Our interview was conducted at the Grand Opera Hotel in Zurich. Mr. Kuusisto was wearing his customary tattered chemise with his hair in the famous "top knot" that his readers have come to expect since he is always absent-mindedly pulling his hair. Kuusisto was in Zurich to preside at the opening of the world’s first "dog" opera which was of course written by Puccini but the libretto had only recently been discovered at the bottom of a vintage bird cage in a tiny shop on the left bank in Paris. The bird cage was rumored to have once belonged to Antonin Artaud, the world’s greatest screamer back in the thirties, but no one can fully confirm this.
Q. Why do you like opera that is written for dogs?
A. Dogs have always been the first to really get down there and try new things. They were the first to eat asparagus, the first to roll in dead fish for the sheer helluvit, and they were the first to sing what we nowadays call "bel canto".
Q. What distinguishes Puccini’s musical writing for dogs from his more famous works like "La Boheme"?
A. Nobody ever dies in a dog opera. Dogs don’t believe in death which is of course why they can roll in dead things and then get on with ordinary business. The other major difference is that anybody can join a duetat any time: there’s no holding back if you really want to belt it out.
Q. Does canine singing differ much from the human version?
Q. Not as much as you’d think. For instance, backstage at the Metropolitan Opera in New York they have long used a certain idiomatic expression for the process whereby a tenor will plant his feet and heave his diaphragm and commence with the aria–they call this "park and bark".
Q. What’s the title of this newly discovered Puccini opera for dogs?
A. It’s called "The golden Fire Hydrant".
Q. What is that in Italian?
A. "Il Fire Hydrant del Oro"which is also a pun in dog language.
Q. When can the public expect to hear this newly discovered masterpiece?
A. The public will never hear this opera. It’s for dogs only. They sing it in their own magnificent way and like the moon and the tides it never ends. That’s the beauty of the thing. Dogs don’t have to rush out of the opera house and reclaim their cars and trench coats. And both the high notes and the low notes are equally praised under the doggy stars…