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Rolando Villazon :(


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Initial post: Jan 22, 2011 9:01:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 23, 2011 7:20:24 PM PST
figaro says:
Is anyone out there as disappointed as I am that Villazon has probably already seen the high point of his career? You just don't tend to see singers come back strong from a problem like he had.

I sort of felt like this might happen to him. He seemed to have a vocal coach that knew very little about opera because when he was first offered the role of Des Grieux in Manon, his teacher seemed to know very little about the role and told him to take it, because he could sing anything. I remember Villazon telling these things in an interview. I don't think it would be very good to have a vocal coach who was not familiar with the dangers of ruining one's voice in the 'Olympic-style' singing that opera requires.

Villazon was a thrilling singer because he sang with so much passion, but I think that was a bit of his downfall too. You can't go on stage night after night, and sing phrase after phrase with wild abandon, and expect your voice to last. Even singers with hardy voices like Placido Domingo, take their shots carefully, when it comes to pushing the voice in an exciting, impassioned manner. Plus, an opera singer needs to keep their schedule down to something reasonable.

Sometimes I wish there were more guilds or help for young opera singers to manage their careers and voices. I wish vocal teachers who can offer no help in these areas could somehow be outlawed, because in opera, the voice is everything, and when it's gone you are out of a job, and, as in the case of Villazon, a particularly lovely and unique instrument has been marred quite possibly for good.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 23, 2011 9:55:29 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 23, 2011 9:59:00 AM PST
Piso Mojado says:
Yes, figaro, it's terribly sad what has happened to Rolando Villazon. There was a recent thread here about it that I'll call up to keep you new one company. He was such an all-out singer. Who else of his Fach has sung and recorded even Handel and Monteverdi!!! so well? I keep toes and fingers crossed that he can rebuild his voice and career. To see him on film at recording sessions is to confirm what we hear in his published recordings. We can ill afford to lose him now. Meanwhile, I'm pinning hopes on Stephen Costello and praying he doesn't burn out.

Posted on May 18, 2012 3:14:38 PM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
What do you hear about Rolando Villazon and his reportedly faltering attempts to resume his career? With Willazon apparently side-lined and the deaths of Licitra, La Scola, andGosta Winbergh, then Jonas Kaufmann's surgery and later illness. the tenor world has suffered losses and contractions.

Will Grigolo fill the bill, and will Kurmann return to full-time activity at the Met and elsewhere? What about Stephen Costello?

In reply to an earlier post on May 20, 2012 2:05:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 20, 2012 2:11:44 PM PDT
figaro says:
I can't give you any good info - just my thoughts on the tenor problem. I have yet to hear Stephen Costello much so I don't know a thing there. Grigolo is a wonderful, beautiful, super-light sounding tenor with great Italianate style, but I really haven't enjoyed him so much in the French operas - too Italianate. I still think Ramon Vargas and Marcelo Alvarez are absolutely wonderful, but sometimes they sing things a bit heavy for their voices and it doesn't show them off as well as could be. I liked Alvarez very much as Cavaradossi, he was light for Manrico, but his passion really made it work pretty well anyway, and I did notice that he was billed to sing Radames this season at the Met, but now things have changed and it seems Alagna will do it. Both are too light of course, but it is interesting, none-the-less.

Still haven't heard Beczala (sp?) but everyone seems to like him well. Also, I liked the sound of the young American, Charles Castronovo. He sings Alfredo in the Traviata dvd with Dessay. I have not seen this dvd but heard him in a different broadcast singing Alfredo. It's a dark-ish voice that could possibly carry some heavy roles in the future, but for now, he seems to be singing a lot of French opera - not my favorite as I don't like a dark tenor in French opera, but perhaps this is good for him to keep to the lighter roles for now. Maybe he is a smart player and knows what he is doing.

Kaufmann - what a delight. I hope he comes back well. When I heard him as Don Carlo, I was thrilled, but then alas for me, he is German and sings the German operas before the Italian, understandably, and then he sang some French opera, also understandably to go to something lighter, (but again, for me, a dark tenor singing French opera - yucky), so I very much hope he recovers well and sings some more Italian opera for us down the road.

I have a a suspicion that the glory days are over for Villazon, but hopefully I am wrong. He too was such a delight, but he was absolutely reckless with his voice, so he is not at all without fault when it comes to his demise..

Posted on May 20, 2012 2:31:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 20, 2012 4:32:55 PM PDT
Todd Kay says:
Of course, I would not turn down an opportunity to hear Kaufmann in anything, but his Italian excursions have been the ones in which I've enjoyed him least. When I hear him as, say, Cavaradossi, the style of vocal production and the way he moves from note to note sound all wrong to me. Sometimes an isolated effect is "interesting," and of course you know you're hearing a great voice and a major artist, but he's not my ideal for that stuff. I was more convinced by the Werther. And I love his Florestan and Siegmund unreservedly.

It's similar to the way I felt about Vickers most of the time in Verdi and verismo, although I did admire his Otello. But the specifications of Otello are very different from those of, say, Riccardo/Gustavus in BALLO IN MASCHERA or even Radames.

Even so, I do wish he (working back to Kaufmann now) had been the Don Carlo in the ROH's DVD, because Villazon was in very troubled waters by summer 2008.

Kaufmann is very smart and clever. Not only is his English perfect, he can adjust his accent depending on whether he's being interviewed in England or in America. When you hear him interviewed in the Met HD intermissions, he does a perfect impression of a Midwestern American. But when he's interviewed in England, he sounds as though he's from there. (Hmm. A Peter Grimes in his future?)

Mixed reviews for Villazon's recent-ish live recording of WERTHER. Some of the reviewers think it's an encouraging showing; others describe him as sounding like a shell of what he once was. Deutsche Grammophon seems determined to get the most out of the recording contract to which they signed him back in the mid-aughts. I recently read posts on another site about a series of Mozart operas in which he will be the principal tenor of each. All seven of the obvious Mozart operas. My initial thought was "No way. Crazy talk. A major label committing the resources to new studio recordings of seven standard-repertory operas? In 2012?!" But the source(s) seemed pretty certain.

Posted on May 20, 2012 7:31:40 PM PDT
figaro says:
Villazon is such a good coloraturist - a smarter move than going back to highly emotionally charged operas like Werther, to me, would be to go to baroque and also Mozart, but yeah, audio recordings of the Mozart operas seem odd.

I forgot about Kaufmann's Florestan - yeah, that was thrilling also. I never got to hear his Cavaradossi.

Posted on May 20, 2012 10:35:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 20, 2012 11:13:43 PM PDT
Todd Kay says:
figaro: The Zurich TOSCA DVD with Magee/Kaufmann/Hampson is a really good way to sample JK's Cavaradossi, if you're curious. I personally love Robert Carsen's freewheeling production, in spite of its anachronisms and challenges; not everyone does. All three of the principals act the hell out of it, and both of the guys have, in their different ways, strong chemistry with the leading lady (who's a big-voiced, easy, "grand" Tosca of the kind I wish we had more of these days). It is gorgeously lit and intelligently blocked as is customary for this director's work.

Something I thought of only after I had posted that -- I wonder what on earth Villazon would sing in a recording of NOZZE DI FIGARO, if these reports of an extensive Mozart cycle from DG are accurate. There isn't anything for him to do in that opera other than be a luxury Basilio/Curzio doubling, and no whatever what the condition of his voice, that would sound...odd.

Posted on May 21, 2012 12:17:49 PM PDT
figaro says:
Yeah - all 7 you said of the obvious Mozart ones. Unless perhaps instead of Figaro, we are looking at Mitridate or Lucio Silla. I think the best ones for him if he were in decent voice would be those two, plus Idomeneo, Tito, Seraglio, and maybe Magic Flute. I don't feel any of the Da Ponte operas would be worthwhile for him, (but without those three, that's only 6).

Thanks for the Tosca recommendation - I might give it a go.

Posted on Jun 2, 2012 6:50:01 PM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
"Opera News" reviews a complete "Werther" that Villazon recorded last year, saying he's back on form and comparing him with Jonas Kaufmann. This is good news for his fans and opera lovers.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012 10:15:51 PM PDT
Soucient says:
I just heard (and saw) on TV an excerpt of "Romeo and Juliet." It was the parting love duet, with Gheorghui and Alagna. She sounded splendid and acted wonderfully. He was another story--relentlessly scooped up to all his high notes and even then could hardly make them. Irritating.

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 1:59:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2012 3:24:01 AM PDT
Todd Kay says:
A full-page ad in the new OPERA NEWS for the first installment in the Deutsche Grammophon Villazon/Mozart series. I don't know if this is something I necessarily want/need to buy, but I must admit, there is a lot of talent on board.

Donna Anna: Diana Damrau
Donna Elvira: Joyce DiDonato
Zerlina: Mojca Erdmann
Don Ottavio: Rolando Villazon
Don Giovanni: Ildebrando D'Arcangelo
Leporello: Luca Pisaroni
Masetto: Konstantin Wolff
Commendatore: Vitalij Kowaljow
Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Yannick Nezet-Seguin

(Edited: Fixed cast list a bit. I had Kowaljow in the wrong role, and was missing Wolff entirely. His is the only unfamiliar name to me here.)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2012 1:28:49 AM PDT
Really? Villazon as Don Ottavio? Well, well, well....

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 3:42:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2012 3:46:16 AM PDT
Todd Kay says:
I thought the casting of Donna Anna was interesting. Diana Damrau is a headliner who has had many successes in Mozart -- nothing wrong with the choice in itself -- but this label has under contract another star soprano closely identified with Donna Anna, who used to appear and record with Villazon so often that they were practically a package deal. Netrebko would have seemed an obvious choice here, but these two have not sung together since his calamity in the January 2009 Met LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR. She has said in one interview that they have barely communicated since then.

However...this appears to be from a Baden-Baden concert performance of last summer, rather than the in-studio job I initially supposed it was. Maybe it was just a matter of availability. There is a trailer below. YNS's tempi are decidedly on the fleet side, on the evidence here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE1ES9oKThw

Pisaroni and DiDonato should be great, if they are good as they were in these roles at the Met and Covent Garden in recent seasons, respectively. DiDonato's Elvira on the ROH DVD (with Keenlyside) is sensational as both singing and acting, as good a mezzo Elvira as I have ever heard. Villazon's sound strikes me as darker and bulkier than the norm for Ottavio; I cannot really judge his vocal health on these short bits.

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 4:42:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2012 4:44:49 PM PDT
Cavaradossi says:
I'm a fan of Diana Damrau, but I think her voice is too light for Donna Anna. When did the annoying habit of casting mezzos as Donna Elvira begin? We need a time machine so we can go back and wipe out that misbegotten idea before it takes hold. The same goes for mezzo Zerlina's. That's almost as big an annoyance. To anyone who objects that that's too many sopranos, the answer would be that the opera company needs to cast three different types of soprano voices in the roles. A darker, more dramatic one for Anna, a weighty lyric for Elvira, and a lighter lyric for Zerlina. The current practice of casting lighter voices for Anna should also be stopped. These things matter.

The casting for the male roles is usually appropriate, but I have heard bass Masettos before. Fortunately, that isn't a widespread practice. A slightly heavier Ottavio who can manage the coloratura in "Il mio tesoro" strikes me as a good idea; it could give the character some gravitas he otherwise can lack with some lighter tenors.

Conductors who race through Don Giovanni must be immediately dismissed from the production. On the other hand, slumbering through it is just as bad. Where are the conductors who, like many of the old time ones, know how this goes. When the conductor speeds through the opera he gives the impression that he has no faith in it to be dramatic. As with most operas, when one speeds through it, though, Don Giovanni can lose some of its gravitas, never a good thing. There is comedy in DG, but it's not the whole story!

Posted on Sep 14, 2012 11:39:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 14, 2012 12:46:26 PM PDT
figaro says:
I was thinking Damrau a bit light for Donna Anna also, but she can have a fierceness to her voice that may make it work. I also generally don't care for mezzos singing Donna Evira but di Donato was quite enjoyable in the video I saw with her singing the role - I was pleasantly surprised. She has a surprisingly strong top. I like light mezzo Zerlinas for some reason. One of my favorites was Juliane Banse but I think she considers herself a soprano. She's more like a light mezzo in my opinion. A very pretty voice, but often miscast. She sang Ilia in one recent Idomeneo video when she should have been singing Idamante in my opinion.

From what I understand, there were no separations between mezzo and soprano in Mozart's time - you just had alto and soprano, so it's probably considered correct to cast accordingly and we all hear a bit differently - sometimes I am convinced a singer is a mezzo, but the singer and others seem to think otherwise. Fachs are not really an exact science.

I forgot to mention, in Mozart's time, there were also only tenors and basses; no distinctions were made between baritone and bass, so again, that probably leaves what one would think of as traditional casting, quite free for the three deep male roles. A bass as Masetto could easily depict the rustic nature of his character.

Posted on Sep 14, 2012 3:26:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 14, 2012 3:27:48 PM PDT
Todd Kay says:
<< From what I understand, there were no separations between mezzo and soprano in Mozart's time - you just had alto and soprano, so it's probably considered correct to cast accordingly and we all hear a bit differently - sometimes I am convinced a singer is a mezzo, but the singer and others seem to think otherwise. Fachs are not really an exact science. >>

This is my feeling on the matter too. I carry in my head an ideal, that all other things being equal I want to hear this role sung by a bass rather than a baritone, or that role sung by a soprano rather than a mezzo, but I really need to hear the performance. I want to hear a great performance, above all. I cannot -- CANNOT -- watch the below, take in the high level of the technical execution, the artistry of the phrasing, the thoughtful treatment of the words, the passionate address in the acting, and feel that Donna Elvira or Mozart is being poorly served. And she certainly has the notes. This is a showing for which I would cheer my lungs out in the theater.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tggGYJ9xh68

(Whether you like Francesco Zambello's intrusion of the other two ladies halfway through, in keeping with her whole Sisterhood-Is-Powerful view of DON GIOVANNI, is a separate matter.)

Posted on Sep 16, 2012 9:05:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 16, 2012 9:07:21 PM PDT
Cavaradossi says:
My personal preference is for a baritone Masetto. When sung by a bass, he sounds too old to my ears. The same goes for mezzo Zerlinas. I think of the two lovers as young and about to embark on marriage for the first time. Basses and mezzos just do not speak of youth to my ears. I am aware that the baritone voice as we think of it today came to be after Mozart's time, but clearly even Rossini was thinking of what we call a baritone voice when he wrote Figaro in The Barber of Seville. It's almost impossible to imagine a bass singing that role; it simply lies too high. Bellini and Donizetti further developed what we think of as the baritone voice and Verdi took it to new heights.

Back to Mozart - The role of Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte was no doubt also written for the generic bass voice, but the practice for years has been to cast a baritone in the part, possibly to emphasize his youth as opposed to the older Don Alfonso, a bass. The maid, who's name escapes me at the moment, is sung by both sopranos and mezzos, soprano when you want her younger and mezzo when you want her older.

Now, it has taken me awhile to get used to mezzo Rosinas in The Barber of Seville, but I'm used to it now. I still prefer sopranos who sing it in the original keys and add on high notes, such as Callas and De Los Angeles. Both ladies, though, were blessed with glorious lower registers, so singing Rosina in the mezzo keys was no problem for them.

Posted on Dec 2, 2013 4:04:36 PM PST
Piso Mojado says:
Villazon returned to theMetlast week for thefirst time since 2009 to sing Lensky in "Eugene Onegin". Has anyone heard it? "The New York Times" reviewed it last week with some reservations.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2014 3:11:12 AM PDT
figaro,

Great post...this is a shame with Villazon, because he did/does/will - have/have/had a beautiful voice. I saw something recently in an interview with Bertolli - where she was complaining that the Opera Companies, and or, Record Companies push performers till they break - I saw another interview with kaufmann, where he was saying he wants to sing "Othello" so bad, but he does not want to damage his voice, we had a recent discussion over Domingo and Wagner, but this is one piece along with "Don Carlo' that I love Domingo in.
Record Companies do the same thing to conductor's - expecting A full Mahler and Beethoven set before they are ready to handle such feats...you would think they would cherish their artists - instead of putting them in the ring with Tyson to get clobbered before maturity.

I hope Villazon can recover, because I truly adore his passion and vocals - i hope they don't destroy Juan Diego Flórez.

Scott Michael

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2014 3:14:22 AM PDT
Edgar Self:

O please!!! You and figaro are killing me over here...please don't loose Kaufmann, Villazon or Florez

Scott Michael
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Initial post:  Jan 22, 2011
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