Dimitri Pittas originally had no intention of singing opera. He was going to be a music teacher. "I can teach and have the summer off with paid vacations," he'd concluded. But he happened to land in the studio of a teacher at the Crane School of Music at SUNY-Potsdam, who saw something special in him.
"I'd never really listened to opera at all and my teacher gave me a CD of Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill doing the Pearl Fishers duet, and I listened to it the first time and I fell asleep, and then I put it on again a couple days later and I fell in love with it."
Pittas, a graduate of The Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, is back in Houston this month to sing the role of Nemorino, the lovestruck lowly worker in The Elixir of Love, this season’s opener for Houston Grand Opera. He's played him before and has definite ideas about how his character should be portrayed.
Nemorino is not a country bumpkin in his attempts, although he's often presented that way, Pittas says. He sets out to secure the love of Adina, the local beauty and hotel owner, and does it in a methodical, if often comic, way.
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“He’s a very levelheaded guy who’s honestly in love with this woman,” the tenor says. “In this production he works for her.” And then tries to secure a magic potion that will win her over. As it turns out, the special elixir is nothing more than red wine that gets him drunk.
Set in the 1950s on the Amalfi coast, the two-act opera also stars Nicole Heaston as Adina, Patrick Carfizzi as Dr. Dulcamara (a man of questionable ethics) and Jane Glover as the Conductor.
As for the music by Donizetti, Pittas says, “It’s bell canto of the highest level. It’s perfect.”
Performances are scheduled for October 21 through November 4. Sung in Italian with English projections. 7 p.m. Friday (October 21), 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Friday (November 4) and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $15-$290.