Riccardo Muti has long championed the talents of Italian bass Riccardo Zanellato, and the two have worked together often at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome and elsewhere. In June 2017, Zanellato was featured in a season-ending program of excerpts from Italian operatic masterworks with Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

The program, which included selections by Boito, Mascagni, Puccini and Verdi, was recorded for CSO Resound, the orchestra’s in-house label. Titled “Riccardo Muti Conducts Italian Masterworks,” the disc will be available Nov. 30 at international retail outlets, including the CSO’s Symphony Store and symphonystore.com, and at other North American retail outlets on Jan. 4. Digital versions of the release will be available worldwide on Dec. 7.

“Riccardo Muti Conducts Italian Masterworks,” out Nov. 30 on CSO Resound, features selections by Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni and Boito.

“I think I’m a particularly lucky singer for having often been honored to work with Maestro Muti, who is, in my opinion, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, conductors of our time,” Zanellato said. “I love the sacredness with which he approaches the compositions he faces, the way he respects the intent of the author and his ability to dig into the score to give the audience the emotions that deserve to be experienced. When I work with Maestro Muti, it is like I find myself immersed in a musical encyclopedia where every comma is a source of teaching. I will never stop thanking him for what he has given me so far, especially in dealing with the Verdian repertoire and all the scores in general.”

Zanellato, who previously appeared with the CSO twice in 2014, including a concert on tour that year at the Musikverein in Vienna, was the soloist in the Prologue from Mefistofele, Arrigo Boito’s 19th-century operatic take on the Faust legend. Before the 2017 concerts, he said, “I’m so excited to debut [in this role] with Maestro Muti, accompanied by this prestigious orchestra, which is absolutely a unique companion.”

Although the bass has ventured into French operas and hopes to explore to some of the major Russian roles, he has primarily concentrated on the Italian repertoire, largely because it is in his native language. Among his repertoire are roles in Verdi’s Macbeth, (Banquo), Attila (title role), Don Carlo (Filippo II), Nabucco (Zaccaria) and many others. “Inevitably,” he said, “you specialize in the repertoire that best suits your voice and personality, and that is for me Italian.”

Speaking in an interview for Operafocus, Zanellato emphasized that the best age for basses, whose voices tend to mature later than that of higher registers, is 45-55. His own experience has borne this out. Since moving into that age group, he said, he finally feels ready physically and mentally to tackle certain roles for which he was not suited before, including Philip II in Verdi’s Don Carlo.

“Clearly,” Zanellato said, “it’s all about a natural physiological maturity that, if intelligently supported and managed, can allow you to achieve what you need for artistic growth with the voice.”

A version of this article appeared previously on Sounds and Stories.

TOP: Riccardo Zanellato sings the role of the devil in the Prologue to Mefistofele, with the CSO and Chorus under Muti. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017