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Spanish Tenor Celso Albelo on 'Closing the Circle' At the Metropolitan Opera [Exclusive]

First Posted: Nov 17, 2015 03:43 PM EST
Celso Albelo

Photo : Joan Tomas

Spanish tenor Celso Albelo did not always want to be an opera singer. In fact, he had no idea he was going to be a musician when he started his university studies as a major in art history.

"Growing up on the Canary Islands, there were a lot of folk singers and I saw it as a hobby," Albelo told Latin Post during an exclusive interview. "I played in bars and restaurants and with some groups at school."

But he had vocal problems and took up a teacher who changed his perspective.

"My teacher made me appreciate opera and slowly I realized that I was in love," he noted. "I hesitated about going for it, but it got to a point where I did not want to get to regret it later on."

He has leveraged that decision into a prominent opera career that will lead him to the Metropolitan Opera in New York in just a few months. There, he will "close the circle."

"I have sung at La Scala in Milan, Covent Garden in London and all I was missing was the Met. So to do with 'Maria Stuarda' with a composer to whom I owe it all. For me it is a dream," he told Latin Post.

The role in question is that of Leicester, the lover of the title character and the object of desire of her rival Queen Elizabeth.

Albelo noted that while the vocal part suits his voice wonderfully, it is nonetheless a tough role to navigate.

"It is one of those roles that I have found some hidden difficulty," he noted. "This one has a lot to sing in very little time and the tessitura is high. You need a lot of lyricism in your voice. Sometimes you tend to overdo it and end up going down the wrong path."

For his debut he will be sharing the stage with Sondra Radvanovsky, with whom he has yet to work with.

"I look forward to working with her," he noted. "She is such an imposing figure. Perfect for these Donizetti operas."

The production that Albelo will sing at the Met premiered on New Year's Eve of 2012 with Joyce DiDonato in the title role. The run was recorded as part of the company's Live in HD series. Albelo has seen some of the production and noted that it seems to be "a very comfortable production that lets the singers do their work. For me it does not seem to get in the way."

In making his debut as Leicester, Albelo will be closing another circle as well as he will have completed singing the Donizetti "Tudor Trilogy" which consists of "Anna Bolena," "Maria Stuarda" and "Roberto Devereux." Albelo sang "Anna Bolena" in April alongside superstar soprano Anna Netrebko and previously sang "Devereux" alongside Edita Gruberova and Mariela Devia.

"To do a role like Devereux with such great singers have made it a favorite for me. I have a special memory of that one," he stated when asked which of the three operas was his favorite. "I expect that singing with Sondra at the Met will make Maria Stuarda my new favorite!"

The singer has become associated with the belcanto repertoire, particularly the work of Donizetti but he is looking at expanding his horizons slowly and carefully. He noted that French operas such as Massenet's masterworks "Werther" and "Manon" were among his plans.

He did note that he harbors a great hope of singing Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" at some point in his career as it is his "dream role." However, the tenor, despite making a career out of singing the Duke in "Rigoletto" over 100 times alongside such major singers as Leo Nucci, Juan Pons, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renato Bruson among others, was quick to note that Verdi's music was not suitable for his voice at the present moment.

"When you start to sing, you want to do the dramatic and heavier stuff. For example I would love to sing Verdi's 'Otello,' but my voice does not match that repertoire," he admitted. "Duka does suit me well and I will continue to sing it as long as I can because it feel great."

Albelo notes that his great idols include Alfredo Kraus, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Tito Schippa, Mario Del Monaco, Beniamino Gigli and even such contemporaries as Juan Diego Florez and Javier Camarena. But that does not mean he does not appreciate anyone else.

"When I get asked this question, I always forget someone," he noted.

Albelo makes his Metropolitan Opera debut "Maria Stuarda" on Jan. 29, 2016 and will sing all seven performances of the run.

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