Backstage at the GRAMMY Salute to Classical Music: Opera Stars, Current and Future!

Last night before the GRAMMY Salute to Classical Music® began, I had the chance to speak with four opera singers at varying stages of their careers, who were there to perform as a tribute to the evening’s honoree, Plácido Domingo. I asked them about the roles they have loved playing or aspire to play, what it’s like to be mentored by the Maestro, and what we need to do to nurture new audiences for opera.

Here’s a fabulous photo of them; now click Mr. Readmore to meet them!

Sean Michael Plumb is still just a senior in high school, but already has a mighty rich baritone sound. He says his dream role is Don Giovanni; playing a bad guy sounds like fun! And he is itching to sing many pieces his teacher says his voice isn’t yet ready for, like the Toreador Song (“Votre Toast, Je Peux Vous le Rendre,” from Carmen. Last night, he sang “Bella Siccome Un Angelo” from Don Pasquale, and I think he demonstrated that he will be ready to tackle whatever he aspires to do, in good time!

In October, Sean appeared on NPR’s From the Top, and you can listen to the episode on the show’s site. Here’s a photo of Sean at the taping.

Oh, and he confirmed that yes, his friends have been known to give him a hard time about being so into opera, but when they hear performances, they are definitely impressed!

Baritone José Adán Pérez studied engineering as an undergraduate, but is now building a career in music, with numerous opera roles, recitals and prizes under his belt, though his dream role, he says, is Rigoletto. He is currently in residence in the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program with the LA Opera.

Last night, José sang a Zarzuela aria, “Amor, Vida de Mi Vida,” by Federico Moreno Torroba. Oh, my — I nearly had to repair to my fainting couch! José’s sound was expansive, and his performance was brimming with warmth and passion. This song is the epitome of romance! It’s the kind that you immediately want to hum along with, even before you’ve heard it all the way through!

At the very beginning of this video, you can hear Maestro Domingo singing the refrain from this aria that could melt even the coldest heart! 🙂

In 2006, tenor David Lomeli won first prize in the Operalia competition founded by Maestro Domingo. In fact, he won in both the opera and zarzuela divisions — a first for the competition.

He sang “Che Gelida Manina” from La Bohème last night. Now, I’m usually not one to dissect a performance and point out any little errant detail, but I have to tell you that David’s singing was so beautiful, it caused conductor Grant Gershon to drop his baton! 😉 Follow this link for a video of David singing this aria on another occasion.

I asked David if it is at all intimidating to sing roles that Maestro Domingo has sung in the past. He replied that he can’t allow himself to worry about that too much, because Domingo has sung nearly all of them! His dream role, though, is Manrico in Il Trovatore.

Ana Maria Martinez has a well-established career (and a Grammy Award® to her credit!). Her dream role, she says, is Butterfly, which she knows will be a very intense experience. Her favorite role so far is Rusalka, and last night she sang the character’s signature aria, “Song to the Moon.”

While introducing Ana Maria, master of ceremonies and KUSC classical radio host Rich Capparela quoted from a London Times review of Martinez as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni:

…one of the most vocally lustrous and temperamental performers of this role here since Kiri Te Kanawa’s early days. Martinez is a beautiful woman with a fascinating voice, full of velvety mezzoish half-tints in the middle and bottom ranges, with a gleaming top. She must come back soon, and often.”

“Sounds like a wine,” Capparela quipped. 😀

My last question to these current and future opera stars was how they think the audience for opera can be nurtured and, heck, maybe even expanded? Both Ana Maria and José immediately said that it’s all about education and outreach to young people. “Music has been taken out of the schools,” said José, “And it needs to be put back.” Amen brother! 😀


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