Two Reviews of Rolando Villazón’s New York Recital Debut

*An Introduction in 5 Languages*
By ANNE MIDGETTE [New York Times]
The powers that be in the opera world are desperate to discover the next hot male phenomenon. On Monday, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur, Rolando Villazón, a recent contender for the tenor crown, gave his New York recital debut, in fact his first recital anywhere. Nothing like starting at the top.
Well, guess what? He’s the real thing.
Rolando Villazón
Mr. Villazón started with a light, clear sound, with a hint of strain as he approached the top notes in “Per la Gloria” and “Ombra Mai Fu.” Having thus oriented himself in the ungrateful acoustic of the vast, echoing room – which now and then dragged his intonation a little flat – he proceeded to sing his guts out in the first of Liszt’s “Three Sonnets of Petrarch,” establishing what were to remain the highlights of the evening: ringing sound in the service of meaningful musical expression.
Mr. Villazón seemed eager to show that he was not just another pretty voice in the Italian and Spanish-language repertory (although he included a set of Mexican songs and the obligatory Tosti). He did three Strauss songs (very well, resisting the temptation to oversing in “Zueignung”). He did a set of Fauré and Massenet (his French diction a bit weaker, but his French style just fine). He recited T. S. Eliot. He may want to drop that bit from future recitals, but it certainly set him apart from the dumb-tenor stereotype. Bryndon Hassman, his accompanist, offered gentle, supportive playing.
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*Rolando Villazón, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York*
By Martin Bernheimer [Financial Times]
Published: October 14 2004 03:00 | Last updated: October 14 2004 03:00
The Temple of Dendur, created in about 15BC and reconstructed in the Sackler Wing of the Met Museum, is a wondrous souvenir of antiquity. Problems arise, however, when the hall is used for concerts. Wide-open spaces and a sloping side-wall of glass threaten acoustical equilibrium. Tones projected from a makeshift platform soar straight up before splintering in distant echoes. The sight is great. The sound is not.
The ambience certainly cannot be comforting for an artist’s first song recital. Luckily, no one seems to have told Rolando Villazón.
On Monday night the 32-year-old tenor from Mexico came, sang, and somehow conquered the hostile environment as well as a partisan audience of 450. At first one found the diminution of decibels and resonance disconcerting. Soon inspired art triumphed over mundane adversity.
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