Interview with Daniel Juarez by Larry Kellum
On March 2, the Conn. Lyric Opera presents its second opera of the 2011-12 season, Mozart’s playful romp “Cosi van Tutte”, which, as always, will premiere at New Britain’s Trinity On Main, and tour the state throughout the remainder of the month. The ironic comedy features two sisters and their fiancees, the tenor character Ferrando being portrayed by up-and-coming Mexican-American tenor Daniel Juarez. Ferrando will serve as Juarez’ first major role with the company,though he appeared three times (in supporting parts) with the Lyric Opera in last season’s “Magic Flute”, “Tosca” and “Heure Espanole” productions. He is actually from Minneapolis, only lived in Mexico for a few years as a child, and currently resides in North Branford. Juarez is a burly, jovial 37 year old man who loves to talk, and on Friday evening Jan. 20, talk he did at great lengths with local music critic and reporter Larry Kellum about his life and career to date. Here are some highlights of that lengthy, but totally entertaining interview…………
LK — So, Dan, how did it all begin?
DJ — I started singing as a boy alto with the Metropolitan Boys Choir in Minneapolis, which was a great experience. We even went on tour of the British Isles! I can remember singing in the children’s chorus in a performance of Verdi’s “Otello” with the reigning Otello of his day, James McCracken, and just being mesmerized by this white haired man who still “had it” after all those years of singing this most demanding part in the tenor repertory! Actually, my very first role onstage was as one of the 3 Genii in an abbreviated high school performance of “Magic Flute”. I did my undergrad at Bethel College in St. Paul, where I majored in Spanish, and I received my Masters in vocal performance from Yale.
LK — How do you feel about Ferrando, or Mozart in general?
DJ — It is a beautiful role, one I did once 14 years ago, so I will basically have to relearn it, though the aria “Un aura amorosa” I’ve kept active. It is also my only Mozart role to date. Verdi is my favorite composer, and ultimately where I see myself going. However, the wonderful thing about Mozart is that his music makes vocal sense and requires such an elegant technique. Thus, his music lends itself to being learned quickly.
LK — Any voice teacher in particular you credit for your development?
DJ — Dramatic soprano Valerie Sorel. She is responsible for putting the finishing touches on my technique and for pulling everything together vocally. For every good voice teacher out there, there are a dozen more who aren’t, and shouldn’t be teaching!
LK — As always, the favorite tenors question — yours, if any?
DJ — There aren’t really any tenors that I dont like, but so many that I do! Lets see — Bjoerling for his breath of expression, Corelli for the sheer stentorian power, and certainly Carreras, Di Stefano and Vickers for their passion and communication. I’ll mention Gedda and Gosta Winberg, too, for their range of repertory and ability to sing Mozart for so long.
LK — And sopranos?
DJ— Jessye Norman for one. When I saw her, she was like the monumental goddess from another world – and that big glorious sound! I am a huge Rosa Ponselle fan, too — to be so gifted to sing such demanding roles at the Met, no less, with Caruso, no less, at such a young age — and endure! Gilda Cruz-Romo, who is Mexican like myself — there are so many!
LK — I understand you had gastric bypass surgery and lost 180 lbs. Here’s the age-old question asked about Callas, Voigt, Pavarotti and so many others — did it affect your voice?
DJ — I needed to do this back in 2009 — its a sign of the times to also look good onstage. I find I have more stamina now and can navigate the passaggio (ie: break from middle to high register) better now. I only lost some of the dramatic depth to the weight of the voice.
LK — How do you keep the pounds off?
DJ— High protein, low carbs, lots of water, cardio workouts at the gym a couple of times a week, running — and smaller portions of whatever I enjoy eating. Veggies are optional.
LK — I understand your wife of 10 years is also a voice teacher?
DJ — Yes, her name is Cybil, she is an accomplished mezzo (though opera isn’t her biggest interest), and she teaches at the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven.
LK — Any chicos?
DJ — Two sons — a four and a two year old
LK — After “Cosi”, where are you off to?
DJ — Believe it or not, WESTCONN in Danbury is doing a college production of “Carmen” and I will be singing Don Jose!’
LK — Welcome back to the Conn Lyric Opera, Dan! We are all looking forward to your reunion with the role of Ferrando!
DJ— This is a great company to work for and I couldn’t ask for a nicer leading lady than soprano Jurate Svedaite (Fiordiligi)
LK — Couldn’t agree more!!