Someone at the BBC had me in mind when they commissioned this programme (earlier this evening on BBC4). An hour of Rolando Villazon talking with passionate simplicity about Verdi. As he talked, he interviewed equally passionate conductors and singers about what it is that Verdi gives us that works so well. Verdi cared more about moving his audience than about impressing them. He used not just the notes but the pitch, the timbre of the voice or the musical instruments to convey the emotion in the words. More than anything he wanted us to feel what the characters are feeling. (I may possibly have added some of my own views to this summary). We got to hear excerpts from a select quartet of operas and rehearsal sequences with Rolando.
From the hour that I sat right up against the stage and watched the tension of opera singers in the wings as they prepared to walk on, the sweat and the physical effort they threw into producing both small and great sounds, their exhaustion as they reached the end of the opera, I was hooked. I have followed and sought out many singers, especially those whose repertoire centred on Verdi, and Rolando epitomises all the qualities I love best. He climbs right inside the character, he sacrifices perfection for authenticity, the result is very moving and has an edge because giving everything is a little dangerous. Most of all he brings Verdi to life in the way, I am sure, Verdi would have wished.