Each year the Savannah Voice Festival spotlights a special recital artist and for 2018, the renowned Italian-born baritone Marco Nisticò will be performing a showcase of his favorite songs and arias in a showcase titled “It’s a Funny Story.”

“It’s going to be a little bit different, not like a conventional recital,” says Nisticò. “I will be speaking about why I chose the pieces and recount a bit of my work years, especially the Italian ones, because they turn out to be funnier for some reason.”

 

Nisticò joined the Metropolitan Opera in the 2009-10 season, where he made his debut as Dancaire in Bizet’s “Carmen.” His many comedic and dramatic roles with opera companies around the world include Tonio in “Pagliacci,” Amonasro in “Aida,” Dulcamara in “L’elisir,” and the title character in “Don Pasquale.” Nisticò has been praised for his “comic pizzazz” by the New York Times, and Classical Review called him a “performer of gravitas, unforced eloquence, and refined vocalism.”

Although “It’s a Funny Story” is ostensibly a solo recital, Nisticò will perform a few duets, as well. As a member of the Savannah Voice Festival’s faculty, Nisticò is interested in collaborating with some of the younger singers who are participating and studying with the festival, so he asked Maria Zouves, co-founder and executive director of the SVF, to find a soprano and a bass to sing with him.

“It’s a good thing for me because I get to sing duets that I find more interesting than simply singing solo stuff, and for them because they get to work with a more experienced performer,” says Nisticò.

One of Nisticò’s favorite and most beloved roles is Figaro from Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”

“I am very attached to that role — even though last year in Savannah, I performed for the first time another role from the ‘Barber of Seville,’ which was Bartolo, the funnier guy, if you wish,” says Nisticò. “This is something I would like to perform more. In my recital I will be performing both Figaro’s and Bartolo’s arias.

"I am very attached to that opera. It’s a masterpiece. Unfortunately, it is performed possibly too much and not always according to style. Many people know it, but don’t know what it is.”

Nisticò has sung the role of Ford in the opera “Falstaff,” but he has never played the title role. Nisticò is looking forward to singing Falstaff’s aria in his recital as well.

“It’s about honor and about how useless honor is and how he doesn’t want it. It’s an interesting philosophy that the fat knight has and I find it fascinating and brilliant, musically and dramatically. It’s a dream role for me, something that I would like to perform one day.”

The title of the recital and its casual, storytelling format relates to the festival’s overall theme, “Stories Great and Small.” Nisticò points to opera’s ability to transcend language barriers through its music and expressive qualities to deliver captivating stories.

 

“Opera is incredible about storytelling, because not only does it deal with language — in my case, mostly Italian — but the emotional weight of the music is very powerful for the storytelling,” says Nisticò.

“It’s sort of universal. I just finished teaching a group of young singers from Taiwan and I was amazed and moved by the fact that they get this immediate emotional response and connection to the material. They don’t speak the language, most of them — they should and I fight for them to really try to understand and memorize — but on the other hand, the music speaks to anyone and it is the most powerful vehicle.

"That’s storytelling. Plus, it gives you the freedom to tell yourself the story you want to hear.”