Category Archives: Heartstoppers

chattin’ up David Lomelí: 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 Lomelí 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 Lomelí was la estrella de Nueva York. As The New York Observer said in their feature “Who Matters Now,” David Lomelí 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 Lomelí 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 Lomelí 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 Lomelí 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-to-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

celebrating The American Tenors on the Fourth of July

Of course, America boasts lots of talented tenors who could (and should) be celebrated today, the day when the United States of America was born with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in 1776.

But have you heard of  the performing group The American Tenors: the trio of  Marcus McConico, Nathan Granner, and Ben Gulley? Now, that’s American! A patriotic musical package of sorts, perfect for featuring on a Fourth of July Operatoonity post.

From l to r: Nathan Granner, Ben Gulley, Marcus McConico

The American Tenors were the brainchild of Frank McNamara (the creative force behind the success of The Irish Tenors), and were launched following a nationwide search early in 2002 by McNamara. The American Tenors began their journey with a PBS special recorded at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, following a signing by Sony Classical.

The American Tenors have delighted audiences across the U.S. and Europe with their combination of great voices, humor and choice of material from “Nessun Dorma” to “West Side Story,”  from the Great American Songbook to Neopolitan favorites.

“We are set to hit 24 dates this coming season,” Nathan Granner, the only original member of the group (and the most enterprising tenor I know), said of their 2011-12 contracts. “We have usually had two or three gigs a year, but this year is  more robust.”

I’ll say!

Ben Gulley is the newest member of the group and was “plucked from close to home,” per Granner. “He’s young, versatile, charming and an amazing voice! His career is skyrocketing. Also we have Marcus McConico, who has been with us for five years.”

Tenor Daniel Montenegro  sang  with The American Tenors for five years. “We miss him deeply. But he’s doing well. His career in opera is flourishing,” explained Granner, with Montenegro being a new Adler Fellow with San Francisco Opera.

Interestingly, Granner reports that the group has had six tenors participating to date.

Here is a YouTube clip celebrating The American Tenors, past and present, singing “Shenandoah,” one of my all-time favorite American folk songs from their Great American Songbook. (To hear Granner, Gulley, and McConico singing together, listen to this clip from their website):

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Happy Birthday, USA, my home sweet home.

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Filed under Heartstoppers, Holidays, opera trends, Video

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

bass-bari Raimondi defines ‘Escamillo’

Ruggero Raimondi as Escamillo

Within the annals of opera performance, certain singers transcend the roles they play, ultimately defining them.  One such transcendent performer illuminating an operatic role is bass-baritone Ruggero Raimondi in the role of Escamillo, the toreador, in Carmen

Don Giovanni, Simon Boccanegra, Boris Godunov, Iago, Don Quichotte — you name it. There’s virtually no great bass-bari role Raimondi hasn’t sung. But just like we favor movie actors in certain roles (will anyone else ever play the Rain Man as convincingly Dustin Hoffman?), Raimondi is the essence of the matador Escamillo, like he was born to sing the part. Like the part was written for him. 

Watch this clip from the 1984 movie version and see if you don’t agree that Raimondi is The Matador. 

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Filed under Classic Opera, Heartstoppers, Performers, Video

opera and humanity . . . perfect together

Benefit concert for St. Luke's Children's Hospital/photo by Michael Chadwick

It’s beautiful and noble. Classy, classical, and charitable. It’s Opera for Humanity (OFH), and it has been aiding children and charities through benefit recitals since 2006. That’s when founder Amy Shoremount-Obra, a classical singer who trained at the Julliard School and the Manhattan School of Music, began combining her musical gifts with a desire to serve for children in need. 

Coloratura soprano and OFH founder Amy Shoremount-Obra/photo by Allan Reider

The New York-based Opera for Humanity is a vehicle for both social change and artistic development. OFH realizes their mission by helping children worldwide overcome poverty and disease through benefit performances of world-class opera by exceptionally promising young stars. Opera for Humanity is also committed to reaching many through outreach performances in communities where opera and classical music are not widely accessible. 

According to their website, in addition to its philanthropic activities, OFH is dedicated to providing opportunities for gifted young artists, helping to promote up and coming talent. Participating artists have the opportunity to help children in need and to give back to the community while collaborating with equally talented colleagues in prestigious venues. 

“We have already been fortunate enough to help many organizations,” Ms. Shoremount-Obra explained. Ronald McDonald House of New York City, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Bryan’s Dream Foundation are just some of programs they’ve supported. 

OFH's Lucia di Lammermoor/photo by Allan Reider Studio

OFH received official non-profit status in 2008. Proceeds from their inaugural performance of Donizetti’s Elixir of Love  established a fund for the company itself. Its recent performance of Lucia di Lammermoor raised $5,000 for the New York City Food Bank as well as children in Cambodia and Malawi through World Vision

Opera for Humanity has slated an entire series of recitals and a Holiday Benefit, beginning with Mim Paquin (Soprano) and Donna Gill (Piano) on November 5th, at 7:30pm at 345 E. 56th St, Kala Maxym (Soprano) and Maria Garcia (Piano) on November 19th at 7:30pm in the “Madame Butterfly” Room at 853 7th Ave. (For a special post about Kala Maxym’s upcoming recital, click here.)   

“Our Holiday Benefit will be at Bechstein Hall on December 17th,” Ms. Shoremount-Obra said.  “We are excited to announce that New York City Opera Director Beth Greenberg will direct!” 

OFH has two more recitals coming up in January, including one featuring Ms. Shoremount-Obra on January 21, to benefit the Scott Family.   

OFH participating in Make Music New York 2010

Amy is quick to credit the OFH team, which also includes Suzanne Halasz (the daughter of Maestro Laszlo Halasz, who founded New York City Opera, and also New York City Center), Director of Development; Linda Platzer, Director of Public Relations, and Julia Mintzer, Director of Production; for their tireless work in helping children in need while providing fantastic performing opportunities for young, talented artists. 

For more information on any OFH event or to be added to their mailing list, email info@operaforhumanity.org

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Benefit, Classic Opera, Concert Opera, Heartstoppers, Recitals