The hardest part about writing a decent story is coming up with a snappy lead. Sometimes my brain-pan spits out a doozy, like this one. Other times I just have to write the piece and let it simmer for a day or two, then re-read what I wrote and come up with a one-liner that hints at the contents of the article.
And sometimes, nothing comes, and I just have to write it like a “real” reporter. Just the facts, ma’am.
If you listen carefully as the first notes of Michael Kleitman’s inaugural US vocal concert fill the Sherman Theatre, you might hear faint echos of the Iron Curtain and a time and place that no longer exists. On Saturday, July 5th, the world renowned tenor will perform the songs made popular by the late great Luciano Pavarotti and his fellow Three Tenors. The concert is offered as a tribute to Pavarotti, a man whose voice touched hundreds of millions of people around the world, including Kleitman.
Michael Kleitman was born in Moldavia, a small Eastern European country located between the Ukraine and Transylvania. His musical talents immediately drew the attention of the Soviets, who were fanatic in their support of the arts, and provided Kleitman with the finest education in music and conducting available. When asked about opportunities in the old Soviet Union, Kleitman was quick to admit that he had chances there he might not have had if he had been born in other parts of the world.
“It was absolutely amazing, I had such very good teachers, the best in the world,” he said, but added that he longed for the freedom from the repressive side of the Soviets. After receiving his master’s degree, he fled to Australia, where he became a citizen.
It was a chance encounter that drew the ex-Soviet musical star to the music of Luciano Pavarotti and led him to study in Italy under many of the same teachers who worked with that famous tenor. In 1994, a friend in the business gave Kleitman a cassette of The Three Tenors, and the impact on Kleitman was immediate and visceral.
“It was an amazing voice, with such color. I was absolutely shocked. I said to myself I must start back to classical music again,” Kleitman recalled.
Although Soviet music has long been strongly influenced by Western European music, the attraction to Italian opera might not be immediately apparent, but the Italian connection seems natural to Kleitman, who cited various reasons for the resonance of that music in his own life.
“My teachers told me that I have the Italian power voice, the spirit of my voice is the Italian spirit,” Kleitman said. He added that his studies in Italy were like time spent with family, and although the language was different than his native tongue, the culture there was much the same.
“We have the same climate, the same food,” he said, adding that it was this multi-cultural connection that has made him able to connect to audiences all over the world. Each country has a different culture and mentality, but the spirit of the music, Kleitman said, overcomes cultural boundaries.
From his studies with the best Italian coaches and teachers, he began performing at large venues and TV throughout Europe, and in 2004 recorded his first CD, “La Perfetta Idea” at Sony studios in Los Angeles. Kleitman said that working with the finest studio musicians at the Sony studios was a wonderful experience, and the album boasts work by studio musicians who have worked with the likes of Bette Midler, Micheal Jackson, and Elton John.
As for his upcoming premier in the United States, Kleitman is excited to be able to present this music for the first time in America. While attending a free concert in New York presented by the Metropolitan Opera recently, Kleitman was impressed by the crowd of 25,000 people enjoying the music he loves. Leaving the concert, Kleitman could not refrain from singing bits of the music he had just heard, and people who were walking out with him begged him to continue singing.
“My wish is to give this beautiful country and the good American people this beautiful music,” Kleitman said. In keeping with his tradition of working with non-profit service organizations, Kleitman and the Sherman will donate a portion of each ticket towards Pocono/Slate Belt Youth for Christ, an organization active in numerous outreach programs.