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Rolando Villazon is another one who radiates charisma and the trained actor loves being the centre of attention. He took home the award for his début CD Italian Opera Arias (Virgin Classics) and thanked us for it by performing live the first track from the CD, Cilea's E la solita storia (the lament from the 1897 opera L'Arlesiana). Bravos and thunderous applause rewarded the outgoing Mexican whose warm baritonal timbre is so reminiscent of the young Domingo that you could close your eyes while he was singing and could swear that it was Domingo standing there on stage. Villazon, by the way, is a real hoot off-stage and has everyone laughing in no time whenever he launches into one of the funny stories that he so loves to tell.

Rolando Villazon with his Echo Award. Photo © 2004 Phil Crebbin
Rolando Villazon with his Echo Award. Photo © 2004 Phil Crebbin

The orchestra, incidentally, was the excellent Munich Philharmonic, this time under the baton of their brand new conductor in residence, Christian Thielemann. Whether one likes Thielemann's style is a matter of personal preference, but as usual the orchestra was brilliant and this brilliance, in part, is thanks to their outstanding first viola Helmut Nicolai, who is also immensely successful as a chamber musician with his Rosamunde Quartet and is probably one of the finest viola players alive today. Nicolai was a close friend of Sergiu Celibidache and came to Munich from Berlin some twenty years ago. During a long and brilliant career he has only received the finest of reviews and has played under the baton of the best conductors.

Also present at the awards were Torsten Rasch and Sven Helbig who were awarded the Echo for best world première recording for the Lieder cycle Mein Herz Brennt and who could hardly believe the great success that rewarded their first production together after Rasch had spent an extended period of time composing and living in Japan.

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Copyright © 30 October 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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