“All Mozart, All the time”: Mozart Concert Arias album announced

Honoured with an ECHO Klassik award last week in Berlin, Rolando Villazón sets his sights on Mozart – his “companion” – and delivers a declaration of love for the composer

It has been a triumphant year for Rolando Villazón, crowned at Berlin’s Konzerthaus on 6 October with the “Best Solo Recording/Voice (arias/recitals)” award for his highly-praised Villazón Verdi tribute at Germany’s 20th ECHO Klassik ceremony. The tenor not only collected the prestigious solo artist prize, but also performed and co-hosted the annual event, for the second time, with TV presenter Nina Eichinger.

Now the singer is putting the focus squarely on his most beloved of composers: The coming year will be “all Mozart, all the time,” Rolando proclaims, and presents his new CD, Mozart Concert Arias – a collection of rarely recorded concert arias for tenor written by the genius composer, recorded with Sir Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra. The CD is slated for international release in January 2014.

“It is as if I have uncovered a whole new world,” says Rolando of the album. “No composer speaks to me as directly as Mozart. He is like a dear companion.”

Music critics too, have taken note of the almost symbiotic relationship between the tenor and the composer. Like Mozart, Rolando is “the kind of electric performer that fills the house with bravos. He delivers exquisite power and purity. Flamboyant, yes, but artistically sound,” remarked the Toronto Star. He is “the ideal singer to interpret Mozart, because he has the necessary passion,” wrote the Tagesspiegel of a performance at the Salzburg Festival in August. When Rolando performs Mozart, “he brings together the powerful stage presence, the nuanced intonation, the humour, courage and curiosity that’s only heard every few decades.”

Rolando’s immersion in Mozart’s oeuvre will dominate his performance calendar throughout the coming year. He has taken on the role of Don Ottavio in two stage productions of Don Giovanni, the first to be conducted by Barenboim for the Staatsoper Berlin, the second at the Wiener Staatsoper. Rehearsals with Barenboim have started and Rolando is brimming with excitement: “Maestro Barenboim understands perfectly how to articulate the challenges and to draw out the passions a singer has in Mozart.”

Next July, he continues his collaboration with Yannick Nézet-Séguin for a recording of Die Entführung aus dem Serail. It will be the third of seven planned recordings in Deutsche Grammophon’s cycle of Mozart’s mature operas. Rolando sings the lead tenor roles and is joint artistic consultant for the entire project, for which he also won the sponsor ROLEX. “This is my most ambitious artistic project ever,” says Rolando. “I’ve never been so obsessed with a passion for a composer before!”

With the new CD release, the ongoing opera cycle and the stage productions of Don Giovanni, Rolando’s total focus on Mozart might seem complete, but that is not all: He will also make six appearances as Ferrando in a new production of Così fan tutte at La Scala, also conducted by Daniel Barenboim, and performs with Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre in Salzburg to mark the composer’s birthday during Mozartwoche 2014. Villazón also takes to the road next spring with the Basel Chamber Orchestra for performances of the concert arias. His itinerary follows the course of Mozart’s own travels, opening at the Smetana Hall in Prague before visiting Munich, Vienna, Paris, Dortmund and closing in London. During the 2014 Salzburg Summer Festival, he will appear in the prestigious Mozart Matinees.

In fact, it was during Rolando’s ongoing research for his numerous stage roles that he discovered the little-known works now on Mozart Concert Arias. While browsing through scores of Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, he came across an edition of Mozart’s tenor concert arias gathering dust in a Munich music store. “I was captivated and knew straight away that I wanted this to be my next recording project,” notes Rolando. He found an enthusiastic collaborator in conductor Pappano, and together they selected ten arias for tenor and orchestra to include on the album which span Mozart’s career and chart a wide emotional range, from pathos and tragedy to joy and comedy.