CULTURE

Rolando Villazon at Athens Concert Hall

He has a good sense of humor and is very charming and extremely talented. He reads Nikos Kazantzakis and Constantine P. Cavafy and has interpreted songs by Hadjidakis and Dimitris Papadimitriou, but he does not speak Greek. Staring out at the city of Athens from his hotel room balcony, he recognizes in it something of his homeland, Mexico. This is Rolando Villazon, one of the world’s most distinguished tenors, who will give his first concert in Greece tonight at the Athens Concert Hall. He may not have performed in Greece before, but two years ago, at the UN building in New York, the Mexican tenor sang verses by George Seferis, Odysseas Elytis and Cavafy in Greek, set to music by Greek composers, at the 61st anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations. His relationship with Greece goes back even further, as Homer’s «Odyssey» was always with him when he found himself singing in the New York subway to get by, while later, when his career took off, he found inspiration in «The Iliad» before going on stage. On the occasion of his latest album, Villazon said that he likes challenges. «Challenge is to respect the kind of music you are singing, whether it changes or it remains the same. It is also the insistence on education,» he told reporters at a press conference in Athens last week. «Artists must constantly evolve and they have to show that. I feel the same challenge before every live performance, because even if I have sung a piece before, I will not interpret it the same way.» «I don’t feel I am continuing anything,» he said when asked if he felt insecure about continuing the great tenors tradition. «I only feel the responsibility of serving music as best as I can. I fight stress by seeing myself as a musical instrument.» In tonight’s concert, Villazon will sing arias from operas by Puccini, Tchaikovsky, Rossini and others, as well as traditional Spanish zarzuela songs. «I see a concert as a dialogue, not as a single-dimension presentation. Every concert is unique because of the communication between the vocalist and the audience every time.» At the Athens Concert Hall, he will be joined by the ERT Greek Radio & TV National Symphony Orchestra, under Andreas Pylarinos, as well as by young Georgian soprano Nino Machaidze.