Vesselina Kasarova is enthusiastic about the opportunity to sing a new Rossini role."It's the first time that I have sung Edoardo, and it's great to be doing it in a traditional production," she says. 'Edoardo is a young man, a prisoner of Corradino, and he stands for the serious part of the drama. One must be aware that even though it's not the title role, he's still very important.
'It's wonderful to be performing with this calibre of cast,' the mezzo continues. 'Edoardo may not be onstage all of the time, but he has two very special arias. I especially love the second one, in Act 2, which is accompanied by horns. I sang it in a concert in Tokyo with David Syrus [Head of Music Staff at the Royal Opera], so I know it well.
'Vocal colour is so important to Rossini. I'm very confident the audience will love this opera because it's full of great moments, and there's nothing disturbing or upsetting about it.'
I ask Kasarova whether it bothers her that she isn't playing the lead role. 'As a mezzo-soprano, I'm used to it – I don't have a problem with it,' she explains with a laugh. 'In the case of Edoardo, it's very challenging, vocally. The tessitura is demanding: it covers three octaves and goes both very low and very high. Not everybody is capable of doing that – some mezzos only have the high notes or the low notes – so I take it as a compliment that I'm asked to play the part. The main roles in this opera were composed in a difficult way by Rossini because he had access to very special singers. Today, you can't perform this opera without Juan Diego Flórez! There are many difficult roles in this opera.'
Does she think that's the reason why the opera is not performed so often (i.e. it's impossible to cast), or is it because it's an inferior work? 'Well, it's certainly not an opera that works automatically, like Il barbiere. It only works if you have a great cast, who are all great actors as well as singers. I think that's the only reason it's not in the main repertoire. It's an ensemble opera. I only have two arias; the soprano only has a couple of arias. That makes it expensive to stage, I think, because you have to get everyone together.'
How does she find it working at Covent Garden? 'I haven't been here for a couple of years – it was the concert performances of Dom Sébastien. Covent Garden is one of the most important opera houses in the world, as everybody knows. The theatre is neither too small nor too big; it just has the right dimensions. I find that the audience can really see your face, and as a strong actor, that's significant for me. Everybody loves to perform here because it has the right balance. You can perform everything from Mozart to Verdi here, and it works. I like to perform at the Bavarian State Opera, for the same reason. The Vienne State Opera has a slightly bigger stage, but it's still a good feeling. In other theatres, however, the distance can be too long.'