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Iran’s only tenor comes to Opus Theatre

Opus Theatre will bring the inaugural season of its World Series to an end with a concert featuring Iran’s only tenor, Ramtin Ghazavi. He will be accompanied on the piano by artist in residence, Oliver Poole, for whom Ghazavi is “strong, charismatic and virtuoso, yet able to convey a depth of emotion and sincerity that is raw, captivating and at times mystical.” 

Ramtin Ghazavi is particularly associated with La Scala opera house in Milan, where he has sung in a wide range of major productions including La Traviata, La Boheme, Wozzek, Die Fledermaus and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.

He has also sung in the major opera and concert halls of France, the US and other countries, as well as music festivals across Italy. He has performed many of the leading roles in the classical operatic repertoire at the highest level.

His journey to the top was far from easy, and is a testimony to his single-minded determination, as the theatre describes.

Born in Iran as a member of the Baha’i community, Ramtin was barred from higher education, and there were no schools in the country teaching western classical music– indeed, it is still almost unobtainable there. As a child he studied Persian classical music and then in his mid-teens a guitar-playing friend introduced him to western traditions, which led to him studying the piano and trying to find a vocal teacher – without success.

Ghazavi and Placido Domingo at La Scala.

Ghazavi and Placido Domingo in a production at La Scala.

“The Internet wasn’t like it is today, so I had no access to YouTube or other ways to find and listen to the music easily,” Ghazavi wrote. “But I had some audio and videotapes of Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.”

Ghazavi’s life took a sudden turn for the better when an Italian tourist happened to hear him singing Scarlatti’s Pieta, Signore, and helped him apply successfully to study opera in Italy in 2003.

After two years at the Conservatory of Como, he successfully applied to the elite Milan Conservatory. Immersing himself in music by day and working in an Ikea warehouse by night to pay the bills, he was an outstanding student who also auditioned successfully for the chorus at La Scala.

In 2012 he released his first album, Les Roses d’Ispahan, featuring the ethereal composition by Gabriel Faure named after Isfahan, the ancient Iranian city where Ghazavi was born. It is a song he has never had the opportunity to perform publicly in his homeland. “I can’t perform and work in Iran because of my religion,” Ghazavi wrote. However he did manage to arrange a recital in the home of the Italian ambassador in Tehran in 2013, and launched the first Opera Masterclass in the city’s Italian school.

In the middle of the last century, Iranian composers steeped in Western forms such as Rubik Gregorian, Hossein Nassehi, Ruhollah Khaleqi, Samin Baghtcheban and Hossein Dehlavi created new works which drew on Persian folklore and the epic verse of Persian poet Ferdowsi. “Unfortunately this repertory has been forgotten,” Ghazavi wrote. He is making it his mission to “renew the culture of opera singing in the Persian language that also has some ancient roots in the Persian culture.”

ghazavi 300His concert at the Opus Theatre will feature a selection of well-known arias from the Italian operatic repertoire, together with some Persian music including operatic arias, combining the familiar with the new. This promises to be a memorable evening.


Ramtin Ghazavi in Concert With Oliver Poole. Saturday 17 November, 7.30pm. Opus Theatre, 24 Cambridge Road (opposite ESK), Hastings TN343 1DJ. Tickets £15 online, from Hastings Information Centre or on the door.


Posted 10:49 Sunday, Nov 4, 2018 In: Music & Sound

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