INTERVIEW WITH BARITONE CHARLES BUTTIGIEG

When 18 years old Charles Buttigieg joined the Chorus Urpanis under Mro John Galea in 2011, Ms Juliette Bisazza ‘discovered’ him and took him as her student. Since then Charles has performed as a soloist in various concerts, and twice for the President of Malta. He was also invited twice to perform in the annual fund-raising concert for the BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation. On both of these occasions he sang duets with Joseph Calleja himself.

Performing with the Malta Youth Orchestra under Mro Riccardo Bianchi at Auberge the Castille for the New Year Concert, being chosen for a Jack Li Vigni master classes Festival in Sicily, with the opportunity to sing the part of Marcello in La Boheme in several halls and theatres, including Teatro Eschillo (Gela) and Agrigento – the young man’s career took increasing momentum. Charles is now a scholar of the BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation, continuing his studies with this support. “Ultimately when you perform, it all comes together,” he tells Eve as he speaks about the personal sacrifices he has had to make.

Eve: What’s the hardest and best part of being a performer?

Charles Buttigieg: Being an artist demands sacrifices in various aspects of like, including sports, food and your personal life. I need to follow a strict regime that becomes even more demanding when there is a performance looming ahead.

The voice is a gift, but it needs to be nurtured to develop. This means hours of daily practice, at the expense of meeting family and friends. You would also need frequently and for long periods, which puts a toll on staying in touch with friends.

On the flip side, once you realise that this is the life you want, it can be very rewarding. Ultimately when you perform, it all comes together. Bringing a character’s emotions to life whilst reading the response of the audience gives you an incredible kick that makes it all worthwhile.

Eve: How would you describe your own development as an artist?

CB: There are three male voices – base is the lowest range, baritone is the middle range, and the tenor is the highest. The timbre of the voice is what decides the range and quality of the artist.

You are born with a voice. I was not aware that I was a baritone up to a few years ago, when Dun Frankie Bajada asked me to join the Choir and then Ms Juliette eventually became my tutor. It takes patience and effort to grow a voice. I am currently a Donizetti Baritone, which means that at present I can perform arias of Baritones in Donizetti’s operas. The timbre of the voice will get bigger with practice and studying, both in terms of volume and breath of range. However you need to pace the growth, otherwise you risk causing permanent damage to your vocal chords.

The scholarship I have recently won will take me to Philadelphia in a couple of months. There I shall be studying various aspects of music such as the technique of the voice, music and languages. It will also entail participating in concerts and tours.

Eve: What is your view on the role and function of music today?

CB: The world of music, or rather the world of creative arts, enriches life. Opera, often referred to as the most complete art form, links us to the great composers of the past. In so doing, arts transcend time, bringing with them a timelessness that permits exchange of ideas and opinions. Moreover, for me, nothing expresses emotions better than art forms.

Whenever I am studying a character, I try to learn as much as possible about the composer and the aria I am learning, so as to ensure that I am faithful to the script. By practising a lot, I try to understand the character and become one with him.

Eve: Is fashion an important part of your life?

CB: In the day-to-day, I would say no. I look for comfortable clothes before anything else. On stage it is a different story. The costumes, particularly during an opera play a key role in bringing a character to life, along with the scenery.

Eve: What do you enjoy doing during your time off?

CB: Unfortunately, time off is too short to plan anything long term. I love to travel, and that dove-tails with my current situation quite nicely. Other than that I love fishing and jogging. Then I also love to meet up with family and friends. Last but not least, I love being in Gozo. It is my motherland, and however far I travel, I believe I shall always come back to the little rock I call home.