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Lifelong Verdi fan, talented tenor, and quite the classical music cartoonist too - who better than Rolando Villazón to guide us through the most dramatic moments in the Italian composer's operas and vocal works?
He's about to embark on a European tour, bringing the music of Verdi to 15 concert halls around the continent. If that wasn't enough, he's hand picked a selection of Verdi recordings by other singers for a new release on the Deutsche Grammophon label. And the title of his latest album? Verdi, of course. We're beginning to think Rolando Villazón might be addicted to Verdi. And who could blame him.
To help kickstart your operatic addiction, we asked Rolando to explain a little about his favourite songs by Verdi, in celebration of the composer's 200th anniversary year.
1. Va pensiero, Nabucco
"This famous chorus from Nabucco played a very important role in unifying Italy. To this day, it remains Italy's unofficial national anthem and a hymn of the people, calling for humankind everywhere to unite."
2. Bella figlia dell'amore, Rigoletto
"The famous 'Rigoletto Quartet' is a wonderful example of Verdi's operatic genius. He takes what are essentially two duets, two parallel conversations, completely different in tone and nature - a scene of seduction between the Duke and a prostitute, and a desperate dialogue between a father and his daughter - making psychologically and dramatically intense scene out of them."
3. Libera me, Requiem
"This is a sublime moment from the Requiem, a joint prayer between chorus and soprano, full of humanity. Through the voices of the chorus, Verdi mirrors all of humankind; through the voice of the soprano he mirrors each of us individually."
4. Quando le sere al placido, Luisa Miller
"This is a perfect scene for tenor. It takes both character and listener through a myriad of intense emotions: from outrage and anger in the recitative, to reflection and despair in the aria, eventually culminating in all these conflicting waves of emotions and expressing them in the music."
5. O don fatale, Don Carlos
"This is a fantastic scene for the mezzo-soprano. Throughout the opera, we look at this character as a villain and all of a sudden she bares her soul to us, sharing her sufferings as she recognises her beauty has caused herself and others so much pain and misfortune. And we cannot but feel empathy for her."
6. Come dal ciel precipita, Macbeth
"Verdi wrote many great arias for basses, and Banquo's aria is always a winner. The reflection on a beautiful relationship between a father and his son, coupled with the anticipation of something dreadful about to happen is a stunning operatic moment."
7. Cortigiani, Rigoletto
"Rigoletto's scene is another dramatic masterpiece, highlighting a character's conflicting emotions. Using a strong rhythm, he insults his opponents only then to start pleading and crying for his daughter. Here, it is as if the music itself is getting on its knees to plead for compassion."
8. Addio del passato, La Traviata
"After the coloratura fireworks and bravado of her first act-aria, Violetta now seems like a bird with broken wings. From the reading of the letter, to the desperate realisation that her fate is all but sealed, to the final outcry, we see Violetta suffer and we feel it with her."
9. Fugue, Falstaff
"In his letters Verdi spoke a lot about the importance of counterpoint and the art of the fugue, and this is a perfect example of how this has to be done."
10. Auto-da-fé, Don Carlos
"Everything that's great about opera can be found in this scene - the most touching music, incredible drama and intense emotions. The chorus, a number of smaller roles and all principal soloists are on stage here, and involved in one of the most dramatic and impactful moments in the history of opera."