The Mexican-born French tenor, Emilio Rolando Villazón Mauleón, was raised in Fuentes de Satellite, a suburban area of Greater Mexico City, Mexico. In an interview for mexican television, Villazón told the story of how he was discovered as a tenor. He said that one day, as he was getting out of the shower in his appartment in Mexico City, somebody came knocking on his door; it was baritone Arturo Nieto, a friend of his neighbour, who had heard him singing while in the shower. He told Rolando he had an amazing voice and invited him to his music academy to develope his voice, there Rolando fell in love with opera. Rolando began his musical studies at the National Conservatory of Music before entering young artist programmes in Pittsburgh and at San Francisco Opera.
It was as the winner of several prizes at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Competition in 1999 (including the audience award and the Zarzuela prize) that Rolando Villazón first burst on the international music scene. He made his European debut that same year as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon in Genoa, Italy, swiftly followed by further debuts at what would become two of his future artistic homes: the Opéra de Paris as Alfredo in La Traviata; and the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin as Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth.
Rolando Villazón went on to become one of the most sought-after performers of his generation, as highlighted by a string of highly successful debuts with Europe’s leading opera houses such as the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich as Rodolfo in La Bohème (2000) and the Vienna Staatsoper as Charles Gounod’s Roméo. The tenor has since frequently returned to Vienna for performances as Massenet’s Werther, Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore, Des Grieux, the title role in Les contes d’Hoffmann and the Duke in Rigoletto. Munich audiences have seen Rolando Villazón perform the title role in C. Gounod’s Faust, Alfredo, and Roméo with the Bayerische Staatsoper in addition to concert performances of La Bohème at the Gasteig which were recorded by Deutsche Grammophon and released on CD in 2008. Rolando Villazón made his Salzburg Festival debut in 2005 with triumphant performances as Alfredo in a new production of La Traviata alongside Anna Netrebko and Thomas Hampson. Deutsche Grammophon released both CD and DVD recordings of the production in 2005. In 2005 he also bowed at St. Petersburg as Alfredo. In 2008, he returned to Salzburg for a new production of Roméo et Juliette which was broadcast live on television and recorded by Deutsche Grammophon for DVD release in 2009. Further acclaimed European festival appearances include Bregenz, Glyndebourne (2003 as Rodolpho) and Orange.
Through his uniquely compelling performances with leading opera houses and orchestras around the world, Rolando Villazón has firmly established himself as one of the music world’s most critically acclaimed and beloved stars and as one of the leading tenors of our day. The Times wrote of a recent performance in London “he’s simply Villazón: back again with his trademark exuberance, ringing tenor, and frightening ability to act a part.” His portrayal of Massenet’s Des Grieux prompted one critic to write: “The moment he, one of the tenors of the century, appears on stage, his expressivity captures [the audience] completely. He explores the character’s inner life like no other.”
Since his debut, Rolando Villazón frequently appears with the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, often collaborating with Daniel Barenboim to great popular and critical acclaim. Highlights include his role debut as Don José in a new production of Carmen, as well as new productions of La Traviata and Manon. He is equally present at the Opéra de Paris where audiences have seen him in performances of Faust, La Traviata, and Les contes d’Hoffmann. The latter was also the vehicle for his triumphant debut at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden where he has since returned for performances of Lenski, the Duke and the title role in a new production of Don Carlo led by Antonio Pappano. Rolando Villazón has furthermore appeared with the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels as Rodolfo and made his role debut as Verdi’s Don Carlo in a new production with Amsterdam Opera conducted by Riccardo Chailly. He made his debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona as Nemorino and returned for a new production of Manon alongside Natalie Dessay. Both Manon and Don Carlo have also been released on DVD.
Since his 2004 acclaimed debut with the Metropolitan Opera New York as Alfredo in La Traviata, Rolando Villazón has returned to star in performances as Verdi’s Duke, Rodolfo and in a sold-out Metropolitan Opera Pension Fund Gala Performance in April 2007. A favourite with Los Angeles Opera since his debut in La Traviata, the tenor has since appeared in productions of Gianni Schicci (2002, as Rinuccio), Roméo et Juliette and Manon.
An acclaimed and popular concert artist and recitalist, Rolando Villazón has appeared with leading orchestras and conductors on concert stages all over the world, including appearances at London’s Barbican Hall, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Berlin and Cologne Philharmonie, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Gewandhaus Leipzig as well as sold-out concerts in amongst others New York, Miami, Vancouver, Tokyo, Toulouse, Monte Carlo, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Prague, Zürich, Rome, Athens, Istanbul, Madrid, and Copenhagen. In 2007, he gave his German recital debut performing Schumann’s Dichterliebe accompanied by Daniel Barenboim, a success repeated the following year also at Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin. His outdoor concerts with Plácido Domingo and Anna Netrebko at Berlin’s Waldbühne on the eve of the 2006 World Cup Final and at Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace in advance of the 2008 Euro Championship Final were both televised live and watched by millions of people around the world.
Rolando Villazón began the 2008-2009 operatic season with performances as Lenski in a new production of Eugen Onegin at the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, before returning to London’s Royal Opera House to revive his acclaimed portrayal of Offenbach’s Hoffmann in performances led by Antonio Pappano. Audiences at the Metropolitan Opera New York can hear him twice this season, as Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and as Nemorino. Further highlights include performances of Rodolfo and Werther in Vienna; the latter role will also be the vehicle of his much anticipated return to Opéra de Paris where he stars in a new production. He concludes the operatic season with concert performances of Werther in Baden-Baden which will be recorded for CD by Deutsche Grammophon and are slated for release in 2010. The tenor frequently appears in concert this season, including a European tour with a programme of George Frideric Handel arias together with the Gabrieli Players led by Paul McCreesh, performances of Verdi’s Requiem with the Academy of Santa Cecilia (conducted by Antonio Pappano and to be released on CD by EMI/Virgin) as well as gala concerts in Berlin, Athens, and Paris.
Rolando Villazón’s vast discography includes a recital of Italian arias, a recital of arias by Charles Gounod and Massenet, as well as an “Opera Recital”, all for EMI/Virgin Classics. The same label has also released recordings of Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi and I Lamenti conducted by Emmanuelle Haïm as well as a Zarzuela CD entitled “Gitano” led by Plácido Domingo. All recordings have won unanimous critical praise. DVD releases for EMI/Virgin Classics also include the Vienna State Opera production of L’elisir d’amore, and for Decca the Los Angeles Opera production of La Traviata opposite Renée Fleming.
In 2007, Rolando Villazón became an exclusive recording artist with Deutsche Grammophon. His releases on the yellow label include a CD of operatic duets with soprano Anna Netrebko as well as both CD and DVD recordings of La Traviata, recorded live at the Salzburg Festival. In 2006, the album garnered a Grammy nomination and both La Traviata and “Duets” were awarded Klassik Echo Awards as Germany’s best selling albums in 2006 and 2008 respectively. The tenor received a further Klassik Echo Award in 2007 for the DVD of the 2006 Waldbühne concert. 2008 saw his highly acclaimed first solo release with Deutsche Grammophon, an album of rare Italian arias entitle “Cielo e mar”. In 2009, he will release an album of G.F. Handel arias for tenor in collaboration with renowned specialists Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Players. To date, all of his albums have been best-sellers, earning gold and platinum status in Germany and Austria. His recording “Duets” claimed the top spot on the Billboard classical chart shortly after its release in the USA, and in Europe set a record for the best debut ever for a classical album, climbing to the top of the pop charts in several countries.
A recipient of many prestigious awards, Rolando Villazón has been named a Chévalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of the highest awards in the fields of arts and literature in France, his permanent base. He has been profiled in numerous international newspapers and magazines and featured on television shows such Germany’s Wetten, dass..? and Musical Showstar; documentaries on him have been televised in Austria, Germany, and France. In the fall of 2008, he stars in a feature film release of Puccini’s La bohème, directed by Oscar- and Emmy-nominated director Robert