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Gregory Kunde credit Chris Gloag

Gregory Kunde: "I’ve got nothing to lose"

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I always argue that Gregory Kunde is an admirable artist in which case, today, his vital testimony is even more impressive. After almost 40-year career, now it’s time for this fascinating American tenor, to debut at the Covent Garden in London with the Manrico of Il Trovatore. Kunde still appears as someone with an innate sense of humour, fully aware of himself, in the maturity of his singular career, on which he reflects with huge doses of frankness and sympathy. Next season, he is going to be a regular guest in our Spanish theatres with Otello and Norma at the Teatro Real with Andrea Chénier in Bilbao and Il vespri siciliani in Valencia.

This should be an ordinary question for a young singer, but it sounds some sort of peculiar - and even more exiting - in front of a mature tenor who is over 60. The question is: How do you feel about your upcoming debut at the Covent Garden?

I am a mature tenor because of my age, but who knows what is going on in my mind (laughter). Jokes aside, it is true, it is exciting to think that after thirty years, at last, I am going to be able to fulfil one of my long term dreams, singing in one of the greatest stages in the world, the Covent Garden in London. It was one of the first places I saw opera as an audience; the first was in Vienna, during the seventies. In the Covent Garden, I saw Aida in 1976 with Domingo, Cossotto, Caballé… A fantastic cast. I remember very well two things about that performance.  On the one hand, the time I spent queuing to buy discount tickets at £20, in fantastic seats at the Balcony section in the former Covent Garden, the same building but before remodelling. I remember there was an interval after each act in order to change scenery, and the pauses were long: the first act lasted half an hour and the first break lasted half an hour. Altogether, Aida almost lasted six hours, as if we were watching a Wagner play in Bayreuth. But the most incredible was that, in order to make those scene changes, the set design was taken out of the theatre, literally, brought forth into the street and could be seen there. It was incredible.

The second thing I remember very vividly about these functions is the final scene of Amneris. I had the opportunity to say so to Fiorenza Cossotto in Oviedo during the Campoamor Awards. It was beyond words: what a voice, what sound, what intensity ... what a tremendous ovation. At that time, I was studying in London. For me, it is a dream come true to sing herefinally. It is really the only major theatre I was missing, after the Scala, Vienna, the Met, Spanish theatres, etc. I hope to do it all rightl! (Laughs). I really appreciate they asked me to sing something I already have in my repertoire, because sometimes, you get invitations to places where you really want to sing but cannot assume the roles or you should make an additional effort which complicates matters; and it is risky because introducing yourself to a new site with something new to you, can become a great success or a complete failure, most probably, there is no middle ground.

You will return to London next year to sing Othello, in a double cast with Jonas Kaufmann, in his role debut.

That’s right. It’s going to be great to meetwith Otello in London. I will also be back at the Covent Garden for the revival of Il trovatore new production. But I'll tell you one thing: at this point in my career, no matter how exited I might be, I do not see these performances as something extraordinary. It’s just another production; I do not want to belittle what it means to me, of course. But at the end of the day, it is just another workplace, just one out of many. A few months ago, it was my debut in the Teatro Real in Madrid with Roberto Devereux; and of course, I was excited, but eventually, it all comes down to do our work, nothing more ... nothing less. In this Trovatore, we have two extraordinary casts, with great colleagues, and the work environment is fantastic, I cannot complain about anything.

Earlier, you mentioned the Metropolitan in New York. I think, deep down in your heart, you might miss not being there more often at this point in your career. Is it perhaps because they keep a very different memory of you, as a light tenor?

Yes, it is a strange situation. Of course I would like to sing more often in my country’s great opera house, but things are more complex at times. Indeed, in the US people have a very specific memory of myself, linked to my early years, as a light tenor, in a bel canto repertoire, etc. The last thing I performed at the Met was Puritani with Netrebko, for example. And we must be realistic: my current situation is not common. When you talk of a singer who is already sixty years old to a theatre, the last thing the manager will consider is that he is someone worth listening to and discovering. When you are sixty years old, unfortunately, many people in this business think you’re getting already out of business, and I am fully aware of swimming against the current in recent years. If a mature singer changes his repertoire, it is normal to think that he does so to cover a problem, to find a less demanding position, because his voice no longer responds, etc.

Whenever someone changes repertoire, we all wonder: where is the problem?

Exactly. And it is logical to wonder that. I am fortunate to have my schedule filled for several years. And I really mean that. I do not mind if I sing again or not in the Metropolitan. I’d like to sing in my house, yes, but I cannot focus on that. If it has to be, it will be. But I am aware that the Gregory Kunde they know is different from the one who has been singing in the last five years. In a theatre like the Met, there is a large number of auditions and it is not as easy as it seems that someone like me goes back into the system, so to speak. But we're working on it and I think these functions in London can become important to get everything back to normal with the Met. If I tell you the truth, at this stage of my career I prefer someone hiring me because they've heard me in a theatre and are interested in what I do and not because someone has been compelled to hire me, without believing in my work. I have nothing to lose. If I am in Covent Garden, it is because artistic directors from this theatre heard me singing in Greece three years ago. It's that simple as that but quite complicated at the same time.

It is a matter of being in the right place, at the right time.

That's right. So I am confident that the Met will come at some point again, if it makes sense to do so. Do not look for excuses.

It is curious because, at present, there aren’t that many Americans tenors performing their repertoire. You should  be their natural choice there.

There are great colleagues there, from Bryan Hymel or John Osborn Michael Spyres to Michael Fabiano or Steven Costello, but certainly not many who are doing a spinto repertoire, I’d say. It makes sense, because in some cases, they are still young voices, with a great career ahead. They are doing very well and we are good colleagues as well. Let me tell you another thing about the Met: It is a huge theatre and although the acoustics are very good, your mind can’t stop thinking about how big it is and how difficult it must be to be heard in the last row. There, one only thinks of the volume, and it is a mistake, because singing louder does not solve anything (laughs). Beyond the Met, there is another place I want to go back sooner or later in the United States. I’m thinking of the theatre which became my home, the Lyric Opera of Chicago. We might settle on something for 2018, when it will be 40 years since I started there. I’m sure they are surprised that I’m still singing (laughs). I think something similar happened to the Met. Almost thirty years ago, in 1987, I sang a unique function of Massenet's Manon, with the great Catherine Malfitano; It was my debut there in a production who had previously sung Alfredo Kraus there. You can imagine how my voice was back then: probably half or even less than it is now, by size, volume, projection, etc.

It was another voice altogether.

Absolutely, it was a young voice which wasn’t yet specialized. The bel canto in America, at that time, was something still very small. The Renaissance Rossini hadn’t been completed yet, and Donizetti and Bellini operas which were performed could be virtually counted on the fingers of one hand. At that time, it was pretty normal singing all the Italian repertoire, it didn’t really matter if it was was Nemorino in L'Elisir or Alfredo in La traviata  or Rodolfo in La bohème. And of course all the French repertoire, together with that same paradigm of a lyric tenor who handles all types: Faust, Manon, etc. Even many of my colleagues sang Don Jose in Carmen, Cavaradossi in Tosca and Don Carlo, Ernani ... When I got the chance to debut at the Met with Manon, I was very fortunate because I had already been Alfredo Kraus’s cover for the same title in Chicago. So I knew the part pretty well. I had a very good review in The New York Times, I remember, but I also remember that the voice was not prepared for the Met, it fell short for the demands of such a large space. I had just turned 30. My relationship with the Met is kind of curious: at that time, it was too early and now, it seems it's too late (laughs). After that Manon function at the Met, the theatre offered me some comprimario parts. I did not want to take that career direction and rejected those proposals. I tell you this because that’s how things remain still today in theatres: the first impression you leave in a place lasts forever and it is really difficult to get it reviewed. So no wonder, when the Met is told about a Gregory Kunde who is singing Otello, Trovatore, Manon Lescaut, Vespri ... they think it is impossible people refer to the same tenor.

But behind all this, there is a great testimony of live, a great lesson on the meaning to carve out a career in the opera world.

Definitely. And I think it's the most valuable thing I can bequeath, regardless of my personal satisfaction which entails being where I am now and doing what I do. I think my career is the best example of something that Alfredo Kraus told me when I was starting out in Chicago and both agreed: "You have to wait." I’ll always remember, that was a life lesson and a precious professional teaching. It is not only about waiting to sing this or that paper, but it also means waiting for your voice to lead the way and never otherwise. At one time or another all voices will mature, change and be reoriented. Maybe my case is even exaggerated and cannot be used as a measure of generality, but sooner or later, the voice undergoes a natural change and the key, then, is to be open-minded and willing to listen to that change and take it. And this lesson applies not only for singers but also for intendants and artistic directors:  be patient, please, do not force young singers’ careers with offers as tempting as foolish. There is something perverse about the fact that our careers are signed four or five years ahead: it is impossible to know whether our voice will sound then as it does today. An excellent Nemorino today, may not be within five years. Not only does the voice change, but also our mentality, our interpretive conception of a paper, etc. In my case, for example, I’ve signed contracts for Otello in 2020 and I’m absolutely sure that it will necessarily be different from the one I performed for the first time in 2012. And not necessarily worse, because over time we get a better understanding of the roles, interiorise them and take better care of the voice when singing them, etc. The main problem is that a theatre has set a concrete memory of a voice and suggests singing something within several years apart, but no one can assure that from 2014 to 2020 everythng will remain the same for a singer. Moreover, some singers do not even get to have a 6-year career! (Laughs). And this is especially perverse, as I said before, in the case of a soloist who wants to debut in a given theatre: if you intend to do so within several years with a paper out of his current repertoire, it will be very difficult to say no and eventually, it will be a leap in the dark. You never know how your voice will sound within several years. You might guess, but nobody can guarantee it. And this situation can become very uneasy, because neither the soloist wants to be exposed to such a risk nor wants to place the theatre in a difficult situation in case that a verbal agreement, closed well in advance, should be cancelled.

If we’re talking about usual roles in the repertoire, well, a solution might be found. But with rare works such as Les Huguenots or Il Vespri Siciliani, fixing the situation can be very difficult.

Sure. That’s why I try to be very careful with the commitments I agree upon. Although if you take a look at my schedule over the past two years, you would refute it (laughs). I made a debut with a few papers (Cavalleria, Pagliacci, Manon Lescaut, Aida, Samson ...), and that means not only singing and rehearsing a production but also studying them previously, of course. I must say that,at this stage of my career, I study pretty quickly. Only in very few occasions I knew already the socres, as in the case of Otello, as I had already sung Cassio, or in the case of Un ballo in maschera, because I did "Il primo giudice" (laughs).

There is a fantastic video of that Ballo in maschera (laughs).

It is true! (Laughter). It is one of those functions that are never forgotten. The cast was amazing: Luciano Pavarotti, Renata Scotto, Piero Cappuccilli, Mignon Dunn ... and Kunde as Il primo giudice (laughs). Kathleen Battle also made her debut as Oscar and John Pritchard was the director. In those days, the musical rehearsals were made with more anticipation than now. We had musical rehearsals with piano during three days, with all the soloists, but without the chorus. And there we were, all of us, and me sitting behind Luciano. It was my turn, I sang my sentence, and Pavarotti said jokingly: "Not too bad, I'd like to hear it again." I was on cloud nine. It was my particular duet with Pavarotti!

Pavarotti and Kraus have been two constant references in your career.

Definitely. In general, when I prepare a paper, I look for older references: Di Stefano, Del Monaco, Pavarotti, Domingo, Kraus, in general all tenors from the forties and fifties in the last century are of my interest. By the way, I was just thinking that until February next year, I’ll be singing roles that I know and have already played. Nothing new to study. I can hardly believe it (laughs).

Congratulations!! But you might get bored then (laughs) 

I won’t! I promise (laughs). My next debut will be with Andrea Chenier. I have a very good story about Chenier. I think it was in 1979, again in Chicago, with Eva Marton, Placido Domingo, Renato Bruson – his debut in Chicago -, Mignon Dunn and Bruno Bartoletti. I was the cover of Incredibile.

The cover of Incredibile!

I was a Mr Nobody (laughs). I was not even as good as to sing the Incredibile (laughs). During the season we had a daily hour at the piano with a coach. Actually, I used to work with Walter Baracchi, a Scala coach who came to Chicago. He did not speak any English and we hardly spoke Italian. Communication was really difficult. But he was determined that I sang bel canto. He had that hunch, ten years before I introduced myself in this repertoire. I remember that he made me sing "Prendi, l'anel" of La Sonnambula. I was unable to raise that high. And surprisingly, he asked me to sing "Come un bel dì di maggio". I liked that aria very much. Those days, Placido was singing it in Chicago in an incredible way. I remember another thing about that production: it was classic, set in the original historical period, with wigs, white makeup, etc. By that time, many of us wore beard: Domingo came to rehearsals with a beard and of course, Renato Bruson also wore his beard, so genuine and personal. The artistic direction asked everybody to shave according to script demands, let say. But of course, Renato said no, no way. Some of us in the choir had not shaved either for the first rehearsal as Renato had not done it. The intendant then was Carol Fox, an influential and decisive woman. She became the Lyric Opera of Chicago in a sort of "La Scala West" as it was then called. She had tremendous authority. When you saw her coming down the hall, you felt the urge to stand like in the armyShe became famous for firing people without any consideration and readmit them the following day (laughs). She was present at that rehearsal I mentioned before, in which Renato refused to shave. And during a pause, several of us were in the hallway, also with a beard. Carol Fox came to us and said: "Kunde, shave tomorrow or you're fired!". What impressed me the most was that she knew my name (laughs). Everybody shaved, except Bruson, of course. He was an impressive Gerard, tremendous, with a very particular voice.

I was going through those reviews you got in the nineties. And they were harsh, cruel even in some cases.

Yes, you’re right (laughs). My first review in Chicago, when I entered the lyrical centre for young soloists, was at a concert in which I sang the duet of Pedrillo and Osmin in El rapto del Serrallo.  My voice was tiny, we sang in English, the bass was from Italy and his accent was terrible. Imagine the scene, terrible (laughs). The critic wrote that the duet was "a good joke badly told". That was my first review but I'm still singing today (laughs). Back then, I complained a lot about how briefly I was mentioned in some reviews, at the most, they said something like "Kunde was good", although in truth, it was reasonable if I played secondary parts or comprimario roles.I, naively, dreamed of getting, one day, several lines, even a paragraph. I once sang the Uldino of Attila, with none others than Nicolai Ghiaurov, Gilda Cruz-Romo and Silvano Carolli. I repeat: I sang Uldino and not the first tenor role, the Foresto, who was Veriano Luchetti. The New York Times critic mentioned me with very good references. I was surprised and grateful, of course. After this, in 1989 or 1990 I sang Roméo et Juliette in Minnesota, in English. But one should be careful with his dreams (laughs). That time, I got not only one but two paragraphs talking about how horrible my Roméo had been (laughs), about how tiny my voice was for that repertoire compared to the great tenors of the fifties or sixties. But do you know the worst of it?  After that review, I had to sing five or six other functions, with that in mind, inevitably. And not only you have read that review: also the public and your colleagues, the ones you meet down the corridors, have read that about you. It's hard, I can’t deny it. My conclusion, at this point, is that it is much better not to read the reviews, certainly not to do so before the end of a series of functions, and if possible, to trust someone in your inner circle to read them for you. The secret of the reviews is just one: if you believe in your good reviews then you must also believe in those bad. In short: do not read them (laughs).

Going back to those harsh reviews, I wonder if they were right or not. I mean, did you do it so badly then?

No not really. In the end, who knows best how it was is oneself. I'll tell you one thing: I remember a few functions in my career where I did really badly, for a number of reasons. But we must be very clear about different tastes, disputable issues in singing, and judgments about the true vocal work of a singer. It’s not that easy to find someone singing badly on stage. Another thing is his adaptation to style, technical ability ... but the vast majority of my fellow singers cover, by far, a minimum. For example: Placido Domingo singing baritone roles. There is nothing "wrong" with that, actually there is nothing to argue about, but of course you may like or not the final result. In my opinion, his Macbeth in Valencia was fantastic. I performed Macbeth with Cappuccilli and therefore, I can compare first-hand. If someone told me that Domingo was terrible, I would not understand. Domingo is Domingo.  I mean, Domingo would not be able to go on stage and sound terrible, it's impossible. If he knew that it going to sound terrible, he would not do it. You asked me about the right or wrong of the reviews I got in those years. Ultimately, that's the key. There are some critics who had turned his job into something too personal. I remember the case of Tara Erraught, who received a horrible review when she was singing Octavian, only in terms of her physical appearance. I beg your pardon? What reputation does a critic have that refers to the physique of a singer? Since when does that matter? Why was he allowed to write such an l outrageous thing? This is opera, it’s music, not movies. In opera, authenticity comes from the voice, not in the image; it is about touching people through sounds, not about physically resembling, more or less, the characters we play. I must say one last thing about the reviews: some are very respectful, very sensible, educated even when they disagree about something, some even can help you to put the focus on something worth checking; but they are the least of all. Something basic has changed since my early days in my job up until today. When I was in Chicago hardly two newspapers published reviews on our functions, along with a foreign newspaper, occasionally. Today, with so many blogs, the situation has rocket and it is difficult to distinguish publications worth reading that those with not credit at all. In fact, many are not reviews but bar comments without the slightest reflection. And the biggest problem is not that they are out there, that they exist, but the fact that many people who make important decisions in this world read them and sometimes, take it more seriously than they should. In our days it was unthinkable that the audio of a function was available the following morning for download on a website from anywhere in the world. That adds an unprecedented pressure on our work. I'll tell you an anecdote: in 2011, I was performing Semiramide at the San Carlo in Naples. And suddenly, in the middle of my first aria, I lost my voice completely. My cover there was a good colleague, Barry Banks. I lost my voice in the middle of the function, Barry went out and I stood there acting, while he sang. Fortunately, apparently no one was there with a camera, otherwise the situation would have become viral as one of those "perle nere" circulating on Youtube.

I remember that once you told me that in those years of your career, at the end of the function, you always wondered if people had been able to hear you, if your voice had come up with enough volume. What do you ask now to your people when you finish a function?

I still wonder the same thing (laughs). Seriously, it's something that will always accompany me. That was always the criticism I took with me:  No one could hear me. Joking aside, an artist always wants to know if he did ok or not according to someone he’ll trust. You know by yourself that not every day you are in top form, for a thousand of different reasons.

Turning the situation around, I imagine that today, more than ever, you enjoy your work.

Of course, my situation today is incredible, a continuous pleasure, no matter how great the effort is. I do not remember who said it, but there is a motto I always carry with me in this business: "In bocca al lupo and have fun". That is essential. Singing is a job and at the same time, a privilege. That’s why we should always feel some kind of passion when we're workingon stage. It is a gift to do this and also getting paid (laughs). To young singers I work with, I always say: enjoy, singing has to be a pleasure.

You mentioned earlier the time people should wait for a voice to develop naturally. But I think that not all voices develop, some of them change very little over time.

It's complicated. All voices change as does our body, and likewise, there are people who, so to speak, grow older better or worse. Some people feel better at fifty than at thirty, if only for their vital moment, etc. With the voice something similar happens: it depends on so many factors, not just the mere physical development, which makes it open to virtually take any direction with the course of time. And sure It also depends on how you work with it, how much you know it, what your goals are, etc. But yes, it is true that some voices might grow but fail at incorporating other repertoires. This is the case of Luigi Alva, for example, a tenor who sounded with more body and more volume when he grew older, but he never could have sung Otello. At the end, there is no logical explanation that everyone can share. And I am aware that my case is quite unique. My last fifteen or twenty years of career do not fit into the logic of most professional paths. In fact, when a singer is approaching his fifty, starts thinking, not about retreating, but somehow to relocate to a more comfortable repertoire, and even some people would stop singing at that age because the voice doesn’t respond in the same way and have not had the opportunity to work with it in another direction. In my case, it’s pretty strange that twenty years ago I was singing Orfeo by Monteverdi, lightweight papers by Mozart or Almaviva by Rossini considering what I’m singing now. But I don’t forget that in those years, and in my early days, it was normal for me to sing a production of Cenerentola and then a Butterfly. There was not as much specialization in a repertoire as now. And after singing an opera by Rossini, I never had the feeling of having to take a rest for my voice to get used to Puccini. I just wanted to work (laughs). Then as well as now, I am using the same instrument, my vocal cords. I think of them as any other instrumentalist would do either: an oboe soloist can interpret Mozart today and tomorrow Tchaikovsky without thinking much about changing to a repertoire or another, bearing in mind, of course, that each one has different requirements in technique and style. So for me, it was not that strange to sing in one season in a row, the Otello by Rossini and Otello by Verdi: between both performances in La Scala and in Peralada there was just a week apart. They are those kind of situations where you do not have time to think about what you're doing, you just do it. Probably because if you thought about it, you would not (laughs).

When a voice is facing a change, an evolution, is the mind that accompanies the vocal cords or vocal cords indicate the way to the interpreter’s mind?

Listen, I know Juan Diego Florez since his debut in Pesaro in 1996. Back then, I would not say that he had a small voice, but one of rather small dimensions. He always had a very good projection which sort of compensate the nature of his instrument. It's been twenty years, and the voice is now much bigger than then, but it is the same, with the same colour, singing the same repertoire, with some new features, but nevertheless, the same voice, singing in the same way. From the outside, I don’t think we are fully aware of how complex this is, because a soloist gets used to hear his voice in a certain way and when changes startle you, you are bewildered. When, suddenly, you notice that you're playing bigger, farther and easier, you worry, you do not understand and you need your time to listen to yourself and sense what's going on. If you do not turn that change into something conscious and controlled, if you don’t sense what's going on, it can be wasted. Your muscles are developed and the voice is ready, then, just a change of mentality by the interpreter is needed. It is just a matter of self-confidence and the ability to manage those changes and guide them in a positive sense. Some people should adjust their technique, even change it, in order to deal with those changes. In my case, I’ve kept exactly the same technique I had in the beginning, it allows to sing without feeling that I’m wearing myself out, it also allows me to consider from the belcanto all I sing, understanding the voice as a flow which has to be handled from a tiny voice to a owerful sound that expands. Ultimately, singing is about contrasts. That’s why the technique must ensure, above all, the flexibility of the voice emission, the interpreter should be able to show his voice in different ways from a same positioning. It is the first act of Otello: from "Essultate" to "Venere splende Vien ..." (singing that last sentence in a low voice). It's the same with Trovatore: after "Di quella pira", there is is a lyrical duet with Azucena.

I remember when we talked about your first steps into Verdi from the belcanto, it was argued that Verdi’s work is indeed pure belcanto in its roots, in continuity with Bellini and, especially, Donizetti. But now that your schedule is full of Puccini works and verismo. What does it remain of belcanto in those scores? Do we have a wrong concept of belcanto? Or a misconception of verismo?

For me, the key is, again, in the technique: use your voice, the one you know, whatever you’re singing. In the end,  belcanto is a technique in itself. Although I sang Wagner or Strauss, I would do it with this voice and with this technique. In verismo, of course, orchestration is richer: more instrumentation, heavier, more volume, and the orchestra constantly doubles the vocal line, which only very occasionally happens in Bellini or Donizetti, using, in these case, a single instrument  to double the solo. But in Leoncavallo and Puccini, the whole orchestra often doubles the singer. This is the main challenge. And then, there is the printed dramatic charge in the voice, the phrasing is another sentimentality, another set of colours. From this repertoire, I still dream of singing Cavaradossi in Tosca, before it is too late and I have to appear in a wheelchair when Tosca says "Mario, Mario, Mario!" (Laughs). Again, joking aside, there is another very important difference between belcanto and verismo: despite what may seem, there is great freedom when you're singing belcanto, there are endless options and possibilities of expression open for the soloist, precisely because of the absence of that line constantly doubling the soloist. In verismo, there is a steady sound flow that you have to always be in tune; otherwise it can drag you with it and you lose control of the situation.

You know, I'm very proud to have waited for so long to sing this repertoire. Any other tenor dreams of singing these roles since he starts studying. And at this stage of my life and my career, I’m confident and mature enough to meet this challenge without fear. I have no need to be constantly taking precautions with a passage here, another there. I feel confident with what I do; I am singing and I just enjoy every day as if it were a gift.

Aren’t you afraid at the slightest, then, when you face a new debut?

No, if I was afraid I would not do it (serious). That’s why I would not be afraid to approach Wagner; of course I could sing it right now. But then, yes I do wonder what would happen with the rest of my repertoire. Ultimately, it’s not been that long that I sing my current repertoire; we’re talking about five years approximately. I’d like to spend four or five years with this repertoire and then, if I'm still alive and able to sing (laughs), we will discuss Wagner. There are many things I want to sing before, not only debuts, but parts which belong to my present repertoire. I could already consider Lohengrin, Parsifal or Siegmund, but I’m not sure that is a return way and now, I like my current situation, I can retrace my steps at any time.

Some people think that this dream you are living now might end suddenly, at any time.

Absolutely. It is correct and I am aware of it. But I've been there before. My experience with cancer was exactly like that. When the doctors come and give you the news, everything collapses suddenly, all stops overnight. I am very much aware of my age, everything I’ve been through, my luck, the gift that is life for me and therefore, I do not think about anything else than living it, squeezing the most out of it, without getting crazy but without thinking too much about the consequences. As I said before, professionally speaking, I have nothing to lose.

I have got always the feeling that never get tired. Not just in a physical sense, I might imagine that some seasons are really tiring; I’m thinking about your voice that barely shows any signs of fatigue.

No, I do not get tired when singing. It is strange, but it is true. I’d like to believe that I follow the example of great ones like Placido Domingo or Leo Nucci. At our age, our greatest strength is knowing ourselves, knowing our routines, how our body and voice respond, our mood even. And the clue is not thinking too much about what you do; just do it with great care and the utmost confidence in your abilities. Placido always says, "If I rest, I rust". I lead a healthy lifestyle, do not do crazy things, my schedule is demanding, yes, but I love what I do and I know my limits. Right now, I can sing every day, something I could barely imagine when I was young singer. When the Royal Theatre called me to sing Luisa Miller in concert, in the middle of two functions of Idomeneo in Valencia, I was prepared for that, but finally I couldn’t do it because we could not jeopardize those functions in Les Arts if something happened. The day after a function, if I had to sing again, I feel I would be able to do it. In fact, I think it is something that professionals should be able to do, especially when we got to a certain point of maturity in our career. Actually, I think I need to sing almost every day to remain fit.

And is that as simple as knowing oneself?

That’s right. It sounds simple, but behind that there are long hours looking at oneself in the mirror, so to speak, and above all, you have to believe in yourself, in what you do. Knowing your limits is what allows you to save your strength in a function, calculate when you can splurge a little more of your resources, etc. This is essential for younger singer, who least know themselves yet.

And where are your limits?

(Thoughtfully) You know, today, I think I have no more limit that the one that my passion for what I do, dictates. If there's something I want to do and the right circumstances are given, I will do it. What’s more: if it does not work, if it goes wrong, if I'm wrong, nothing will happen. My career is there and I think I have the right to be wrong and even take a step back. I do have set a limit when it comes to debut new roles: I will not play parts that will not take up later on. I mean, I'm not interested in debuting a role in a production and save it forever in a drawer because it is a rare title that will not be scheduled again. It takes a long time to study a new part and to get to know a new production to put it in a drawer after half a dozen functions. On my horizon there are Andrea Chénier in Rome and Bilbao, Peter Grimes in a dramatized version after a concert in Rome with Pappano-, Turandot in Israel with Zubin Mehta, etc. And Wagner ... maybe, who knows, it is certainly not an obsession right now; should the case arise, it would be just to please myself, a personal challenge more than anything else.

There will come a day when everything will be over. Have you thought about it?

It's funny. I do not think about it now, but it's something I had in my mind several years ago when all of this had not still happened in my career. There was a time when it was not clear where my career was going, a turning point where the questions vastly outnumbered the answers, around 2003 and 2006 or 2007. I was working then, yes, but I wasn’t too excited. In fact, I was looking for a place to start teaching, something that was not possible; I was not known enough and also, nowadays it is not easy for a solo to fit in the structure of musical education. I would also like to spend some time, in the near future, working as musical director. Not searching a career as such but involved in projects with young people, etc. I had a great time working in Valencia with the orchestra of Les Arts. If I didn’t accept more contracts than those I have today, until 2020, I would be active at sixty eight. Many people retire at 65 years. Getting into formal teaching then, it doesn’t seem very likely. So I think about retiring as something progressive, whenever it comes: engaged in projects with young people, trying to convey my own experience and somehow involved in artistic direction in some theatre.

* Traducción: Ester Carrasco



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