Is a Rising Star