A little over a decade ago, world-renowned soprano Tamar Iano brought her daughter along to see her sing for the first time.
During a staged rehearsal of Tosca in Geneva, a colleague leaned over to compliment Nina, then six-years-old. “Shh,” she reprimanded the other singer, “my mommy is working.” The seriousness with which her mother approached her craft was clear even to the small girl. Iano’s deep love and commitment to opera have propelled her through three decades of performances, through a long hiatus and into a triumphant return to the stage.
This month, Iano will perform the same role as then, the title character of Puccini’s Tosca in the Israel Opera’s production, conducted by famed musician Daniel Oren.
It has been 16 years since Iano last performed in Tel Aviv, then as the lead in Aida. Over tea in the opera building’s conference room, Iano speaks of her connection with the place.
“I feel very much at home here,” she says. “The people here know me through many stages. I was here performing in Norma when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was here with her doing Aida when she was a baby. It feels good to be here.”
Iano was born and raised in Georgia. Her favorite role to sing is the role of Medea, who is also from that country.
She began her musical studies at the urging of her mother who was both supportive and practical. “My mother told me I should always think of the next step,” she says.
A gifted singer and expressive actress, Iano won the hearts of opera directors and conductors around the world. She has performed on the most celebrated stages many times over. She admits to being moved by big music, by true passion and knowledge of opera’s intricacies.
“I started doing music in 1992 and I had the fortune to work with big musicians, big directors. They gave me this love of music. When I meet it,” she takes a big inhale, “it is everything. When I don’t find it, I am very sad.”
Twenty-two years ago, she married baritone Vittorio Vitelli, whom she met in passing. “He came to a performance of mine in La Scala in Milan. We said ‘hello’ to one another and that was it. Then we were playing husband and wife in Falstaff. We became very good friends. He was very interesting to me,” she remembers.
Vitelli, like Iano, has many interests outside of singing. He is a designer and visual artist. He studies history. “This is so important. We singers must have something else outside of our work.” Today, when they manage to be in the same place at the same time, the two meet in their home in central Italy. Iano laughs that their marriage has endured thanks to the frequency of their travels.
After years of an impossibly busy schedule, Iano slowed the pace. “I was very calculated in making a long career. I did that career and now I’m happy. When work comes, I’m very happy. If it doesn’t come, I’m also very happy,” she says. “Now, when I get a call to sing, I think about how I will feel. ‘Again the stress?’ I ask myself. I want to take the opportunities where I know I will feel good.”
The call from the Israel Opera to play the volatile and powerful Tosca met Iano’s criteria.
“There are two reasons I am happy to come back here. The first is that I have a great love for this theater. The second is the conductor Daniel Oren. He is a gigantic musician. I am so happy and lucky to work with him again.”
The last time the two worked together was on a production of Verdi’s Requiem. “I always cry when we work together. He gives such deep music. He truly understands all of the colors of each instrument,” she adds.
Iano’s hope is to have a magical moment of synergy with Oren, the orchestra members and her fellow singers. “To be together, in sync with the director, the conductor and my colleagues... to get that smile from the conductor where we take energy between us, that is the maximum of what can happen on stage for me,” she smiles.
To each performance, Iano brings her own interpretation of the role and the direction. “I care very much about understanding the psychology of who I am playing. When you can understand the character, you know what to do,” she says. Her relationship with Tosca goes back more than two decades and has grown more nuanced and subtle over the years. And while precision is incredibly vital in opera performances, Iano finds moments to surprise herself in each show. “I always like to do some little improvisation.”
From March 28. For more information, visit israel-opera.co.il, or call 03-692-7777.