We’ve all heard the expression, “It takes a village.” In the case of Teatro Lirico D’Europa’s artistic director, Giorgio Lalov, it is the entire village.
As a child in his small town of Telesh, Bulgaria, Lalov would climb into a tree and sing for hours. His mother was an elementary school teacher and folk singer, his father, who died when Lalov was nine years old, was a family doctor.
“My mother wanted me to be a doctor, like my father,” admits Lalov, “but that was not for me. I loved opera and singing. It was in my heart and soul from the beginning of my life.”
Soon after his father’s death, Lalov was chosen to attend an elite boarding school in Sofia, Bulgaria, where only French and English were spoken. After graduating high school, he entered the National Conservatory of Music in Sofia, and while on tour in Italy with the school’s choir, he auditioned for and was accepted into the prestigious training program for young opera singers at La Scala, Milan. Within a short time, Lalov, a bass baritone, was fluent in Italian and, at 25, made his debut at La Scala.
While touring Europe with a small opera company, Lalov met Yves Josse, who was considered to be a master at booking productions. This chance meeting changed the direction of Lalov’s life. He abandoned his dream of singing opera and threw himself into a new role as artistic and stage director of Teatro, which soon became the most successful opera touring company in Europe.
‘Help me, God’
With the death of Josse in 1996, Lalov’s life took yet another turn. With his marriage to former American opera singer Jenny Kelly and the birth of his son, Christian, Lalov moved his base to the United States where Kelly books the shows, provides marketing needs, handles, with the help of an attorney, immigration papers and arranges the tour’s travel. Lalov does the rest. And that’s no easy task considering he has more than 4,000 performances under his belt.
“It’s very stressful,” said Lalov, somewhat lightheartedly, “because I am responsible to make sure the curtain goes up. I have trucks on the road, vans filled with technicians and instruments. Before every tour I say a little prayer and whisper, ‘Help me, God.’”
Ask Lalov what makes a good opera singer, and he’s quick to answer.
“First of all, they have to have the voice, and the voice has to be beautiful. That’s the most important thing of all,” he said. “So many people sing very well, but the voice does not have a beautiful ‘color.’ I prefer someone that might have a technical problem, but the voice is beautiful.
“When I have auditions, I want to see what the singer can do, if they can do the job,” he continued. “Can they perform? Of course I look at the quality of the voice. As soon as someone walks up to the piano to sing, it’s obvious if it’s a real professional that walked up or someone with no experience at all. I know this because I am an opera singer.”
‘Raised to love opera’
There are between 60 and 100 people involved in each of Teatro’s productions, each of which celebrate the most timeless arias, duets and ensembles from the most beloved operas.
At the company’s performances this week at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek, more than 65 people will be involved. And that doesn’t include the orchestra.
This evening, the company will present Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”
‘Tenors and Divas’
An evening with “Tenors and Divas” takes place on Thursday.
“For the evening of ‘Tenors and Divas,’ I chose music that is familiar, that people will enjoy, from operas like ‘La Traviata,’ ‘Carmen,’ ‘The Barber of Seville,’” he said. “We have three sopranos and three tenors: the divas sing together, the tenors sing together — then with each other, And at the end, they all sing together. And the orchestra plays two overtures.”
Teatro Lirico D’Europa, which began with 30 performances of “La Boehme” in Europe 25 years ago, has since performed all over the world. And for Lalov, this is a dream come true.
‘This Is All I Know’
“All my life, this is all I know how to do,” Lalov said with the enthusiasm of a child. “I was raised to love opera and to love music. I speak six languages. If something happened with a bass baritone, I’m ready to jump in. I know the repertoire.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I don’t know technical things. I can’t replace a light bulb in my house, but I know opera.”