In an article in Sunday’s Washington Post, I ask why it is that tenors in particular seem to have such trouble establishing careers lasting longer than a few years. Rolando Villazon is the poster child for a tenor who quickly grabbed the limelight and as quickly fell, and is now working on a comeback, but there have been many: Roberto Alagna, Salvatore Licitra, Marcelo Alvarez, Jose Cura, and Giuseppe Filianoti, who will present Werther, one of his signature roles, this weekend with the Washington Concert Opera. (Filianoti, incidentally, was scheduled to sing in WNO’s “Lucrezia Borgia” in 2008, but got out of the contract when he was invited to sing at La Scala’s opening night — though he didn’t end up singing there either, since he was unceremoniously uninvited after the dress rehearsal.)
Tenors themselves are very aware of the trend. But what they want, it seems, is to save themselves for long careers, rather than take the kinds of emotional and artistic risks that can make thrilling performances, but might, as they see it, harm their voices.
What do you think? Is it harder for tenors these days (when Jonas Kaufman is the one tenor making his way successfully in the spinto category, but doesn’t seem ideally suited for it, and the other big spinto tenors — Marcello Giordani, Licitra, Alvarez, Alagna — are merely OK? Or do we have a rosy vision of things being better in the past — since after all, Pavarotti and Domingo came in for plenty of criticism all through their primes from critics who found they were singing the wrong things?
Above: Rolando Villazon and Antonio Pappano discuss “Werther;” Villazon’s last performance of the current Covent Garden run, which has been cautiously praised as a possible comeback, takes place Saturday night. On Sunday afternoon, Giuseppe Filianoti, another tenor who’s been through some very visible ups and downs, will take on the same role at the Washington Concert Opera.