Xavier Sabata had just come back from Glasgow where he played Polinesso, one of Handel’s most evil villains, in the opera Ariodante, loaded with Scottish tunes as originally set in Scotland. The darkness vanishes after Polinesso’s death when love triumphs and the soprano sings her famous aria (how the sun fills the Earth with joy after a baleful night):
Dopo notte, atra e funesta,
splende in Ciel più vago il sole,
e di gioja empie la terra;
If light succeeds in the opera (at the end), darkness predominates during much of the story. Xavier, as a countertenor, usually embodies tyrants and hypocrites (he’s got a CD entitled “Bud Guys”) but in real life he is a very empathetic and, if I am allowed to put it that way, sweet person. His home in Brussels is invaded by the playful Belgian light which comes and goes and shines, and diffracts in his collection of Schneider vases bought at Marvalus.
Considering that Baroque art is extremely theatrical and Xavier an internationally-renowned singer, we could have expected that his residence in Brussels would turn out to be an opera set; maybe, all the world is a stage, but, like his art, his home in Brussels is above all a very personal version of twentieth century art. It has many Art Deco features, some of them deriving from the very architecture of the building, others from the selected pieces of furniture or sculpture. There is something very contemporary about the result, perhaps because chosen antique pieces with good contemporary design make his style very personal -and the quality of both the antique and the modern stand out.
Xavier is not a singing machine. To adapt the so long neglected Baroque repertoire to new audiences and techniques Xavier relies on a very solid intellectual basis (he has a thesis about the life of a castrato) which is constantly updated (just have a look at his books!). His library is a privileged lookout towards his rich personality and vast knowledge. There is an impressive collection of books not only on music but on art in general, a lot of European literature, CDs and DVDs everywhere,… everything is artistically set, with swell Art Deco bookends bought at Marvalus.
We leave Polinesso’s hideout in Brussels with the impression of having peeked into the personal backstage of the life of this great singer, actor and artist who is Xavier Sabata.