Feast on fine Italian opera in a Tokyo restaurant


Italy-based Japanese opera singer Hiroki Watanabe will perform at a dinner show titled “La Voce di Firenze” at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo’s central Hiroo district on the evenings of Aug. 6 and 7.

Born in 1971 in Oita Prefecture, Watanabe studied vocal music at the prestigious Kunitachi College of Music in western Tokyo, before heading off to Italy for further study.

Then, in 1996, he passed the audition for the renowned Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Florence Opera House) — in first place and the youngest of the candidates.

His debut with the company came as a tenor in Mussorgsky’s “Khovanshchina” in 2004, and he has been busy on stage with the troupe ever since — including singing solo parts at the Ravenna Festival 2005 held there and in Tunisia under the baton of Riccardo Muti.

In 2006, Watanabe changed over from tenor to baritone, and became the first Asian opera singer ever to be offered an exclusive lifetime contract with Florence Opera House. Watanabe’s recent performances have included singing the title role in Verdi’s opera “Rigoletto” on an open-air stage in the Piazza della Signoria (Signoria Square) in Florence.

For his upcoming Tokyo recital — featuring his deep, thick and soft Bel Canto voice — Watanabe has selected a program including a solo aria from “Rigoletto” and a duet from Verdi’s “Don Carlos” with his Florence colleague, the tenor Leonardo Sgroi, and accompanied by Japanese pianist Takayuki Yoshida.

The audience can also enjoy a typical Tuscan dinner with Italian wine as well as a display of Italian Impressionist paintings at the restaurant.

Meanwhile, opera lovers should make a special note in their (electronic or old-fashioned) diaries that the entire Florence Opera House company, conducted by maestro Zubin Mehta, will come to Japan in March 2011.

“La Voce di Firenze” will take place at Ristorante Il Buttero, 5-13-3 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on Aug. 6 and 7. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; dinner is at 7 p.m.; and the hourlong performance starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are ¥15,000 (including dinner, but excluding wine). For more details, call (03) 6657-4571.