Arrivals: Ville Lignell

For the first two years here, Lignell sang in the Israeli Opera chorus.

Ville Lignell 88 224 (photo credit: Meredith Price Levitt)
Ville Lignell 88 224
(photo credit: Meredith Price Levitt)
When he was eight years old, Ville Lignell accompanied his aunt to a piano lesson on a whim. It would drastically change the course of his life, leading him first to Italy and later to Israel. "I don't know what my life would have been like had I not gone to that piano lesson," he says as we walk into the Tel Aviv Opera House artists' entrance and past a row of television monitors at a long security desk. "It was certainly the beginning of a long path." BEFORE ARRIVAL Born in the small town of Sulkava in eastern Finland, blond-haired, blue-eyed Lignell was a precocious child who loved to read and learn. Music was an important part of his life, and after going to that piano lesson with his aunt, he became a serious pianist and, later, an organist. At 19, he attended the Sibelius Academy of Music in Helsinki, where he studied music and performance art. "In my last years at the academy, I realized that I have a strong bass voice, and my interest in singing opera was awakened," he says. "I would go and sit in the library for hours and watch opera videos. At that point, my destiny was signed. My natural resonating bass voice led me to move to Italy, where I studied language, movement, acting and voice with several different teachers for eight years." In 2000, he came here for the Israeli Opera Festival. "I had always been curious to come here, and although I only came for a few days in 2000, I knew I would eventually be back here for good." In 2004, he formally submitted his aliya papers in Italy and then returned to Tel Aviv, where he had been accepted into the International Vocal Arts opera classes over the summer. "I was here studying and by the time I got back to Italy, my paperwork was ready so I really just went to pack my bags and then came back to Israel in September." UPON ARRIVAL "My aliya was nothing mystical. I simply came here, liked it and decided to move. It hasn't always been easy, but I've had good contact with local musicians and singers who have made the experience smoother." FAMILY HISTORY Lignell's family has been in Finland for many, many generations. His paternal and maternal grandparents, who are all deceased, came from southern Finland. His mother works part-time as a pharmacist and his father is in the transportation industry. He has two younger brothers. One is a flight attendant in Helsinki and the other also works in transportation and lives in Sulkava. His grandmothers both sang as a hobby, and he has a cousin who is a professional pianist. One of his favorite cousins, a professional singer, died three years ago. "We have many musicians in the family," he says. WORK For the first two years here, Lignell sang in the Israeli Opera chorus. "That was like swimming in familiar water because it's something I've done all of my life." In 2006, he was asked to audition for The Marriage of Figaro, for which he sang the role of the count. That same year, he was accepted into the Young Artists Program at the Israeli Opera and is currently finishing his second and last year. "We do a lot of concerts for children and educational outreach programs. We explain to the kids what opera is and perform for them." LIVING ENVIRONMENT "I live alone in a small apartment in Tel Aviv. It's not on a quiet street, and had I come directly from Finland, it would have been major culture shock. But coming from Rome, where it is very Mediterranean and noisy, I'm familiar with this kind of urban environment." ROUTINE From Sunday to Thursday, he spends most of his days at the opera house. Each day is different and includes everything from long rehearsals to classes in movement, piano, language and voice. "I don't have a fixed schedule at all," he says. "It really depends on the performance schedule and what rehearsals are going on." Sometimes on Friday mornings, he gives short performances for private tours at the opera house, but usually he has Fridays and Saturdays off. "On the weekends I like to spend time with friends and eat. Sometimes we go to perform in other parts of Israel, so I get to do some traveling, which is great fun." HOBBIES Fortunate to work in a field that he considers a hobby, Lignell says he also loves to read and see good movies. He enjoys riding his bike and stays in good physical shape because it is important for his career. CIRCLE While many of his friends are Israelis who he met through the opera, he is also friends with other immigrants from Europe, Finland and the United States. LANGUAGE Lignell learned English and Swedish in primary school. As an adolescent, he started studying Hebrew, German and French. As a young adult, he learned Italian. "I spoke a little bit of Hebrew when I arrived, but I'm much better now. I can speak, read and write very fluently in seven languages, but sometimes I still have to attend language classes for the opera because I don't speak any Slavic languages." RELIGION Lignell grew up in a secular home but delved into spiritual issues on his own. His official aliya was in 2004 at 31, but he started studying Hebrew with a private teacher in Finland at 13. "I have always been interested in spirituality, and I saw Hebrew as the key to biblical history and understanding the Bible." IDENTIFICATION "I feel like a tree that has roots in Finland but branches out anywhere. I have done a lot of traveling and lived abroad for many years. I guess I consider myself European, but I feel at home in Israel. For that matter, I feel at home almost everywhere. I am truly what the Italians would call a cittadino del mondo [citizen of the world]." PLANS/DREAMS Lignell says he doesn't have any plans to marry or start a family yet. "I always play the priest or the thief, the killer or the father, the paternal figure or the old guy," he says ruefully. "I am never the lover. I suppose I can't change my destiny as a bass singer, so my dream is to one day play King Philip." To propose an immigrant for an 'Arrivals' profile, please send a one paragraph e-mail to: [email protected]