Kalamata native appears in Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci to open the 2018-19 Season
Exclusive to the Hellenic Journal
“In a close-knit community, secret loves lead to fateful consequences,” the San Francisco Opera reminds us with its 2018-19 season opener. Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci return to San Francisco Opera for the first time in 15 years.
Perfect for first-time opera-goers, the two operas have a long history together as the Cav/Pag double bill, dating back to 1893. Recommended for fans of The Godfather, Fatal Attraction, American Horror Story and The Sopranos, the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège production is new to San Francisco Opera and “seething with the raw passion, jealousy and heartbreak that can only result from a scandalous, small-town affair.”
Joining a cast of highly acclaimed international singers is baritone Dimitri Platanias who is making his U.S. and San Francisco Opera debut as Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana and Tonio in Pagliacci. Platanias hails from Kalamata, Greece where his musical roots began. His parents, amateur choristers, planted those seeds.
“Their friends were all choristers,” he said, “everybody sang outside in tavernas with guitars and everything. So I grew up in a very musical, not classical, but all kinds of Greek popular music.”
A musician since very young, he studied, performed and later taught classical guitar as well as English literature. “My dad was a huge lover of music and he sent me and my brother when we were very young to the conservatory in Kalamata,” he said. “We were very lucky to have in Kalamata a very famous Municipal Conservatory.”
The Municipal Conservatory of Kalamata opened in 1985 when Platanias was just 15 years old. “Singing came much later when I was 30,” he shared. He started taking some classical lessons at the conservatory with a friend that was part of the faculty. “She said, ‘you have a voice you have to go for it.’ I said, ‘come on.’ She said, ‘just try it, you’ve got time.’”
His father, who was a pension teacher, was modern for his time but always thought that Dimitri would go to school, teach, enjoy two sources of income, and life in Kalamata. Deep inside, however, Dimitri knew there was always something there with his voice.
“He was a bit shaken when I told him, when I was 30, that I got a scholarship from a very important institute in Greece,” he said. He was awarded the Alexandra Triandi Scholarship by the Friends of Music Foundation in Athens. He then studied with Masako Tanaka Protti, the widow of Aldo Protti in Italy. “The issue was why did I have to do this so late in life,” he added, “but now he’s my biggest fan.”
Three years later, he was on stage performing and roles came quickly. “I was a huge fan of opera,” he added. So when it became part of his life, he knew that’s what he wanted to do. “That’s what makes me happy.”
Ten years ago, he made his debut at the famed Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens. “It’s your country,” he reminisced about the moment. “When you go on stage at Herodeon, the Parthenon is up there.” He recalled the pre-performance nerves when he looked out from back stage to see all of the people. “You feel scared and then that’s it!” he said with a smile. His debut was in Aida but has since performed there in Tosca, Il Trovatore, Madama Butterfly, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, Nabucco, Don Carlo, and the list goes on.
There was more opportunity in Europe than in Greece but Greece is still his base, dividing his time between Athens and Kalamata. “We have a house there as well,” he said about Kalamata. His parents are on one floor, his brother on another, then he and his wife on the next floor. “Typical,” he laughed.
His wife is a singer as well and vocal teacher “very well-known and appreciated in Athens.” Christina Giannakopoulou and Dimitri knew each other from school in Kalamata when they were young and then reconnected after many years following her studies abroad. She has enjoyed a distinguished career as well giving singing lessons since 2002 at the Athenaeum Conservatory, Kodaly Conservatory, and the Municipal Conservatory of Kalamata.
“She has helped me very much vocally,” he shared. “My actual teacher was her before we got married. She’s a very fine teacher.”
Platanias has received acclaim in the title role of Rigoletto at Royal Opera, Covent Garden; the title role of Simon Boccanegra at the Bavarian State Opera; Iago in Otello at Opera Frankfurt; the title role of Nabucco at Bavarian State Opera, Teatro del Maggio Musical Fiorentino, and Covent Garden; and Scarpia in Tosca at Oper Frankfurt. In 2015, he made his debut at the Salzburg Festival as Tonio, and both Alfio and Tonio at Covent Garden.
Now he adds San Francisco Opera to his list of impressive credits.
“I can’t wait, to be honest,” he said with a smile.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles, you can catch Dimitri Platanias in performances of Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci which are scheduled for September 7, 12, 16, 19, 22, 28, and 30. For individual and season tickets, and more information, call 1-415-864-3330 or visit sfopera.com.
Email the author: Frosene Phillips