Massimo Cavalletti, the Italian baritone, as the Barber of Seville. Image Credit:

If the word opera conjures up the feeling that it’s highbrow and a playground for intellectuals, then nip that thought in the bud.

Otherwise, you will miss the great cultural opportunity that the comic opera The Barber of Seville has in store for you.

To be staged at the Dubai Opera in Downtown Dubai on September 2 and 4, this classic, composed by the iconic Italian Gioachino Rossini, promises to endear to all.

“To enjoy this opera, all you have to do is come and take your seat. With your eyes open, try to catch as much as possible of what’s happening on the stage ... We guarantee a memorable, fun night. If the kids want to come, it’s perfect for them too,” says Italian baritone Massimo Cavalletti, who plays the scheming barber Figaro in the opera that chronicles the adventures of a young count, Almaviva, and his courtship with the young Rosina. Rosina’s guardian is against their union, but the devious barber paves the way for these two lovebirds to meet and cement their relationship.

The upcoming concert spells a first trip to the UAE for this seasoned singer who has performed across the globe in prestigious venues such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Vienna State Opera and the Zurich Opera House. But he is confident that his opera will strike a chord among the opera enthusiasts in the UAE. He’s on a mission to acquaint the UAE with the “real Italian theatre”.

tabloid! speaks to Cavalletti about how he’s gearing up for The Barber of Seville, his Middle Eastern debut and more.

What should we expect from your performance at the Dubai Opera?

I hope that people who come will try to enter my world of opera. I hope they enjoy and understand what our opera is about. We are bringing a fun opera, The Barber of Seville. It’s easy, clear and understandable. This is an opera in which people will try to participate in our story. Our attempt is to be as clear as possible. I don’t know how the people in Dubai deal with opera or whether they have experienced it before or not. I wonder if it’s completely new.

But the plus here is that the music of The Barber of Seville is famous. My aria is one of the most famous arias in the world. The Barber of Seville is a love story between a count and a nice young lady. They try to find ways to meet. But it’s not easy. I play a barber, their matchmaker, and I find a way to bring them together. This opera is not complicated.

Have you been to the Dubai Opera and how important is the venue and its acoustics?

Not yet. We have enough time on our hands to understand the venue. The acoustics are very important because your opera experience depends on it heavily. We hear that there’s a lot of expectations for the event and it could be the first time at an opera for many. But remember, it’s the first time for us too in Dubai. But by the opening night, we will be ready to fly. We will do our best and bring the best possible joy to the crowd.

What’s your response to all those claim that the opera or classical music is intimidating?

To enjoy this opera, all you have to do is come and take your seat. With your eyes open, try to catch as much as possible of what’s happening on the stage. Opera is a combination of three emotions: the music, the voice and the eyes that belong to you. We act on stage, we give emotions to our words through our voices and music. The way in which you watch us on stage is what you capture in your mind. Going to an opera is different from going to a pop music concert in New York. In opera, we think with our voices and convey myriad emotions in our voice. People will listen to our voices and make that connect. Nothing is filtered. It’s a great experience for anyone who has never been to an opera night. This is perfect because it’s a funny opera. We guarantee a memorable, fun night. If the kids want to come, it is perfect for them too.

In an interview, you claimed that the role of Barber Figaro is your favourite. What about the character appeals to you?

This character is my favourite because it’s like a twister, a storm of a role. There’s a lot of energy in Figaro. He’s a lot like myself. Figaro is someone who enjoys life and friendship. He’s loyal and can give a lot of happiness to people around him. This is a character who can evoke joy in not just to the actor, but the audience too. He’s a great communicator. It makes me happy every time I take on this role because he puts a smile on every face out there.

But isn’t it easier to make people cry than to make people laugh?

Yes. And remember people are different in different countries. To find that right balance in every place that you perform is a challenge. For instance, in Italy they are likely to understand every word that we sing and every subtext because they have seen this opera several times. It could be a new audience in Dubai so we need to find an appropriate, right approach. We have to find the right meaning for them through our opera. Not all that is clear to us [Italians], will be clear to the audience [in Dubai]. But step by step, when the curtains come up on the opening night, we will begin understanding each other. We, the performers and the audience, have to work together. A good performance is when the audience jumps in and brings something to the table. I am sure we will find a way to connect and be with each other. The characters in this opera have a way of finding their way into the audience’s hearts.

Will there be a translation?

Yes, it will be sung in Italian with English and Arabic subtitles [on a screen above the stage]. But our actions be crystal clear. All the situations will make sense to you because we are trying to find the easiest ways to communicate. We want to bring real Italian theatre, show the people in Dubai the high level of theatre, and also find a way to touch their hearts.

What do you think of mainstream singers including opera music in their albums? And what’s your take on fusion?

Fusion presents a great musical opportunity. For example, Andrea Bocelli has attempted fusion and it’s a great opportunity to capture new audiences. The goal is the same everywhere. We want to evoke emotions in people and want to communicate information through our voices.

What is the life of an opera singer like?

It’s a normal life. But I try to conserve my voice for singing. I take care of what I eat and my food choices. I keep my food as light as possible. The stomach is important for an opera singer. If you have a good [healthy] stomach, then you have a good voice. I also have to take care of my body and head [and go] to the gym often. I move often and love massages. I am like an athlete, a sportsman. To sing in an opera is a sport. You need a lot of passion and strength. A day before my show, there’s no nightlife because you have to be careful about conserving energy. But I enjoy my life as much as possible.

Don’t miss it!

What: The Barber of Seville

Where: Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai

When: September 2 and 4

Time: 8-10.30pm

Tickets: Dh350 onwards

Details: Go to dubaiopera.com