[#MeToo is happening in opera] and not just for the girls! We men are at risk too! I know the situation well because as a young man it happened to me. I was at the beginning of my career and an agent offered me a concert, a fantastic opportunity. But in return I would have had to go with him to a sauna… it was a very unambiguous exchange. I was afraid, and I said no.
Sexual blackmail is horrendous and ultimately not necessary for a career. You need to have the courage to expose these people. Even if it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between indecent proposals and simple advances.
In the US now, no man dares to stay alone in a room with a woman without the camera on — the risk of being accused of harassment is too great. It is back to separation of the sexes with men, increasingly terrified by women, exaggeratingly clinging to their mother's skirts… it's not good.
You even have to be careful about what you sing! There is a song from the '20s, ‘Girls are Made to Love and Kiss' [from Franz Lehár's operetta Paganini], which is ironic and flirtatious. Until a while ago, when I sang it all everyone was in on its intentions, but now some take it seriously. I do not think it's an insult to say that women are made to be loved and kissed… these are nice things, for which I have never asked permission. And no one has ever complained.
[And opera] is a disaster. Almost all opera plots have women ending up badly, victims of brutal men and traitors. Someone has even tried to change the endings: Desdemona strangling Otello, Butterfly suing Pinkerton… it's absurd. The rules of life cannot be applied to art. If not, it's censorship.
However, it will be a summer of chastity [for me in opera]. At the end of June in Munich, with Kirill Petrenko, I'll sing Parsifal, the purest of heroes. And on 13 July I will be in the amphitheatre of the Waldbühne in Berlin with my homage to Italy, Dolce Vita, with arias by Puccini, Leoncavallo, and Rota.
[I don't sing much in Italy] because the opera houses do not plan far ahead. Also, few important ones have remained — La Scala, Santa Cecilia. You mistreat your culture and it will be difficult to restore trust with the artists. There is a little space in my calendar for Italy: 7 and 8 August I will sing with Maria Agresta at the Reggia di Caserta, and 28 September I'll be back at La Scala for a Lieder recital. And in 2020 I'll be back for a beautiful project, singing the little performed Italian opera, Fedora by Giordano.
[I sing less in the US too] as I don't want to be too far from my family. I have two children at a crucial age: 12 and 14. Two weeks on the other side of the Atlantic is ok, but not two months. It's with these conditions that I return to the Met with La fanciulla del West.
And then I don't like Trump's America. The world cannot avoid it. But I can.
Taken from an interview with the Corriere della Sera, 30 May 2018
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.