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Following his many celebrated performances on the world's opera stages, time seemed ripe for his first solo CD and Villazon has now signed an exclusive contract with Virgin Classics.

Of his début CD, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: 'This is powerful, ravishing stuff' and Opera News made it an Editor's Choice CD. Villazon has attended master classes with Joan Sutherland and that he learned how to sing is very evident. Impeccable technique can be taught, and he has that, but he also has something else that you cannot learn but need to be born with: a warm dark timbre, almost baritonal, and an innate feeling for the styles and moods of the pieces that he sings. The début CD sold out within two hours in Vienna, where people were completely taken aback by such enormous talent: Villazon sings Cilea, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini and Mascagni but he does not only sing the pieces, he feels them. Villazon's dark timbre courts the arias, full of dramatic urgency, and although his voice is anything but light he manages even the high tones seemingly without effort, displaying a rich range of colors and a perfect dramatic touch.

Villazon knows what he's got and he is not shy about displaying his very obvious talent. His début CD contains the arias of the great tenors. That invites a comparison and it is not a bad one. There are no mistakes, anywhere, no stifled tones, no sloppy phrasing. This is a great tenor voice, a truly exceptional voice that much exceeds the low standards that our modern time, unfortunately, has become used to. It is a voice of rare beauty, with a tender romantic touch but capable of displaying fiery youth. Even the top tenors sometimes cannot avoid that their effort can be heard in the high notes but Villazon sings with such seeming ease that it is almost scary. Certainly, one can live without the CDs of most other young tenors these days, but living without Villazon's means missing out big time. Rolando Villazon is not your average young tenor and one cannot help but agree with BBC Music Magazine: 'He is an exceptional talent.'

Rolando Villazon
Rolando Villazon

Two other CDs are already in planning: one with conductor Emmanuelle Haim who is a specialist in early music: Monteverdi's Combattimento de Trancedi and a second solo CD, of French Arias. In his spare time, Villazon likes reading good literature, Mann, Dostoevsky and Marquez, and drawing caricatures. During opera rehearsals, when there is a lot of spare time for the performers, he keeps a caricature diary. On the opening night he gives a copy to everyone in the cast. He is still married to Lucia and they have two children.

Copyright © 31 May 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany

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Rolando Villazon's CD Italian Opera Arias with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra conducted by Marcello Viotti, is on Virgin Classics VC 5 45626 2.

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