David Lomeli Interview
Tenor David Lomelí is finishing up as an Adler at San Francisco Opera this Fall by covering the title role of Werther and singing the Messenger in Aida. He sings Edgardo in Pittsburgh Opera’s Lucia die Lammermoor this November, Alfredo at Deutsche Oper Berlin in December, Nemorino at New York City Opera in March and April, Macduff in Lille next May, and finishes the season in Santa Fe with La Bohème. The Opera Tattler caught up with Lomelí after singing his last Werther rehearsal.
How is your class at Merola doing?
We all are working, as you know, Renée Tatum is at the Met and Leah Crocetto is here as an Adler. As far as everyone that was in Don Giovanni with me: Austin Kness is also here, Rena Harms sang at Wolftrap this Summer, Amanda Majeski is at Lyric and sings at Santa Fe next year, Carlos Monzón sang at Wolf Trap and Florida Grand Opera, Ben Wager sang at Los Angeles Opera, Adam Cioffari just finished at Houston, and Joélle Harvey was at Glimmerglass.
Tell me about covering a role and what that involves.
Covering a role is bittersweet. The sweet part is that it can be beautiful, you get to work with a professional team, the conductor gives you notes, and the music preparation here is great. You get to learn the role, be in the house, and be ready to go on. You definitely learn a lot. The bitter part is that as a performer, you want to go on. Like for Werther, I’ve had a month of pretty much singing it every day, because I just performed it in Tel Aviv with Maya Layhani and Austin Kness. Today was my last rehearsal before Ramón Vargas comes, so it will be hard to be back on the bench, not singing. Though I am looking forward to meeting Ramón Vargas and asking him how he preserves his voice. He is so amazing!
Do you generally read the source texts concerning a role? Have you read The Sorrows of Young Werther?
We are basically required to read the source texts for the roles we sing as Adlers. They really make us prepare.
What do think of Herr Werther?
The part is beautiful, a dream tenor role. There are 5 arias, and you get to be a drama queen. There is a huge range of emotions explored: happiness, sadness, insanity, delusion, and then you get to kill yourself and sing about it for 30 more minutes. I really hope to sing it again really soon, but don’t have it scheduled in the next 4 years.
So you were the first-prize winner in Plácido Domingo’s 2006 Operalia and the first singer ever to win both the opera and zarzuela divisions. Tell me about zarzuela.
Zarzuela is pretty much only championed by Plácido and some companies in Spain. For the baritone you need a big range, for the tenor a beefy middle. The sopranos need to be chirpy and the mezzos need a lot of color. It is a bit like the musical. Everything is rubato. I love singing this music, but not that many conductors have experience with it. If I even become a fourth as famous as Plácido, I would love to do zarzuela. It is the music I have known all my life.
When were you in the Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program? How did you get in?
I was in the first year of the program, in starting in August of 2006 until May of 2008. My voice teacher, César Ulloa, sent me and Eleazar Rodríguez to audition for Plácido in New York.
How was singing at the Verdi Requiem in LA and Berlin?
I got the LA Phil performance because Villazón canceled Hoffman at the Met, and Calleja canceled on LA Phil to replace him. I was supposed to sing Cantata Criolla as my LA Phil premiere, but instead canceled this to sing the Verdi Requiem. It was the first time I had sung an oratorio since Messiah, which was a long time ago. It was scary, but I know Gustavo Dudamel from when I did a gala concert in my hometown. I have a youtube video of myself singing “Nessun Dorma” with Dudamel conducting the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra! The LA performance prepared me for Berlin, which was a success. That orchestra is incredible. When I heard the bassoon part in rehearsal, I couldn’t come in because I was weeping.
What was your first opera?
Mozart’s Bastien and Bastienne, though I did sing a Verdi Requiem before that, when I was 19. It was not good.
Well, I have done 65 performances of Bohème. I do love Werther. I am pretty weird, I also love Pelléas et Mélisande and Albert Herring.
I hope someday to do all the big Verdi roles, I especially love Ballo en Maschera and Otello. One day I would love to sing Walther in Meistersinger, I love that opera. If I could have Bryn Terfel or James Morris as Hans Sachs, I could just die, the next day, happy.
Who do you look up to?
Plácido. He’s so successful, perhaps the best tenor that has ever lived, but he is still so kind and has discovered so many great singers.
Tell me about your stage fight incident in Fanciulla.
In Act I of the final dress rehearsal there is a fight, and I was supposed to be hit on the head with a sugar bottle. Except it wasn’t a sugar bottle, I was knocked out for real. I saw stars and woke up 2 bars before I was to enter. I had a huge bump on my head and Matthew Shilvock sent me to the hospital. I had the fastest MRI ever, to make sure I would be okay. Then I rushed back for Act III, because there aren’t covers for small roles like Happy!
Did you really have a coaching for Werther in the middle of a performance of Fanciulla? How does that work?
Yes, it was the last time I would be able to work with Allen Perriello before my Werther in Tel Aviv, so I called him and I had a coaching with him for an hour. I owe him a lot, and everyone in the music administration is great.
Sweet or savory?
Both. I love both sweet and sour. Mole for example. Or orange chicken.
Do you have a favorite pastry?
Tres leches. The only place I can get it is actually at Espetus, the Brazilian restaurant close to Zuni Cafe. The different kinds of milk have to be in the right quantities, the cake has to be soaked and soft. I hate it when they put strawberries on tres leches, it is just not the way it is supposed to be.
What is your secret superpower?
I vocalize as a countertenor everyday and it has helped my voice to do so. I have a high G in my head voice and can sing the Queen of the Night with Susanna Biller (not as pretty of course). Obviously my voice up there isn’t nearly as pretty as Ryan Belongie’s either!
How are you at soccer?
I am a huge fan of soccer, but I am so bad it. I am an FC Barcelona shareholder. (Breaks out his FC Barcelona card, complete with photograph.) It doesn’t make Plácido very happy though, since he’s a Madrid fan. I studied in Barcelona.
Why is football commentary so much better in Spanish?
Everyone gets a nickname, more poetic phrases are used, and it is much louder.
How similar are the circus and the opera?
They are becoming more and more alike, just as far as entertainment. For example, Cirque de Soleil’s O has a theme, but not a story. But Robert LePage’s Ka definitely has a story. As far as opera, it is not just park and bark anymore. In this summer’s Walküre, from Zambello, everyone had to move, and they did so well.
What’s your favorite Beatles song?
That’s so hard, I love the Beatles, every song is good. But I would have to say “Eleanor Rigby” is my favorite.
What do you miss most about everyday life back home?
My ladies. My dad travelled a lot in the first years of my life. So I basically grew up surrounded by 13 women: my mom, sister, grandma, aunts, and cousins.
Can you recommend a place to eat relatively close to the opera house?
There is a really good taco truck next to the Best Buy on Van Ness. If you want sour cream and beans, you should go to the Mission, but the best burrito is at this truck.