Category Archives: Best of Operatoonity

chattin’ up David Lomeli: Mexican tenor, toast of NYC!

Tenor David Lomeli

He’s an Operalia winner. He’s a recent graduate of San Francisco Opera‘s prestigious Adler Fellows program for the most advanced young singers.

As Nemorino in Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love presented by New York City Opera this past spring, tenor David Lomeli was the rising star New York critics raved about and audiences gushed over:

“Mr. Lomelí captured the opera’s potent combination of hilarity and pathos. He certainly deserved all the applause and bravos. He was, in a word, delightful.
–The New York Times (full review here)

After David sang “Una Furtiva Lagrima” on opening night (his first Elixir ever, by the way), the audience applauded for a solid minute and a half. “The choristers backstage timed it,” David said in a recent phone interview.

I saw David sing the role for New York City Opera. In my review for Backtrack, I cited his second-act aria as one the most magical moments I’d experienced as an operagoer, the kind we all pray to be in the audience for and are  fortunate to witness.

Without equivocation, David Lomeli was la estrella de Nueva York. As The New York Observer said in their feature “Who Matters Now,” David Lomeli brings “Latin ardor to the stage.”

In case you didn’t know, his first name David (which he pronounces daVEED) means beloved. How fitting! This is one performer who is simply adored — whenever he sings, wherever he goes.

It seems that this love fest for David Lomeli began 29 years ago when he was born in Mexico City into a musically talented family. As a small child, he had blonde hair and pink skin, and the thirteen women he grew up with fussed over him to no end because of his fair coloring. And it seems as though all the fussing over David Lomeli has never stopped. 

(Or maybe it’s only just begun.)

Since winning Plácido Domingo’s Operalia in 2006, to this day Maestro Domingo mentors him, regarding David not only as a protege but also embracing him like family. David has been generously encouraged by many big names in opera including Luciano Pavarotti who once told David that being a next generation opera star would be much harder than the challenges he himself faced because of the acting and staging demands opera performance requires these days. He considers another very famous Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón his generational idol.

David is currently playing Rodolfo in 'La Bohème' at Santa Fe Opera / photo by Ken Howard

David Lomeli is talented and  hard-working, putting everything he has (mind, body, soul) into each of his performances. He is uber-friendly, utterly charming, and yet very down-t0-earth, having agreed to be profiled on Operatoonity though he and I had never met prior to this interview.

His is fluent in English — he attended a British school in Mexico — and so his answers are his own. (No translation required).

Bienvenido, David! Since your performance in ‘Elixir’ so gladdened my heart (porque cantando se alegran, los corazones), it is such a pleasure to have this chance to talk with you.

Can you tell me a little about your childhood (besides being a native of Mexico City)–how you grew up and how it affected your decision to sing opera?
Well, in my family there was always music.  My grandmother and my mother were singers — my mom a mezzo and grandma a soprano. I was raised by them my first years. My dad plays the guitar. You can tell by the quantity and quality of the Mexican tenors, that we are surrounded my music all the time — between salsa, mariachi, corrido, cumbia and boleros we always singing. The opera path opened in college where I finished an engineer career in computer systems. The beautiful way of Mexicans to do things happened in college.

My university had a theater of 2,500 seats with  a concert series featuring artists like Pavarotti, Ramon Vargas and Gustavo Dudamel coming every year, a musical theater company that made many Spanish world premieres of Broadway shows and a full orchestra. But there was no music degree offered, so we did operas and musical with whatever student of other degrees wanted to do it as an extra credit. The opera company of the university offered to pay my tuition as an engineer if I dedicated my extra time to sing with them and that’s how it happened. They sent me to Barcelona and Milan to study my degree in evening with  musical training in the mornings. I learned a lot by doing performances, graduating with more than 300 performances in the school theater productions. It was a great period of my life.

David won Operalia in 2006, a competition open to all voice categories for singers ages 18 to 30 years who are ready to for the world’s great opera stages.

You were invited to compete in Operalia in 2006, representing the United States (according to the website). How did that come about?
You are right – the site says that I represented the US.  But, I am not sure why, because  when I won they said, “David Lomeli, tenor from MEXICO.”   I do owe a lot to my US  training and support, but my green Mexican passport does not lie.  Ha ha ha!  I am still proud to be Mexican! (The citation has since been corrected to reflect his real country of origin.)

What are your memories of that experience—being named a finalist and then winning 1st prize and zarzuela?
It was a dream come true. It was my first real competition, and  my career was starting so fast. In February 2006, I just was sneaked up by my teacher Cesar Ulloa for an audition with Plácido Domingo. By August of 2006 I had a legal working visa and I had my first musical rehearsal ever! And it was next to Ferruccio Furlanetto, Salvatore Licitra, Eric Halverson, the dear Dolora Zajick (she gave me multiple suggestions on voice and career) — all conducted my maestro James Conlon. It was wild! I was surrounded by new friends and idols like Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko and then — kaboom! Two months later I won Operalia. I really appreciate so much the judges that trusted me that I could represent the label of an Operalia winner, when I think they saw a green raw potential and they offered the help needed to really jump start my career.

I remember clearly the system —  I was last in the operatic round and also last in the zarzuela one. I didn’t have any rehearsal with the orchestra and I had never sang those pieces with orchestra ever. “O souverain” from Massenet’s Le Cid was my operatic piece, and it was a different version!!! And the zarzuela piece was very complicated. Thank God  Maestro Domingo was there to take care of me on the pit. An angel intervened that day for sure.  I was so nervous.

How has Operalia impacted your career since winning the contest?
It gives you a label that never goes away.  It is like being number one in a tennis rank or golf list.  It is an accomplishment that gives certain validation to your work.  And it is a very different kind of competition. Most of the competitions are judged by singers now retired or in their way to retirement. This is a competition judged by impresarios and general managers. Also there are more than 40 other scouts for management, PR and companies there. If you score high with the people that hire, then I think is a very good sign of your possible potential. Another positive difference  is that this is a world competition — you have to compete against the Latin tenors, the Russian beauties, the Korean baritones, the American superlatively trained musicians.

I think there are very few in the world that give so much money in prizes and accept singers from over the world. I was never a viable candidate because of my immigration status to compete in most of the famous competitions held at the US, so when I won this competition, certainly my career got a boost. Most importantly, it brought together my team.

Operalia and the L.A Opera Young Artist Program brought to my life my coach Anthony Manoli and my guru and agent Matthew Epstein. These men,  together with my teacher, have helped me shape every aspect of my singing nowadays. They are constantly pushing for vocal excellence, correct preparation of the roles, appropriate rest time, the suggestion of  having a little project every performance to improve something each time, and they ask me to retain a sense of every performance being better than the last. Also, of course, the help find me a lot of singing debuts. Ha ha!

What has been the greatest thrill in your career thus far? Greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge has been to understand that I was not yet ready. When I won Operalia, I was suddenly around the globe in operatic publications and magazines. I was mentioned in lists next to Ana María Martínez, Rolando Villazón, or Joseph Calleja. But I was really only an engineer. I needed high class training and on the speed of lightning. Thank God, Maestro Domingo and their family, the guys at CAMI (Columbia Artists Management, Inc.), and the people at the Merola Opera Program and Adler Fellowship Program at San Francisco Opera were there to calm me down. I needed help  to understand that this career is not of speed but of continuous improvement.

David as Nemorino in 'Elixir' at New York City Opera / photo (c) Carol Rosegg.

In truth, the greatest thrill of my career so far was the three previous bars to start “Una furtiva lagrima” on stage at NYCO for my premiere. I sensed it was the make-it-or-break-it moment for me. It was just a phenomenal rush of adrenaline and the moment that every tenor dreams about.  When I finished the aria,  it was a very big moment for me.  It made up  for years of sacrifice, lonely times when you lose yourself and then later find you in a different corner of a different city, wearing the same clothes, but speaking another language and a different composer.  It justified so many moments of tears. I was laughing and crying at the same time and I couldn’t stop for a long time after. It was at that moment that I had the sense of my OWN satisfaction with my own voice.

Do you have any favorites? Composer? Opera? Role? Venue?
I love Donizetti, and I am dying to sing more of it. Favorite operas:  Dom Sébastien, La Fille du Regiment. Favorite role: Duca d’alba. It is like Donizetti wrote for voices like mine. I adore his lines and the extension. My personality is a combination of Nemorino, Rodolfo, and Werther. So each three roles are a treat for my soul when I have the opportunity to voice them.

You got rave reviews in all the NY press after your debut as Nemorino for NYC Opera. How does it feel to know NYC is dying to have you back to sing? Are you coming back–soon (fingers crossed)?
As you know, the opera world is very booked in advance but there have been talks for me to come back.  It’s not yet possible for me to schedule a return, but I hope so in the future.

What is something most people don’t know about you, something not on your professional bio?
No one really understands how passionate I am about soccer. I have traveled the world for the experience of soccer in a stadium. I am a huge supporter of Manchester United and also my home team Barcelona. Just yesterday my country became champion of the world in the under 17 cup hosted in my birthplace, Mexico City.  To see more than 100,000  voices singing “Cielito Lindo” brought tears to my eyes so far away.

Where can we see you in 2011-12?
I start my season with the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto doing the Duke in Rigoletto, then I go to Germany to sing Edgardo in Lucia at Deutsche Oper Berlin, and again the Duke in Karlsruhe with my dear Stefania Dovhan as Gilda.  I am looking forward to my debut  in Houston Grand Opera with Maestro Patrick Summers as Alfredo  in La Traviata and also to my first major solo recital to be held in Birmingham, Alabama.  My season concludes with Bohème in the magnificent summer festival at Glyndebourne.

* * *

David  is performing at Santa Fe Opera Festival through August 26, and is excited about Santa Fe’s upcoming Press Week (early August). He has a new website soon to launch, designed by the talented Catherine Pisaroni, who has created outstanding websites for many of today’s most renowned opera stars. You can also follow him on Twitter @davidlomelink, where he Tweets, con gusto, in Spanish and English.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Bel canto opera, Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Heartstoppers, Interviews, North American Opera, profiles, tenors

my Spring Semester opera awards

Seance on a Wet Afternoon -- my pick for best of season / photo by © Carol Rosegg

Thus far this semester, I’ve traveled to various houses in major metropolitan areas in the Mid-Atlantic States to see seven professional productions–at the Kennedy Center, the Met, the Merriam Theater, the David H. Koch Theatre, to name a few. (A bit of explanation–I work at a college, and so everything from January to May is considered Spring Semester).   

Here are the shows I was fortunate enough to see:   

January – Puccini’s Tosca, Metropolitan Opera of New York, with Sondra Radvanovsky, Marcelo Álvarez, and Falk Struckmann. Performances spectacular; direction disappointing.   

February – Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, Opera Company of Philadelphia, with Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello; this production was better integrated in the community than any other.   

February – Strauss’s Arabella, Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, with resident artists Corinne Winters and Chloé Moore– challenging work and well sung!   

March – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Washington National Opera in Washington, D.C., with Ana María Martínez conducted by Plácido Domingo. Memorable, tasteful.   

March – Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, New York City Opera, with David Lomeli, José Adán Pérez, and Stefania Dovhan. Quirky–selected stellar performances.   

April – Rossini’s Le Comte Ory, Metropolitan Opera of New York City, with Juan Diego Flórez, Diana Damrau, and Joyce DiDonato. Exceptional singing and acting.   

April – Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon, New York City Opera, with Lauren Flanigan, Kim Josephson, and Melody Moore. Intense, scary, thrilling.   

And here are the awards dispensed by me, Queen of “Operatoonity”:    

Artist I most want to see again soon — And the winner is: Juan Diego Flórez. The man has major star quality, something you simply can’t measure from a recording or even by watching a Live in HD simulcast. I’d love to see him in a dramatic role, something of  a completely different nature the Count in Le Comte Ory, to see if I like him as much.   

Best aria — And the winner is:  “Vissi d’arte” sung by Sondra Radvanovsky. She took my breath away–literally. Near the end of the piece, I gasped following one of her high notes and lost my breath. Then as the aria was coming to a poignant close, bereft of air, I began choking and coughing, which everyone around me loved. It was however sensational–her aria, not my choking.   

Best breakout performance –And the winner is: David Lomeli, making his NYC Opera appearance as Nemorino in Elixir. His “Una furtiva lagrima” was a magical moment.   

Best performance overall — And the winner is: Falk Struckmann in Tosca. I was absolutely riveted by his performance of Baron Scarpia–the part could have been written for him–it fit him like a glove in every regard.   

Most fun — And the winner is: A tie between NYC Opera’s The Elixir of Love and the Met’s Le Comte Ory. I giggled throughout both of them. Loved the dustbowl diner concept of Elixir. Loved the show within a show premise in Le Comte Ory and the interplay between the three principals was side-splittingly entertaining.   

Most likely to succeed — And the winner is: Soprano Ailyn Pérez, who sang Juliet for the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She’s a winner in every regard, and it won’t be long until we’ll see her singing for the major houses.  AVA resident artist Corinne Winters is a close second–expect to see and hear her in prominent professional productions. 

Most moved — And the winner is: WNO’s Madama Butterfly. All the production elements were maximized to serve the story and propel the operagoer to experience Butterfly’s destruction. It was beautiful to see and hear as a complete, harmonious production.   

Most pleasantly surprised — And the winner is:  NYC Opera’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon — since I’d never heard any operas of musical theater composer Stephen Schwartz before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I also thought I preferred classic to contemporary opera. Boy, I was wrong. Or maybe I just loved Schwartz’s contemporary opera.   

Best of the season— And the winner is: NYC Opera’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon. Principals–stunning! Chorus–spectacular. Production values–solid. Story–gripping. Music and orchestration–beautiful and functional. It was relevant, immediate, and accessible. Being “accessible” in contemporary opera is definitely a good thing!   

Perhaps I’ll amend this list after I see the last two shows of the season in May: Don Giovanni at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Phila., and Ariadne auf Naxos at the Met in May. We’ll see. Oh, and if you’d like to see all my reviews thus far for Bachtrack, the world’s best way to find live classical performance, simply click on this link.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Best of Operatoonity, Reviews

best opera singers in the world today – female persuasion

As promised, here are the female artists that a discriminating, opera-loving group of Twitterers suggested as the best women performing today. Now, as I mentioned when I posted the men’s list, I was seeking a list of opera greats who are not just living but are performing and can still “cut the mustard,” as Stephanie Brooke said.  

So that’s why you don’t see opera great Jessye Norman on this list. Nor do you see promising up-and-comers such as Latonia Moore, Ailyn Pérez (whom I just saw in Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Romeo and Juliet and reviewed very favorably), and Amber Wagner.  

Unable to find an already published list from which to draw, this USA Today article naming the best stars of the 1990’s was too old, I created my own, with a little help from my friends.  

Anna Netrebko will sing Anna Bolena for the Met in 2011-12

Besides being recording favorites, some of the singers such as Cecelia Bartoli and Anne Sofie von Otter are frequently enjoyed in live recitals. For a wonderful write up of Anne Sofie von Otter’s New York recital, see this post at Opera Obsession. Others like Angela Gheorghiu might be has-beens next year if they keep pulling out of Met productions. (Was her nose bent out of shape because images of Anna Netrebko as Anna Bolena appeared to dominate the marketing collateral for the Met’s 2011-12 season?)  

So, what do you think? Have I included your favorite(s) in the list below? If not, please feel free to include in the comments.  

 – Cecilia Bartoli, Italian mezzo-soprano  

Olga Borodina

 – Olga Borodina, Russian mezzo soprano  

 – Sarah Connolly, British mezzo soprano  

Fiorenza Cedolins, Italian soprano  

 – Diane Damrau, German lyric coloratura soprano  

Annette Dasch

– Annette Dasch, German soprano  

 – Natalie Dessay, French coloratura soprano  

 – Mariella Devia, Italian soprano  

 – Joyce DiDonato, American mezzo soprano  

 – Renée Fleming, American soprano  

 – Angela Gheorghiu, Romanian soprano  

Anja Harteros

 – Anja Harteros, German soprano  

 – Magdalena Kožená, Czech mezzo-soprano  

 – Aleksandra Kurzak, Polish coloratura soprano  

 – Waltraud Meier, German dramatic soprano  

 – Anna Netrebko, Russian soprano  

Patricia Racette

 – Patricia Racette, American soprano  

 – Sondra Radvanovsky, American soprano  

 – Dorothea Röschmann, German soprano  

 – Rinat Shaham, Israeli mezzo soprano  

Nina Stemme

– Nina Stemme, Swedish soprano  

 – Anne Sofie von Otter, Swedish mezzo-soprano  

Don’t forget to check out the male singers identified as the best in the world today.  

And thanks again to the lively informed Twitter “opera” community for their recommendations!

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Audience participation, Best of Operatoonity, Performers, Poll

bari, bari good baritones

Walter Berry, D. Fischer-Dieskau, Hakan Hagegard, Sherrill Milnes, Hermann Prey, Bernd Weikl. 

With the exception of Sherrill Milnes, the names of these great baritones might not be household words, but they are arguably on par with well-known opera greats such as Marilyn Horne, Renata Scotto, Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price, and Montserrat Caballé.

Here are some clips of these great baris. All very different.

Which is your favorite?

We’ll start with a clip of Walter Berry from Beethoven’s lone opera Fidelio.

Listen to D. Fischer-Dieskau in this 1960 clip from Strauss’s Arabella, which I’m seeing this weekend in Philadelphia.

And now for something completely different, here’s Hakan Hagegard, from the film The Magic Flute directed byIngmar Bergman:

Next up is Sherrill Milnes in Pagliacci singing “Si Puo” from 1978:

Now a clip from Hermann Prey singing the ever popular “Largo al Factotum” from The Barber of Seville:

Lastly, a clip of Bernd Weikl (1994) as Wolfram von Eschenbach in TANNHÄUSER.

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Filed under Best of Operatoonity, Performers, Poll

Operatoonity asked, you answered: opera polls and memes

During the last year, I posted eight audience-participation polls and memes.

Why? I think polls are fun, and I wanted to learn more about my readers. Actually, anytime I ask my readers, “What do you think?” I get a healthy earful of great opera information that often leads to ideas for future posts.

Here’s all the polls/memes that appeared since I launched the blog in February 2010. While some are closed, others such as the memes, you can take at your leisure. Enjoy!

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Filed under Audience participation, Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Poll

so, who all was interviewed on Operatoonity in its inaugural year?

And the first anniversary/birthday bash continues with a look at some special people profiled on this blog during the last year–more than a dozen individuals with different stakes in the world of opera. 

These interviews tended to be some of the most fun, energizing assignments. Nothing like creating operatunities for yourself to talk to interesting, multi-faceted people who live in and work in the world of opera.

Here are most of the folks who went under the Operatoonity magnifying glass in the past year with links to each of their scintillating interviews:

Operatoonity readers’ top five posts by views were Leandra Ramm (465 views), Margaret Garwood (298 views), Zita Tátrai (238 views), Cliff Bechtel (228 views) and Cecily Carver (200 views).

One thing that became readily apparent from analyzing my stats is that a social media presence definitely impacted the number of  views interview subjects received and can greatly enhance an artist’s visibility. For instance, Zita Tátrai has a robust Facebook following, and Cliff Bechtel has a strong Twitter presence.

Which was my favorite interview? I’ll never tell. In truth, I enjoyed them all and learned something new from each one and delighted they shared some of themselves on this space.

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Filed under Best of Operatoonity, Interviews, Performers

Operatoonity is one-year-old today!

My baby turned one.

My blog baby, that is.

For any parent, that first birthday is something to celebrate. When my daughter turned one, we had two parties and two cakes for her–one for family and then a bigger one for all the people at church, a little cake-and-punch fest in the basement. 

It takes a village to raise a blog.

Now that I’ve done both blogging and parenting, I realize that hosting a new blog is a lot like having a new child. The day your blog bursts from the WordPress womb into the light of the blogosphere, you send out birth announcements via email, Facebook, and Twitter because you want your friends to share your joy: “Hey, I have a new blog. It’s called Operatoonity. Stop by. Let me know what you think,” that kind of thing. Anyone who’s ever blogged knows how vulnerable new blogs are, so they may go out of their way to encourage others to visit your new blog.

Meanwhile, some friends might think, Operatoonity? That’s a dumb name. Why spell it that way? But they won’t say it to your face. I guess I could have named this blog “Operatunity,” but I wanted to use opera and humor as a major theme, and Operatoonity seemed the better choice to accomplish that.

In a short time, the new-baby buzz dies down, and it’s just you and the baby blog. It’s up to you whether your blog thrives or founders. While tending to it in the short run, you have to keep the long run in mind at the same time. What might be good for a day might not serve the life of the blog. So, you keep striving to make good long-term choices for your baby while you watch it grow–more posts, more comments, more visitors–one day at a time.

Look how the baby has grown!

And before you know it, it’s one year later. I’ve charted the baby’s growth:

In the past year, “Operatoonity” has had 231 posts, more than 300 (publishable) comments, and a whopping 16,000+ visitors.

“Operatoonity” milestones:

And I’d also be remiss if I didn’t thank my readers, especially my subscribers and other loyal readers.  Thank you all, village.

Here’s to another growing year.

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Filed under Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Heartstoppers, Opera and humor

an extra special day on Operatoonity tomorrow…

Tomorrow, February 10, 2011, will be a truly special day for “Operatoonity.”

Can you guess why?

No?

Tomorrow, I will run my first-ever post and . . . my most-viewed post ever and . . . my most commented-on post  . . . and my favorite post.

Still no guesses?

Then I suppose you’ll just have to stop by tomorrow–first thing. In the event some of you will be logging on in your birthday suits, I’ll deactivate the nifty Jetsons webcam feature I had planned to roll out–tomorrow.

See you the day after today–February 10–tomorrow.

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