Talking with singers: Eleazar RodríguezInterview
Mexican tenor Eleazar Rodríguez makes his operatic bread and butter out of roles like Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), and Count Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia). He has been a member of the ensemble at the Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe, where he has been a member of the ensemble since the 2011⁄12 season, and this fall he returns to English National Opera to sing his signature Almaviva in Johnathan Miller’s production of [The Barber of Seville].
Rodríguez took the time out of his busy schedule onstage to talk with us about the life of a Fest singer, performing some of his dream roles, and what he learned early on from the Three Tenors.
Why do you sing, and why are you doing it professionally?
I’ve been singing since I was a little kid. My dad has a cassette recording of me, at 4 years old singing a pop song. It’s hilarious.
At home, my dad always had a varied collection of musical tapes and cd’s, going from rock & roll, to Mexican music, to classical music, amongst many other styles.
Then, when I was around 10, was given the best gift ever, and that was the CD of the Three Tenors concert in L.A. I became obsessed with this CD, I took it everywhere played it everywhere, memorized all the arias, I even printed the lyrics and traveled with the booklet. Later the VHS was given to me as a gift. My mom has a little notebook so where in the house where I made my own notes about the concert. I saw what Pavarotti did, how Domingo sang and Carreras as well and made notes about it.
To answer the second part of your question, it honestly began like a hobby. I started by imitation, like many singers do. In Mexico it is still a custom, at least in my hometown, that the eldest son, takes the profession of the father. In my case I was thinking of going into law, since my dad is a great lawyer, but that never happened. I’ve been working a lot on this career and little by little I’ve been going up the ladder.
What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?
Good singing for me is listening to people sing organically. It’s that feeling when you don’t have to worry about technique too much, you are focused on the text and the music. This takes a long time to achieve, but when you are able to do it, the feeling is amazing.
What should young North American singers know about Fest contracts before they pursue them overseas?
Singers in general need to be well-informed about contracts. Usually an agent will deal directly with the opera house offering a fest position. Contracts are very important and need a good read. Discuss with your agent the commission, the fach, the roles and the number of performances in the contract.
Also, you need to be aware of taxes. That is a very important thing, especially when you are working overseas.
Can you describe a day in the life of a Fest singer on the job?
You are assigned a number of roles to be performed in a season. These include premieres or revivals. Usually you have enough time to put a new role on your feet. And sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you have to learn staging in a very short period of time. Being Fest is fun and challenging.
For example, today I had two Sitzprobes for Elixir of Love, tomorrow I have my first stage orchestra run of the first act. At the same time I’m learning La Cenerentola for a guesting gig in Spain, and a new role for a world premiere directed by Keith Warner called Wahnfried, that will premiere in February.
What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?
Young singers need to create a strong foundation regarding their technique. Focus, learn and understand how to support. Learn languages, speak them and understand them. Young singers need to focus on singing the right repertoire with the appropriate guidance.
Do you have any “bucket list” roles you’d like to sing (realistically or otherwise)?
My dream role is Nemorino, and I’m happy to be performing it soon! Other roles include Edgardo, Romeo and Werther, hopefully I’ll get to sing them eventually. I’m not in a rush.
How do you explain your job to non-music folks?
I’ll tell you what I say when I’m in Mexico and I have to explain what an opera singer does. In Mexico we have telenovelas, a.k.a. soap operas. They are quite popular, I must add. So the way I usually explain it is that for a living, I sing in theatrical works that include drama, comedy and love, which is what a telenovela usually has. So yeah, they love the explanation!