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The first part of the concert was dedicated to French arias by the composers Gounoud, Massenet and Bizet, which were mainly from his current CD. After the break he launched into the trademark Italian arias that had made him famous. Even having heard them countless times on CD and the occasional live version as well, when delivered with Villazón's inimitable voice, they still send shivers down your spine.

'It's the underlying baritone in his tenor that gives his voice the extra power and provides the special touch', said a conductor seated in the audience. He may be right, for Villazón avoids the usual problems of a tenor. For example, the high notes that occasionally sound squeaky with other tenors are warm and smooth, while still crystal clear, when coming from his mouth.

The French conductor, Michel Plasson, had his problems here and there with the disciplined German orchestra that, being used to no-nonsense perfection, took some time to understand his flowery, witty style. There were a few hiccups at the start, when in the first aria the conductor, overly enthusiastic about the French aria and the excellent orchestra under his baton, decided to turn up the volume and show everyone what the instruments can do, to the point of drowning out the singer. Orchestra and conductor worked best during the non-singer overtures, where the audience was left gasping for breath at the musical excellence just delivered. More than a few annoyed comments could be overheard from the audience about the Bayerischer Rundfunk having even considered dissolving an orchestra as good as this.

After the first 'drowning out' problem everything went smoothly although some instrument groups seemed to be favoured more than others and towards the end foot stomping could be heard mingling with Villazón's voice: it was the conductor enthusiastically jumping up and down. But Plasson is so charming and funny on stage that one forgives him.

A happy Rolando Villazón acknowledges the applause after his 19 June Munich concert. Photo © 2005 Tess Crebbin
A happy Rolando Villazón acknowledges the applause after his 19 June Munich concert. Photo © 2005 Tess Crebbin

Towards the end, Villazón proved to be a gracious performer who knows very well that it is his fans who put him where he is today. His trademark aria, E la solita storia, Frederico's lament from L'Arlesiana, sends the crowds wild each time. In Munich, being the 'final' aria, it gave rise to calls for encore after encore, some 40 minutes of them, almost enough to call them another mini-concert.

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Copyright © 10 July 2005 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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