Seen and Heard Interview
Zoran Todorovich (tenor) talks to Göran Forsling at the Staatsoper unter den Linden (GF)
I heard him first in 2001 at an opera concert in Gävle in Sweden and when I needed a thrilling tenor for a concert the next year with our local symphony orchestra in Borlänge (the birthplace of Jussi Björling) it felt natural to invite Zoran, who managed to squeeze in the concert between performances of La juive in Vienna and Madama Butterfly in San Francisco. We got to know each other quite well during his short stay at Borlänge and when visiting Berlin a week ago I was lucky enough to meet him for an interview immediately after his magnificent performance of Pollione in Norma at the State Opera (review), a role he has made very much his own during the last few years. Although it was only a few minutes after the last curtain call and he had barely had time for a quick shower, he looked extremely fresh and fit in spite of the strenuous role he had just sung. So my first question was:
You seem to be in very good shape. How do you keep fit?
Well, I have really been very bad at exercising, but a couple of years ago Matti Salminen asked me: ‘Do you play golf?’ ‘No, I have never tried golf.’ ‘You should!’ And I did – and now I feel very well, have lost some kilos, and … you know.
I was really astonished when I heard your “new” voice. I heard your Pollione from Munich on the radio less than a year ago but still wasn’t prepared. You used to be a lyric tenor, singing Alfredo, Lenski, Rodolfo, and now you have developed a magnificent dramatic tenor, dark and powerful. I came to think of Franco Corelli when I heard you in the final duet with Norma. What has happened?
I wasn’t quite at ease with my singing a couple of years ago, feeling tired while I knew I had the potential to go further. Then I found Bruno Pola, the Italian baritone, and he worked wonders with my voice in a very short time. It has expanded and I feel secure. Of course I have always had a rather dark timbre but it has darkened further, and I still have the top. Pola says to me: ‘You have to decide whom you want to sound like, Bonisolli or Corelli.’ But I want to be myself.
With this new voice it seems you are predestined to sing Radames and Otello before long.
I have already been asked to take on Otello, but I know what will happen if I do. Everyone will want Otello and I couldn’t go on singing that part week after week. It is too strenuous in the long run and I want to continue singing for many years. There are too many examples of singers who have burnt themselves out with too heavy roles.
I remember Nicolai Gedda sang Lohengrin at the Stockholm Opera, 1965 or 1966 it was, I believe. I heard it on the radio, even recorded it on my reel to reel recorder, and he was a great Lohengrin, but he backed out after one or two performances, saying: ‘Never ever Wagner again. It will ruin my voice.’ So I think you are wise not to hasten. Martinelli, possibly the best Otello ever, didn’t tackle the role until he was 51 – and you are not there yet.
I am 45 and I know that if I took on more engagements I would probably have a greater career, but the career isn’t everything. I have a family – my son is 10 now – and I want to spend time with them.
When we met four years ago you said that you wanted to limit your performances to 50 per year. Is that still possible?
As a matter of fact it is 40 now, but I’m better paid today so I break even. What is important is that I feel a role is right for me. The other year I was asked to sing Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana. I learnt it in a week, while travelling, sang ten performances and that role suited me to perfection.
Turiddu is a fairly heavy role and you are taking on more of that kind also in the near future.
I’m singing Manrico in Il trovatore at Covent Garden in February 2007, in March I will be Don Carlos in Dresden and in April Don José in a Carmen production in Toulouse – and then there is Pollione and Roberto Devereux. By the way, the Munich Norma with Gruberova that you heard on the radio, will be released on DVD in the near future – in much better sound than on that broadcast.
That’s something to look forward to. Well, it’s late. I asked for half an hour and we have been talking for a full hour and I know you have an early start tomorrow.
I’m flying to Munich at 7 a.m. so I have to be up by 5. And then rehearsal at 11.
Life is not always a bed of roses when you are a sought-after opera-singer. It is nearing midnight, the artist entrance is locked so we have to walk through winding subterranean gangways that lead us far away from the opera house before we get out in the open. A quick farewell and Zoran Todorovich hurries away for a few hours’ sleep before the next workday, which is a Saturday.