Robert Pomakov is singing the role of Monterone in the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto. I ask him ten questions: five about himself and five about the role.
1) Which of your parents do you resemble (what’s your nationality / ethnic background)?
My father (came to Canada from Bulgaria). No doubt that is where my musical gene came from (Bulgaria has a great tradition of music, and opera singers). However that being said, especially since my father’s death (5 years ago), my mother’s influence; especially her calm, thoughtful, pragmatic approach to life (from her upbringing in post-war Rochester, NY) have been an invaluable guidance towards my mindset and general contentment.
2) what is the BEST thing / worst thing about being an opera singer?
Best: Embracing my vocation. Worst: Thinking there is something better; there is not.
3) who do you like to listen to? (a favourite singer or performer…can be anyone or anything)
Classic Rock: Neil Young, CCR, The Band, to name but a few. New Orleans Jazz: Preservation Hall Band
4) what ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?
The ability to write music; I am a re-creative artist, I would love to be a creative artist.
5) when you’re just relaxing (and not working) what is your favourite thing to do?
Ride my motorcycle. Go to a baseball game (hopefully the Jays are on the field) and drink beer. Enjoying far too many pints with my friends at my bar and many other watering holes.
Five more concerning Monterone in Rigoletto.
1)how does this role challenge you?
Extremely difficult vocal writing; high tessatura, yet requiring grand, weighty, full throat sound.
2) what do you love about the part? Here’s a demonstration from a 2009 production in Croatia.
I command the entire stage, all the performers, the orchestra, and of course, the audience.
3) is there a favourite passage: something you’re looking forward to staging/singing?
The curse “Si maledetto” Is it said in complete, utter rage, or does he find joy in bringing someone else down knowing his own time is done?
4) how do you relate to the character as a modern man?
I do not have a daughter, yet I imagine “the modern man” would react if a man (the duke) treated his daughter in such a manner.
5) is there a recorded Monterone you particularly admire?
Monterone is usually cast as a baritone, though it really sings with a much darker voice. Kurt Moll, the schwartzest of all Schwartz basses actually recorded the role. That indicated to me it is a role I should not be afraid of. Here’s an example of Kurt Moll’s singing from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Robert Pomakov continues as Monterone in Rigoletto until October 22nd, Four Seasons Centre.
And this week you can catch Pomakov as part of a free noontime concert Thursday Oct. 20th at Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Titled “Love, Loss and Longing” the concert includes a new arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death by Canadian composer Gary Kulesha with the Gryphon Trio, and Beethoven’s seminal song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte.