Rolando Villazon explains his vocal crisis

Rolando Villazon explains his vocal crisis


norman lebrecht

December 10, 2021

From today’s revealing interview wth Zachary Woolfe in the New York Times:

… “It was for me very important to reestablish myself, to reposition as a tenor,” Villazón said. But the long period of uncertainty and tweaks to his technique had left their mark, and he began to lose confidence in himself and his instrument.

“Around 2015, 2016, that’s when I started to develop stage fright, because I was afraid of getting something else,” he said. “I was hitting nine out of 10 high notes. When you are in this business, and at this level, you hit 10 out of 10. They might not be all beautiful, but you hit all of them. If you’re not hitting one of those 10, you start thinking, Is this the one? And then you start hitting eight out of 10, and seven out of 10.”

Read on here.



  • Brian says:

    The problem was the incessant pushing that characterized his singing from the beginning. He was an imaginative artist, but unlistenable as a vocalist. Anyone with ears knew how it would end.

  • gimel says:

    So singing is all about hitting high notes.

    Maybe the crisis isn’t his vocals, it’s his (lack of) artistic perspective.

    • David A says:

      He says singing in tune is the bare minimum, not that it’s “all about” hitting the high notes. The crisis was certainly his vocals, and he’s coming out of it. Your misguided negativity is uncalled for

    • Diane Valerie says:

      Sadly, the public is not (generally) aware of the finer points of vocal technique. They ARE impressed by high notes. A tenor can be singing like a god all night but if he fails to hit the money notes, that’s all the public remembers. Who’d be a tenor?

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    Villazon fell prey to the ‘next great thing’ that haunts the stages of so many opera houses. I never heard him sing live but his name, if not his voice, was once everywhere.

    Hindsight would suggest that sopranos are more prone to burn out than tenors but when singer ‘X’ is feted to be the next singer ‘Y’ it is no wonder that when ‘X’ fails to measure up to not just ‘Y’ but every other singer on the canary fanciers’ A to Z it is no wonder that they push their voices to destruction.

    I hope Villazon marks out a successful late career. Successful on his own terms and not on those of the claque who having undermined the current (un)chosen one move onto their next victim.

  • Affreux Jojo says:

    We love you Rolando!

  • IP says:

    It’s not about stage fright. For those who know a bit about singing, it was expected from the beginning. Those others must have been intrigued by statements like “I sing with the capital and I don’t care”. For those deaf and blind, there is the video of Manon with Dessay.

    • Yes Addison says:

      And that Manon video is a sanitized version. I heard one of the live performances. He was in serious trouble by then.

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    … and he thinks he it’s 10/10 as director of the Mozartwoche is Salzburg?

  • Cantantelirico says:

    He never really had a technique to depend on. There was not an offer he turned down so that he could rest between engagements and regather himself. He jumped around the stage like a animal in heat looking for a mate. I never really understood how he got away with it. No tenor in history ever moved about the stage in such a manner. His singing was more and act of will than of technique. His agents in New York made out like bandits and then abandoned him like he had the plague. They never were known for protecting and nurturing their stable of singers. Vocal decline does not happen from one engagement to the next. It occurs over time. But it was not in his or his agent’s purview to create gaps in his schedule for him to study and heal. He travelled in charmed circles and the money was flowing like cheap Prosecco. This should not have happened to one of the nicest guys in the business. The ten year career is very nice, but the thirty five year career is better. The best of luck Rolando. I hope you find peace and the ability to live in your own skin.

  • IP says:

    Stage fright is something else. Look at Jaume Aragall. The most beautiful voice of his generation, impeccable technique, always in terror. And always singing flat. Gone the career, gone the fright, it turned out that, at eighty, his voice is in a better condition than those of his young students and — no flat singing at all!

  • E says:

    Such a gifted artist! Wish him the best in whatever he does going forward!

  • Myra Byanka says:

    Uh…. Why this guy getting attention for being sub par?

    • David A says:

      Because he has proven to be a lot more, unlike people commenting here who are indeed, only sub par.

      • guest says:

        When was he last time “a LOT more”? Fifteen years ago? He’s getting attention because Peter Gelb wants it, and Peter Gelb wants it because he’s banking on the sob story translating into ticket sales. Do you really believe anybody can walk into the New York Times offices and say he’d like them to publish an article about himself?

    • guest says:

      He is getting attention because Peter Gelb knows that casting Papageno with someone who is experienced and can sing the role backwards, isn’t going to generate the same buzz as ANNOUNCING his intention of casting the role with someone who was in vocal trouble 15 years ago, all but disappeared from the radar, and now attempts a come back because he could hit the passagio F, which he apparently considers to be a “high” note. If he has forgotten the range of most tenor roles in his long break from the stage, I have sad news for him. Hitting the F isn’t an accomplishment, it’s just the beginning. No one is entering the greatest moment of their singing career at 52, gimme a break. It may feel as the greatest moment to him, but it won’t feel like this to the part of the public who understands something about singing.

      If Peter Gelb was confident Villazon could deliver, even in a baritone role, he’d simply cast him without preliminary noise in the New Your Times. But he isn’t confident, and he is more interested in selling the house than in upholding singing standards. He obviously believes that casting Villazon, preceded by the right type of fanfare in the press (read sob story), is going to sell the house. It actually may sell, for reasons unrelated to vocal excellence, but then Peter Gelb has never been particularly picky about reasons.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Singers like Villazon should never worry about whatever squeeked note, because all the other notes are so good.

    I cannot have anything but the greatest respect and admiration for opera singers, also if they are not ‘that good’, given the things they have to turn into something their own: knowing the score perfectly well with the right intonation at any moment so that their notes more or less fit into the orchestral texture; knowing long stretches of complex music by heart without any possibility of a score nearby; understanding all aspects of their character; acting-out their character in a psychologically convincing way in spite of the director and the props; keeping the momentum; smiling when acknowledging the applaus. So many things together, it is just amazing that people can do that at all.

  • Piano Lover says:

    Who is he?

  • MArnold says:

    I heard his NYCO performance yrs. ago as Rodolpho (in a stupid updated to WW1 production which had a train engine center stage)and thought he would be the next primo tenore. Absolutely wonderful, exciting singing! Sad what happened.

  • Bibi says:

    Villazon never ever had a solid, real Technique! Right from the beginning he pushed every note and shouted ! Sadly most audiences have no idea about fine dynamics in singing. They applaud for anything. Even for a passaggio F that some Tenors sell like a high C!
    I never heard Villazon singing a supported “Piano”. They were Falsetti if ever!
    He is engaged to play the Clown – not Papageno!!!

    Peter Gelb knows this fact and wants to entertain his audience with this Clown !!‍♀️ That’s all !!
    Poor Mozart and poor Zauberflöte…!!