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Interview with Rolando on The Australian

I've found an interview with Rolando where he talks about the nature of his relationship with Anna and how they got together in the first place. I'm posting all the relevant bits of information here, but you can find the whole interview under the cut because it's, well, quite interesting.

Already [...] there is talk of "the new couple", the successors to the French tenor Roberto Alagna and his wife, the Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu.

But Villazon laughs off the idea. "Er, nooo. There is no new couple, but I do believe there is a strong chemistry between us and it's a huge pleasure to sing with Anna," he says. "We are more or less the same age. "I'm not sure if I am allowed to say Anna's age, but the difference is some months, that's all.

"We react naturally towards each other on stage, we understand each other very well, and I think the voices match each other well. The good thing is that this partnership was not created by a record company. Maestro Domingo engaged us for Romeo et Juliette in Los Angeles, and it worked well, and after that it just happened that a lot of houses engaged us together." Villazon, in any case, is married to a psychologist - "a good job for the wife of a singer" - and they live in Paris with their two "Rolandinos", boys aged four and two. So there is no question of a real-life romantic attachment.


And about his record company change from Virgin-EMI to Deutsche Grammophon:

He bridles at my suggestion that he might be switching record companies to become Netrebko's supporting tenor.

"I'm not going to DG to be the tenor of nobody," he insists. "With Virgin, my contract comes to an end. It's a difficult topic to speak about, but one thing I will say is that it was always a dream for me to record for DG. There are great new people there now, they are marketing aggressively, but I think they also care about artistic matters. Of course, we will be singing a lot together."




WHEN Rolando Villazon made his Covent Garden debut in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann two years ago, few in the audience could have realised what a treat was in store for them, or that they were witnessing the emergence of arguably the finest young operatic tenor of our time.

Even I was surprised. Eight months earlier, the Mexican, now 33 had appeared for the first time in Britain, at Glyndebourne, singing a likeable Rodolfo in David McVicar's modern-dress La boheme. He received a good but hardly overwhelming reception from the British press. So, did we get it wrong?

Nobody who was at Covent Garden on January 22, 2004, will forget the little dance of triumph Villazon did at his tumultuous curtain call, jumping up and down like a delighted child given the run of the world's largest toy shop. He was clearly as surprised as the rest of us.

"Yes," he said, when we met in France in January, "but something changed in the eight months, I think, technically. My voice felt different."

His voice - an unusually dark but typically Latin-sounding lyric tenor, slightly reminiscent of the young Placido Domingo's, but with its own imprint - had not seemed especially powerful at Glyndebourne, yet he managed to fill the much bigger Royal Opera House without apparent effort.

In purely vocal terms, I thought at the time, nobody had sung Hoffmann at Covent Garden with such allure and charisma since Domingo; but Villazon's portrayal of the drunken, besotted, fantasising poet was quite unlike that of the singer he says is his idol and early mentor.

He is slighter of stature, elegant of figure and, by lyric-tenor standards, an uncommonly athletic actor. Indeed, he has the perfect physique for the doomed young romantics: Rodolfo and Alfredo in La traviata, his first big roles in his native Mexico City in the late 1990s; Massenet's Werther and Des Grieux in Manon; and Gounod's Faust and Romeo.

"I love to sing at Covent Garden," he says. "My first big break was Paris, and that got me to other houses, because theatre managements heard about a tenor in Paris.

"But Hoffmann at Covent Garden was, well, pow! My career exploded after that and it coincided with my first CD coming out. It was a thrilling moment."

Virgin Classics is about to release Villazon's third solo album. The previous two were devoted to Italian and French opera respectively, but the new one covers a range of roles, some already tackled, some soon to be attempted, and some he will probably never sing on stage. It opens, appropriately enough, with two Hoffmann numbers, the Legend of Kleinzach from the prologue and the aria from the Olympia act, in which the young poet is duped into falling in love with a doll.

Cavaradossi's Act I aria from Puccini's Tosca (a role he plans to sing for the first time in Berlin, in 2008) is there, along with Turiddu's Mamma from Cavalleria rusticana and Loris's lament, Amor ti vieta, from Giordano's Fedora - all standard Italian tenor fare.

But Villazon also sings the Puccini parody aria from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier and an old Caruso favourite, Lyonel's aria from Flotow's Martha, which the great Italian recorded in his native tongue. But Villazon, as a thoroughly modern - and linguistically gifted - tenor, sings in the original German. There is also a taster of his next role, Lensky in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, which opens at Covent Garden next month.

Last northern summer, Villazon and soprano Anna Netrebko appeared together in what was billed in Europe as the operatic event of the year: a new production of La traviata at Salzburg's Large Festival theatre</b>, sold out for months in advance, with desperate internet fans offering more than pound stg. 3000 for a ticket. The festival had seen nothing like it since the heyday of Herbert von Karajan, with his all-star opera casts.

Netrebko is already a megastar in the German-speaking world: breathlessly (and erroneously) described in the popular press as a new Maria Callas, her glamour-puss image emblazoned on the front of all the glossy magazines, and armed with that essential diva accoutrement, a Rolex endorsement contract.

Villazon first sang Romeo to her Juliet in Los Angeles - a pairing devised by Domingo, who is artistic director of the LA Opera - and, just before Christmas, they appeared together at New York's Metropolitan Opera as the Duke of Mantua and Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto. Already, my Manhattan spies tell me, there is talk of "the new couple", the successors to the French tenor Roberto Alagna and his wife, the Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu.

But Villazon laughs off the idea. "Er, nooo. There is no new couple, but I do believe there is a strong chemistry between us and it's a huge pleasure to sing with Anna," he says. "We are more or less the same age. "I'm not sure if I am allowed to say Anna's age, but the difference is some months, that's all.

"We react naturally towards each other on stage, we understand each other very well, and I think the voices match each other well. The good thing is that this partnership was not created by a record company. Maestro Domingo engaged us for Romeo et Juliette in Los Angeles, and it worked well, and after that it just happened that a lot of houses engaged us together." Villazon, in any case, is married to a psychologist - "a good job for the wife of a singer" - and they live in Paris with their two "Rolandinos", boys aged four and two. So there is no question of a real-life romantic attachment.

Nevertheless, before their Salzburg Traviata, Deutsche Grammophon announced, much to Virgin-EMI's consternation, that Villazon would be joining the Hamburg-based company as an exclusive artist when his present contract expires this year.

DG recorded the Salzburg Traviata live and, Villazon assures me, it has sold a phenomenal 300,000 copies worldwide. He bridles at my suggestion that he might be switching record companies to become Netrebko's supporting tenor.

"I'm not going to DG to be the tenor of nobody," he insists. "With Virgin, my contract comes to an end. It's a difficult topic to speak about, but one thing I will say is that it was always a dream for me to record for DG. There are great new people there now, they are marketing aggressively, but I think they also care about artistic matters. Of course, we will be singing a lot together."


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