Bringing some swing back | Nico Darmanin

Malta’s younger counterpart to Joseph Calleja, tenor Nico Darmanin, speaks to MaltaToday about his upcoming concert ‘Unforgettable’, where he will share the stage with the Big Band Brothers and singer Jasmine Abela - returning to his native Malta as his international career continues to flourish

Tenor Nico Darmanin: “I have dreamt of creating such an event for several years now”. Photo by Brian Grech
Tenor Nico Darmanin: “I have dreamt of creating such an event for several years now”. Photo by Brian Grech

How do you feel about performing in Malta again, and what are some of your fondest memories of the last time you took to the stage here?

Coming home to perform is always special. There’s something about performing for your home crowd. I’ve had several opportunities to perform over the last few years in Malta but they have been mainly linked to my main opera career, performing in operas and recitals. I fell in love with the Grand Salon of the Archaeology museum during a solo recital at the Three Palaces Festival.

It was a unique opportunity to perform my classical repertoire in an intimate and beautiful setting. I’ve been thinking of returning back to Grand Salon ever since. I’m also very grateful to Joseph Calleja for giving me an opportunity to sing in his 2015 annual concert. It was certainly a great experience performing with Joseph to an incredible audience of thousands.

Even though these memorable concerts are close to my heart, I still cherish my first public solo recital at the Church of St Catherine’s of Italy in Valletta in 2007. It was a special day when I experienced the connection a singer can have with this audience.

What can you tell us about ‘Unforgettable’? What drew you into participating in this event?

I have dreamt of creating such an event for several years now. It was one of those moments of being at the right place and at the right time when I met [former Arts Council Malta head of Strategy, now director of Culture Venture] Toni Attard, who was also enthusiastic about the idea as much as I was and he believed in it and encouraged me to embark on the project. Together we are creating something different that will bring back some swing into one’s life. We’re hoping to send people home with a spring in their step.

Nico Darmanin will be performing alongside singer Jasmine Abela during ‘Unforgettable’. Photo by Brian Grech
Nico Darmanin will be performing alongside singer Jasmine Abela during ‘Unforgettable’. Photo by Brian Grech

Are you looking forward to performing alongside the Big Band Brothers and Jasmine Abela? How would you say your respective styles and approaches complement each other?

Having the Big Band Brothers on board was what sealed the deal to go ahead with the concert. I would say that they are possibly one of the best bands I have heard around my travels in Europe. Their sound is impeccable and they create such an amazing vibe. I met Jasmine when both of us performed for Queen Elizabeth II during the opening of CHOGM in Malta. It was her voice, charm and charisma that stuck out, for me. So it has been at the back of my mind for years now to find an opportunity to work with her. I really believe that the blend of our voices will work fabulously together and the blend of a classical voice with that swing touch will create something magical.

What do you make of the music scene in Malta, particularly now that Valletta has just finished serving as European Capital of Culture? What would you change about it?

I really believe the music scene in Malta is very strong. We have so many young artists making a good name for themselves in Malta and abroad even if we might not hear of them often enough. I would like to see more audiences in our venues and I encourage the Maltese public to participate more in the music scene. I remember going out to the theatre as a child and it was a real treat. My parents always made sure the arts were a prominent part of our lives and I am grateful for those experiences that inspired me to start a music career. As an artist, my pleasure is giving others enjoyment. When the audience is receptive to a performance and are involved, the energy in the hall changes and makes the evening that much more special.

What’s next for you?

This year I am extremely busy. I will debut at the Manoel Theatre in the role of Ferrando in Cosi Fan Tutte in March. I then set off back to Salzburg to continue performing Alberto in La Gazzetta for the Salzburg Landestheater and travel back and forth to Cardiff where I start a new production of Don Pasquale by Donizetti singing the role of Ernesto. Later in the year, I will also be in Estonia and then back to Austria for two new debuts soon to be announced. It is a busy year which I am very excited about, as I am visiting new cities and also learning new roles. I live for music and studying music is one of the favourite parts of my job.