“After that I no longer rule anything out.”

“After that I no longer rule anything out.”

Two Catalan opera singers make their debut at the most famous opera house in the world, in a season opened by another Catalan, Luis Pascual, the theater director of Don Carlo By Verdi. We speak with baritone Enrique Martinez Castaignani and soprano Sarah Blanche before this big leap in their careers.

Enrique Martinez Castagnani: “I no longer rule anything out”

Today is his birthday and tomorrow he will appear for the first time in the temple of singing par excellence. An opportunity that seemed remote at this stage of his career. “After more than thirty years, I have confirmed that what quantum physics stands for is true. Every possibility exists and must happen.”

He is “nervous and excited”, but they gain illusion, emotion and confidence because they are explicitly claimed by Christophe Loy, one of the world’s most influential theater directors. “One Friday on the subway, at 10 a.m., my agent called me and asked me how I was doing in French. I told him that was good. He told me that I was being offered to participate in the world premiere of the new production of Werther At La Scala and that the director himself asked me, and that he wanted me!” he explains animatedly. Enrique must know by now where he discovered him, but at the time of our conversation it was still a mystery. “That’s the first question I’ll ask him when I meet him. “Kristoff…where have you been good?”, he joked.

It is his first time encountering the character. “I just asked my agent for an hour to look at the result. I downloaded it in PDF format and on a park bench I saw that it was possible. So I said: ‘Go ahead,'” he explains. Three days later he signed the contract. “After that I no longer ruled anything out . “I never ruled it out before, but the evidence is now irrefutable.” He believes that a long and strong career is a combination of luck and courage: “In this profession you either have courage or you don’t dedicate yourself to it.”

Until July 2, Johan A Werther“, an opera of profound lyricism written by Jules Massenet in 1892, based on the book of the same name in which Goethe crafted the romantic tragic hero par excellence. “A wonderful story, of pure romance, when people commit suicide for love, with beautiful music. The main characters, especially Werther, are tortured. But Johann and his partner Schmidt are more realistic: we are always in the bar, drunk, making fun of Bacchus and making fun of people who come to church or who want to have a stable relationship. “They provide a counterpoint and are a great presence in the first and second acts.”

Training in Germany

Enrique faces the challenge with the usual respect, but with the calm of someone who has already overcome a little in an environment with high demands: “You have to learn how to make armor and know what the red line is that you will not allow.” Trespassing. And defend it with elegance.” He has lived for more than two months in a family of 300 people “where you have to get to know each other quickly.” The tension increases when it comes to world premieres, and the environmental pressure mounts as the day of facing the public approaches: “The week before Anything Happens: Everyone is very nervous and sparks flying are kept to a minimum. I already know this and I try to stay calm no matter what happens. say yes Artist, band leader“for everything”.

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Enrique lived these months before the premiere in a “monastic” order, taking advantage of the breaks between rehearsals to walk, read, and visit museums. Now that he knows Gohan, he is convinced that he will do a “great” job. He began to understand why the stage manager asked him: “I like him very much. He has an important acting load and what these great directors want is for all the characters, regardless of their weight, to work hard on the stage.” They are demanding of their singing actors and often push them to extremes. “It’s not easy to work with them. They have no end when it comes to demand. When they demand that much, they go there. And you can break down,” he explains after overcoming bouts of weakness.

He admits that having an Italian middle name may have helped open La Scala’s doors to him. His maternal family, originally from the Marche region, were music lovers: “My grandfather played an instrumentorganic The bandúrria was part of the Liceu clique. He went upstairs and got four doros for applause. “He saw all the greats, Fleta, Tebaldi… and he explained it to me.”

But she decided to study in Germany, not Italy, as she already had a career in nursing and a good job here. “I worked in Val d’Hebron for three years at night, without ever stopping to study music. There were two days a week when I didn’t sleep. It was temporary, and when they wanted to make me permanent, I decided to go to Mannheim. No scholarships or anything. With the savings I had.”

He speaks happily, affectionately, even proudly, about those years of constant effort and “economic hardship.” When his money ran out, he worked at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe to support himself. When he returned to Barcelona, ​​at the age of 29, he had lost almost all his contacts. To make matters worse, his German master’s degree was not verified and he had to redo it again here: “It was a tough life choice, but one of the programmers said to me a sentence that stuck with me: ‘I’m back from Germany; Now you know how to sing. What is knowing how to sing? “You know with age. It’s the peace of mind to be able to convey what’s in the score. But not just the notes and the text but the feelings and intent of the composer. What’s more is that it reaches the audience,” he opines.

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A voice in evolution

So far, the main turning points in his career have been winning several singing competitions, his debut at La Fenice and the twenty-year relationship with Liceu, until 2019: “Since then I haven’t worked there again. I’m sorry, because it’s the theater in “My city, I know it well, it’s where I trained and obviously I want to go back there.”

He started out as a singing baritone but immediately drifted into the slightly “weird” category of baritone. funny. “The sound in me has brought about some changes that I did not expect. Now I feel better than ever. When I got… vibration I went to all of them. Technically, you’re always at your best, that’s the only thing that can save you.” Physicality is also a factor. He’s slim and not tall and has sometimes been rejected because he doesn’t fit the character: “These are the things you learn, to look for Roles that suit your personality.” But he’s willing to do Scarpia, which is too bad Tosca, usually associated with a stronger body. “It’s one of the roles I need to play, especially for the acting part, I think I can offer something very special xula. I will be happy,” he declared.

He is at the right age but realizes the instability of his profession. “In my job, you either come and go from day to day. I’m prepared for both,” he says. The motto is always with dignity: “I record a lot and I have people I trust. If I discover that I do not meet my minimum requirements, I will withdraw.”

However, it would be nice if he returned to Liceu before then, promoting his face as cultural director, a ‘Plan B’ that he has already successfully discovered.

Sarah Blanche: “It comes at the right time”

Soprano Sarah Blanche will also celebrate her birthday in Milan, fifteen days before her September 26 debut at La Scala. Intervention A Orontiaby Giuseppe Calsi, is a Baroque opera that was widely performed in the 17th century but is little known today among the general public.

She also didn’t know it when she was offered the role of Tiberino, a role not broad in scope but with a certain weight. “It’s funny for me to play a transvestite character, because there’s a little bit of the Sopranos,” he explains. This wouldn’t be the first time: he had just won an OscarMasked ball In the Lyceum thanks to her light singing register, Blanche sang mainly Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini and Mozart and hoped to Traviata Someday.

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She was born in Darmus, a small town of 100 inhabitants belonging to the Tefisa (La Ribera d’Ebre), the daughter of a father, a composer and director of a choir and orchestra, and a mother, a pianist. He was immersed in music from an early age: “At home there were meetings with a group of composers from Tarragona and I used to run around there.” Aside from singing and playing the piano, she also studied dancing, which allowed her to gain body awareness. “Knowing each body part helps work on vocal technique,” ​​he says.

Until he arrived in Milan, he recited his astonishing schedule by heart. He has been traveling the world since winning eight awards in the Tenor Phineas competition in 2016, after missing the finals the previous year: “It represented the opportunity to set foot on the most important stages in Spain and interact with the main characters. Little by little I started singing everywhere, especially in Italy”.

Internal work

It is now considered “ripe” to make its debut in the world’s most traditional opera house. “This is the right time. Perfect. I feel ready, as a singer and as a person. Things come when you open up mentally.”

Sarah is very interested in psychology and philosophy: “I dealt with my doubts and fears with outside help because often one does not have the mechanisms.” She learned to focus so as not to lose her energy: “If I focus on myself, if I study, if I prepare well, if I do it with all the love and all the excitement, then I enter into a kind of peace.” And also to relativize everything, even criticism: “I am the most specialized person in what I do.”

This demanding devotion is compatible with the couple, musicians like her, but the issue of children raises heated debate, considering that in 2023 he spent only twenty days at his home in Barcelona. “You have to be very conscious when you have it. You have to think about what it means to you and to him, and how it can be managed.” Sometimes society says no, but “having a baby is too important to get carried away.” If the time comes, it will be all about doing it: “A child cannot make you give up what you love most.”

Sarah’s commitment to her art is absolute: “I don’t want to sing well enough. It has to be something more connected to self-searching and life. Convey the truth of what you’re singing. Transform yourself into that character and what he’s going through so the feelings are real.” No crack, no crack. There is absolute conviction and dedication to what he does.

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