In the more than 35 years that I have been managing international singers and conductors, I have followed one very simple desire and philosophy: “To bring the finest artists to the finest theaters worldwide, with careful attention given to establishing and maintaining professional careers”. I maintain a very small and select group of singers and conductors, so that I can devote the time and energy necessary to accomplish these goals.
I grew up in a home that was always filled with music. My eldest brother, a tenor, studied voice and composition and was playing classical music and opera in my home when I was a baby. I was told that I sang melodies before I even spoke my first words. As a child I also studied piano and was in a choir, but went on professionally to become a physicist. Music and singing always remained my passion and inspiration. I studied voice in my 20s, not for any specific goal for a career, but for the simple joy of singing. But this has eventually helped me tremendously in being able to understand the “needs and idiosyncrasies” of singers and has enabled me to really be a trusted adviser to them. By attending rehearsals and performances of my artists I am able to give them the timely advice that is so necessary in helping their performances become as good as they can be.
I was very fortunate to grow up in an era when the Metropolitan Opera had historical singers, and especially the tenors in the 60s: Corelli, Tucker, Kraus, Gedda, Vickers — and then a little later Pavarotti, Domingo, Aragall, Carreras, Giacomini. They also had some pretty wonderful sopranos: Price, Nilsson, Caballe, Tebaldi, Scotto, Freni…. as well as baritones Merrill, Capuccilli, Colzani, Macneill, Milne, basses and mezzosoprani. I was very fortunate to get to see numerous performances in my formative years with many of these great singers. These experiences shaped my opinions and feelings, set standards for great music and wonderful singing, but, more importantly, kindled my passion.
One of the things that happened to me is that at some point very early in my opera-going history, I became a “friend” of the legendary Franco Corelli. He used to tell people that “Matteo is the only one I trust—he always tells me the truth”. I was so young and inexperienced, but I always expressed what I felt (perhaps occasionally a bit too much), but this philosophy has remained with me throughout my career as an artists’ manager and adviser to singers. Singers appreciate and need to hear the truth from someone that they can trust!
I was with Franco the evening that the great tenor, Richard Tucker died (we actually went to the funeral together at the MET). He was also a friend of mine (I suppose that as a fan, I was known as the friend of the tenors). It had never occurred to me until that moment, what great respect Corelli had for Richard Tucker. They were rivals in those years, but what a wonderful mutual respect they had for each other. (I eventually learned about the respect Tucker had for Corelli from Barry Tucker, Richard’s son, who has carried on the name of his illustrious father through the Richard Tucker Music Foundation.) It was an incredible evening, and the impressions of that evening eventually shaped my evolving transformation from physicist to Artists Manager.
Very early in my career, I became the international manager of Giuseppe Giacomini, the great Italian dramatic tenor. Most recently in April 2017 I produced the Giuseppe Giacomini Gala at Carnegie Hall (Weill) honoring his 40 anniversary of his MET debut and 50th anniversary of his phenomenal career! I also managed Marcello Giordani for the first 17 years of his illustrious career. This lineage continues today with other wonderful artists that I am nurturing towards international stardom and goes beyond “just tenors”.
I have also represented other wonderful voices in my history, including several Hungarians [basso buffo Jozsef Gregor among the most famous] even before the “wall came tumbling down”. I had represented Russian tenor Vladimir Atlantov and mezzosoprano Ludmilla Semchuk in the early ‘80s and was unsuccessful in securing their entry into the U.S. to perform during that period, due to the great political difficulties that existed in that era between our two countries. When I had met Mr. Atlantov in Vienna about 18 years ago, he was still wonderful, and we exchanged a warm hello to each other. Fortunately, we are much beyond those troubled years when even art suffered because of political differences.
During the past fifteen years I have been giving advice to singers through personal “consultations” as well as master classes where I have been able to help singers focus on what was absolutely essential to pursuing an international career. Among the master classes that I have given, I would cite the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, a conservatory that has produced many famous international artists including James Morris, Ruth Ann Swenson and Joyce DiDonato, as one of the most important classes. I was an invited guest to the Dresden International Singing Competition in 2001 and served as a judge in the subsequent competitions in 2002 and 2004. I was a judge and gave a master class at the prestigious St. Petersburg Competition in Russia as well as the Heafner-Williams Vocal Competition in North Carolina and most recently the Opera Columbus Vocal Competition (2015), both in the U.S. and the Mythos Festival Corso this past June. For the past 2 years I have been vocal consultant to the Accademia del Maggio Musical Fiorentino in Italia.
Serving as a judge was a wonderful experience, especially as I encouraged the committees to allow for a period of time where the singers could ask the judges their impressions and advice – an experience that could be very beneficial for talented young singers in need of direction and focus. I love what I do and I continue to look forward to discovering and nurturing the exceptional voices that are out there, helping the maturation of their talent, and guiding their careers in the wonderful world of opera and classical music. – Matthew Laifer