Rolando Villazón works now as a writer, an artistic director, and director, with singing talking a secondary role.
“My enemy was anxiety, fragility, and a lack of confidence. It’s not a question of having lost the high notes because those are there, but not always. Out of ten maybe seven come out well. There are moments when, suddenly, your voice betrays you. It’s like when you walk: if a leg suddenly doesn’t respond, it starts to be a problem. It was impossible to continue with the kind of career I had, and I had to change vocal technique.”
In 2021, after an eight-year period away, he returned to the Met Opera in an English version of The Magic Flute as Papageno, “Though as a tenor!” He is quick to point out that Mozart wrote the part for Emanuel Schikaneder, the opera’s librettist, who was a well-known actor and impresario but not an opera singer. He has also voiced the role for the upcoming Hollywood film, directed by Florian Sigl, a reinvented story that comes 16 years after Kenneth Branagh’s version and 44 years after that by Ingmar Bergman.
Although he is making his Salzburg Festival debut as a director with Il barbiere di Siviglia, which opens tonight, 4 August (though it was first performed at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival in June), it is his 14th opera production. His first was in 2010, two years after surgery on his vocal cords. “Then in 2018 I had to have another operation.”
Villazón is now 50. “I am no longer stressed, I have ambitions, various artistic projects to do well, and my calendar is full of interesting ventures. As well as recitals, I will continue to sing two opera productions a year, also singing as a baritone, though I will never be a Boccanegra or Figaro. In 2023, I will be singing in Das Rheingold with Barenboim.
“I have no yearning to ‘be someone’, and it has been a liberation to leave all that. I am living the most beautiful moment of my life.”
Gianluca Capuano conducts Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Salzburg Festival tonight, 4 August, and Monday 8 August with a cast including Edgardo Rocha as Il Conte d’Almaviva, Alessandro Corbelli as Bartolo, Cecilia Bartoli as Rosina, Nicola Alaimo as Figaro, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Basilio, and Rebeca Olvera as Berta.
Rolando Villazón was speaking to Il Corriere della sera’s Valerio Cappelli.