When the lyric tenor Marcelo Álvarez stars in both parts of David McVicar’s new Met production of “Cav and Pag”—as the unrepentant seducer Turiddu and the jealous clown Canio—this virtuoso doubling will reflect his pre-eminence both as a singer and as an actor. But it’s worth remembering how late he came to his vocation, and how unexpectedly. Born 53 years ago in the Argentine city of Córdoba, Álvarez studied as an accountant and became the foreman of his family’s furniture company. But, having attended a specialist music school, he had always liked to sing—and in his 20s he did so as a pop impressionist, locally celebrated for his bar-room impersonations of Demis Roussos and the Bee Gees.
By the time he was 30, his wife had realised he wasn’t happy, and she pushed him to do an operatic audition, whereupon one thing led to another. They sold everything they had to allow him to seek his fortune as a singer in Italy, where the great tenor Giuseppe di Stefano took him under his wing. Thanks to Álvarez’s innate combination of ease, elegance and virility, the rest is history.
“My trump card”, he likes to say, “is that I sing with sincerity. I am no divo.” It’s this lack of vanity which sets him apart from just about every other leading contender in the tenor stakes. ~ MICHAEL CHURCH
Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci Met, New York from April 14th
CLASSICAL AT A GLANCE
The Pirates of Penzance (Coliseum, London, May 9th). After winning his spurs with the brilliant “Topsy-Turvy”, Mike Leigh gets down to the real business with a new production.
Jessye Norman (Philharmonie de Paris, May 10th). After years of strife and spiralling costs, Paris’s new concert hall is now afloat and winning envious plaudits for its acoustic from music-lovers across the water. Norman delivers a programme culled from Broadway musicals.
Henry Purcell: A Retrospective (Wigmore Hall, London, from May 8th). A superb line-up: Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert with an instrumental medley, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort on the Odes, and the viol consort Phantasm on the Fantasias.
Wiener Festwochen (Vienna, from May 14th). Including a new production of Sciarrino’s “Luci me traditrici” and a bold juxtaposition of Schumann’s “Ghost Variations” and Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle”. ~ MC