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Rolando Villazon was born in Mexico City in 1972. He initially attended a German school and at the age of eleven entered the Mexican Academy of Performing Arts to study acting, music, modern dance and ballet. His main interests were romantic pop songs and soccer. The only other thing he liked was appearing in plays and so he wanted to become an actor initially. Luckily, Villazon's father happened to work at Columbia Records (now Sony) and he often brought LPs home for his family to listen to. One of these was Domingo's album, Perhaps Love, of folk song duets with John Denver. Rolando was hooked, listened to the album over and over, and started singing the songs. He then bought every Domingo record he could get his little hands on, excluding the operatic ones because he still had little use for opera.
One turning point came in 1990 when, at the age of eighteen, Villazon sang in a school play and the baritone Arturo Nieto happened to be in the audience. Nieto came backstage afterwards, told Villazon that he had a 'really big' voice, and asked if he wanted instruction. When Villazon visited Nieto's studio the following day, he saw a framed photograph of Nieto and Domingo on the wall. Domingo was Villazon's hero. He was impressed that Nieto knew him personally and decided to take instruction from the baritone. Suddenly, he found out that singing opera was a lot more fun than singing pop.
It was a great break for Villazon who did not appear to be set out for a career in opera. Things happened on his way there, lots of things that made an opera career very unlikely. First, he fell in love, with his now-wife Lucia who happened to be a fellow student at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. To woo her, Villazon recited a Shakespearean sonnet and an excerpt from Fromme's The Art of Loving. Lucia was fifteen, Villazon one year older, when they first started dating.
Then he suddenly felt a call for priesthood and wanted to become the next St Francis of Assisi. Lucia told him to pack his bags and so some years of intense soul searching ensued during which Villazon had a great battle with Catholicism, read James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, became impressed with Stephen Dedalus's rejection of the Catholic Church, and eventually grew disillusioned with priests who openly drove about in big cars.
Copyright © 31 May 2004
Tess Crebbin, Germany