Baritone Marco Vratogna (pictured left in San Francisco, note trousers and shoes) just finished singing Amonasro in the season opening run of Aida at San Francisco Opera. He is scheduled to sing Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Ezio in Attila at La Scala in June. The Opera Tattler and the Last Chinese Unicorn met Marco with a rather raucous group of friends for dinner at Jardinière after his final performance of Aida last night.
How did you get involved with opera in the first place?
As a joke! I started singing in clubs and places like that, and got a lot of encouragement. I had a deal with my father that he would pay for my training for a year, and I would have to show some sort of success.
It has clearly worked out! Are there singers in your family?
My father's father was a tenor, he won a singing competition and got an engagement to sing Tosca in Rome. He couldn't do it, because, unfortunately, my grandmother became ill with multiple sclerosis.
What do you love about singing opera?
Everything! Especially the adrenaline rush of being on stage.
You sing a lot of villains such as Jago, Macbeth, and Attila. Which one do you identify with the most and why? Is this your favorite role to sing musically?
I don't really identify with these villains, except that they are all powerful men. My favorite is Macbeth because this role has many layers, is very intense, and is different in every moment.
Is it more fun to play the bad guy? Don't you ever want to get the girl though?
Yes, it is fun! No, you see what happens to the tenor! [Gestures to the next table at Marcello Giordani, Radames in Aida]
Do you have a dream role?
Rigoletto! This dream is coming true soon, I sing it in 2012. The opera is a masterpiece, and Rigoletto is the culmination of all the great Verdi baritone roles.
People are already saying that you were born to sing Rigoletto. How will you prepare for this role? Do you typically do a lot of research when learning new roles to try to understand your character both musically and psychologically?
I do research and read. Hugo's Le roi s'amuse is historically based, so my job is find the true story in that, to show you who the real person was.
You are a very physical performer, embodying your roles. Does this come naturally or have you studied movement?
Naturally. People want reality, so in a sense you just have to be yourself.
Are you excited about singing Attila at La Scala? Why is the La Scala audience so notoriously aggressive, booing and cheering with such fervor?
There is such a history at La Scala, the biggest stars have performed there, so the expectations are very high. The audience is crazy for opera.
You and Maestro Luisotti are very good friends. How is he to work with?
I met Nicola in 2001 for Stiffelio at Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, in Trieste. He is great with singers.
Who would win in a game of thumb war? [OT and LCU demonstrate, and LCU promptly wins]
Me, of course!
How long has Luisotti had that long-sleeved navy polo?
At least 10 years. Nicola has a uniform! It is important, so that he can be identified as the leader, which he is, as the Maestro.
Do you have a favorite opera house?
San Francisco. The audience is responsive and knowledgeable. They can distinguish talent.
What singers do you admire and respect?
Baritones Ettore Bastianini and Piero Cappuccilli; tenors Franco Corelli and Aureliano Pertile; and sopranos Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas.
Complete this sentence. My idea of happiness is...
What do you do when you are not singing?
I am working on an electric and solar powered yacht business.
Here are some stereotypes about Italian men and you tell us if they apply to you:
Italian men like to eat pasta.
Italian men are passionate, hot blooded and jealous.
Italian men are spoiled by their mamas.
Italian men wear speedos, gold shoes, and tight pants.
Yes, in Italy all the football players wear gold shoes! Nice!
Italian men do not like to open doors and close windows.
I don't open the door, but I do close the window!