Interview with Lado Ataneli at San Diego Opera
Lado Ataneli (© Ken Fish)
Brief Background and Introduction
San Diego Opera reaches the midpoint of its 2009 season with the staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s operatic melodramma, Rigoletto starring gifted baritone Lado Ataneli in the title role. Mr. Ataneli’s professional career began in 1989 in his home town of Tiflis, Georgia, where he sang the role of Renato in Un ballo in maschera.
Mr. Ataneli garnered several prestigious awards soon after including First Prize and the Grand Prix at Barcelona’s 1991 International Francisco-Vinas Competition along with winning first place awards in the “I Cestelli” competition and the 15th Belvedere competition in Vienna, both in 1996. These numerous accolades helped launch his international presence the following year when he debuted as Macbeth at La Scala alongside conductor Riccardo Muti.
Since that time, Lado Ataneli has gone on to specialize and develop an extensive repertoire around Verdi, Puccini and other verismo composers. At the very least, the list of accomplished roles is impressive, singing around the world from New York to Tokyo to London. He’s also heavily sought after in his portrayal as the Babylon king in Verdi’s Nabucco. Mr. Ataneli will be a familiar name to most San Diegans, having sung his debut in the title role of Verdi’s riveting masterpiece Simon Boccanegra, back in 2005. In 2002 Lado Ataneli became a member of honor by the “Academy of Sciences of the Caucasian people”.
The United States, the West Coast in particular, has and continues to have the great privilege of welcoming Mr. Ataneli, and we are honored to receive him in our presence at San Diego Opera.
ConcertoNet: “Thank you for your time and welcome.”
Lado Ataneli: “Thank you.”
ConcertoNet: “How did you actually begin your operatic singing career?”
Lado Ataneli: “When I was a child, I always sang. I always sang in school concerts and even sang a Georgian operetta when I was 11 years old. My father was a really fantastic tenor, but he only sang folklore music. I never thought I wanted to be an opera singer. I wanted to go to the university, but one time before this happened, I accompanied my older sister to the university. Her music professor mentioned that since my sister had a beautiful voice, that I would probably have a wonderful voice, too. So I tried an exercise, and the professor said that I had a beautiful baritone voice and that I would have a great future in singing, traveling around the world.”
“The maestro told me to come to the university because my destiny is singing. While I studied at the State Conservatory, I received many compliments, that I had a golden voice. It was then that I realized I had a beautiful voice, and I concentrated on singing and nothing more.”
The Dramatic Baritone
ConcertoNet: “Los Angeles Times in 2002 described you as being: ‘One of the healthiest, roundest, most mellifluous voices on the planet.’ You have been known for your keen interpretations of Verdi, Puccini, Giordano, Leoncavallo and others. Was that a matter of personal preference or did this just happen?”
Lado Ataneli: “It just happened. My voice is dramatic and it has some darkness with dramatic tones. My managers for the first time wanted me to sing Scarpia. I asked my maestro about this proposal and he said, ‘Lado, it is okay only if you can sing with your voice and not to push.’ I then went on to do twelve different productions of Tosca. Back then, opera houses needed baritones for dramatic repertoire. Of course, I sang Scarpia, Iago, Macbeth, Nabucco and all the heavy parts. Because on the other side we have the other baritones that are lyrical, they are not good at singing dramatic roles; therefore, the dramatic roles came to me. Yes, I must be careful to sing with my voice and never to push. It has been twenty years singing in my operatic career.”
ConcertoNet: “Do you prefer singing operatic villains or do you like to sing the heroes?”
Lado Ataneli: “I like singing both because the roles are fantastic and the music is great. We have so many great operas. I like the parts of Gérard, Macbeth, Germont, Simon Boccanegra and, of course, Rigoletto. My favorite role is Gérard (from Andrea Chénier).”
Upcoming Rigoletto Production
ConcertoNet: “In this Rigoletto production you’re singing with Slovakian L’ubica Vargicová who is making her debut as Gilda. Can you tell us what it’s like working with her? Have you worked with her before?”
Lado Ataneli: “This is the first time singing with Vargicová. She’s a very nice colleague, professional and has a beautiful voice. Physically, she’s like Gilda. The cast is wonderful.”
Thaïs and the French Repertoire
ConcertoNet: “In 2008 you made your debut as Athanaël in Massenet’s Thaïs (in Turin, Italy) and you’ve sung The High Priest of Dagon in Samson et Dalila and the three villains in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Are you going to expand your French repertoire?”
Lado Ataneli: “Yes. I can sing in French. Athanaël is a great part. Thaïs is really fantastic, wonderful music. Athanaël is a great character because he has a conflict within himself since he wants to become a priest but he loves Thaïs, but it’s too late. RAI-1 Italian channel made this DVD recording that will be released in the summer of 2009.”
What’s in Store in the Future
ConcertoNet: “Aside from the verismo repertoire that you currently sing, do you have any other operas planned for the future?”
Lado Ataneli: “Yes. For the first time in my life I will sing Tchaikovsky’s Russian opera Pique Dame in Barcelona in 2010. Of course, living in Georgia I’ve sung in Russian. It’s no problem singing in this language.”
ConcertoNet: “You’ve sung Rachmaninoff, haven’t you?”
Lado Ataneli: “Yes, Aleko.”
ConcertoNet: “You’ve also made recordings with Plácido Domingo in La Gioconda and also a solo CD, Solo Arias in 2005. Do you have any other recordings planned?”
Lado Ataneli: “In September (2009) Naxos will release my second recital. This includes arias from Attila, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, and Hérodiade. I will also have some Georgian pieces, arias from Georgian operas. We have many, many fantastic operas in Georgia.”
ConcertoNet: “We want to thank you again for your time and it was nice meeting you. We are certainly looking forward to the performance.”
San Diego Opera
Lado Ataneli's website