Six months ago, few opera fans would have bet a tenner on this tenor doing this show. Rolando Villazón’s career was halted two years ago by a throat operation. Since then an atrocious tour of Handel and TV gigs on From Popstar to Operastar have done little to suggest that the personable Mexican is capable of tackling Werther – says The Times.
Well, the cheers at the curtain-call spoke volumes for his recovery, courage and the affection he inspires. Let’s not get carried away. He is never going to deliver Massenet’s arching lines with the silvery assurance of Carreras. His top lacks power and there are many rough corners. And I’m not sure why, in a show steeped in prim Victoriana, he comes on wearing sunglasses.
Yet there is something very touching about Villazón’s instinctive approach to Goethe’s pathologically melancholic hero, because although he is ostensibly wooing Sophie Koch’s frigid Charlotte, his real appeal for love is clearly directed at us, his audience. Time and again he simply advances down the stage and hurls his heart-on-sleeve emotions and hyperactive hands straight at us, as if this were an arena concert of Neapolitan showstoppers.