Tenor David Lomelì, a stellar alumnus of LA Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, has enjoyed break-out career success since his 2006 first-place finish in Operalia. The young singer returns to Los Angeles this Sunday, as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto at the Hollywood Bowl, and found some time to catch us up on his latest news.
LA Opera’s General Director, Placido Domingo, was very influential in helping you get started with your operatic career – can you tell us a bit about how you met him and how his support has helped you?
It was a very lucky thing. I was part of SIVAM, a program for young Mexican singers that Maestro Domingo supports very much. Some of the singers were auditioning for him in New York after his performance of Rigoletto at the MET where he conducted Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon. It was so quick that I had to ask for help from sponsors in Monterrey, Mexico, to get me a ticket. When the Maestro heard me sing “Che gelida manina”, he immediately asked if I wanted to come with him to Los Angeles and then shortly after he helped get me a last minute invitation to participate in Operalia. I am blessed to have him as a mentor and a beautiful guide. He has been so kind, supportive and passionate about helping me. I love and respect him and his family very much; they are so kind and passionate about helping people like me.
Los Angeles audiences know you well from your participation in the Company’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program. Tell us how your experience here as a young artist has prepared you for the rigors of a professional opera career?
Participating in this program was a life-changing time for me. It was truly the time of my life. When I first came, I really did not know how important this was. I came with the arrogance of naiveté but perhaps that was good, because if I really did know how important it was and much it would change me, I would have been afraid. With each new role I approach, I go back to things I learned in the program – it really gave me the push to get serious, to study, to get passionate about improving. It was my first real lesson that singing was much more than going for my high notes. I had to work to improve all my singing, to be persuasive as an actor and to really represent the music as a total performer. I still keep all these lessons near to my heart.
You were the first person ever to win first prize in both the opera and zarzuela competitions in Domingo’s international opera competition, Operalia. How has winning this competition opened doors in your life and career?
Well is such a prestigious title and I am so proud of being part of the Operalia winners group. Of course, winning the competition has opened many doors to auditions and jobs. But because you are known as a winner, there is now always pressure because there are high expectations.
You recently made your debut at the storied summer opera festival in Glyndebourne, England. What was your experience there?
It was fantastic. Imagine – I sang the 100th performance of my career of Rodolfo there in that glorious setting with audiences that truly love opera. We were the last performers to sing in the magical David McVicar production of La Bohème. I had so much fun with my partners on the stage and I love every moment in the castle and the gardens – there is so much history surrounding you on the estate. It is not very often you get to sing with sheep singing with you in rehearsals and get to picnic in the intermission. The crowds were really nice and very enthusiastic.
Your character in this Sunday’s Hollywood Bowl performance with the LA Philharmonic and San Francisco Opera’s season opening production of Rigoletto in September is not a very likable guy. How do you transition from nice guys like Nemorino and Rodolfo to more nasty characters such as the Duke of Mantua.
I normally I am more of a method actor. So usually I like to live a lot inside my characters. With the Duke of Mantua, I have to live a bit out of my comfort zone of method acting. This role requires a lot of make believe, with grand panache! I have to find the animalistic side within myself to play this Don Giovanni-ish type man. But I don’t mind playing such a bad man when I get to sing "La Donna e Mobile!"
This will be your second time working with Gustavo Dudamel, the first being a Verdi Requiem a few years ago. What’s it like working with him?
It’s actually my third time with Maestro Dudamel as I worked with him in Monterrey with his Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra and then we had a Verdi Requiem with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Maestro Dudamel is a fantastic talent – full of passion and energy -- but also so humble and so nice and so generous with his time. I have been looking forward to this week back in my second hometown all the year.
Over the past few years, you’ve had some very big successes in your career. What stands out as the most memorable success and what has been the most significant challenge?
There have been so many wonderful times in the last few years. I think two stand out perhaps in my mind. Performing Nemorino at New York City Opera was truly magical – I felt the energy of the city and the audience behind me for those performances. And then, working with the Berlin Philharmonic for the Verdi Requiem where we had a live recording and HD transmission. For a kid from Mexico to be standing on the stage with one of the world’s greatest orchestras preparing for a worldwide broadcast was pretty humbling and pretty amazing.
Singing opera is such a great gift but there are challenging moments. When you are waking up in a foreign city and you are checking your voice early in the morning to see how the day will go, that is sometimes lonely. Audiences don’t really realize what the life is like. Sometimes it can be sad, because in order to sing well, you have to take care of yourself with lots of rest and appropriate exercise. You can be in a wonderful place like Glyndebourne or Los Angeles but really you have to be in your own bubble taking care for yourself and your art. You are not a tourist. I try and live life wherever I am but also my main focus has to be on my singing and performing.
What’s in store for you next season – are you bringing any new roles into your repertoire?
This Rigoletto with Maestro Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl gives my season a great start. I then get to work with Nicola Luisotti in San Francisco singing the same role in their season opening production – which is wonderful for me as I also participated in the Merola Opera Program and the Adler Fellowship. So it is another homecoming. I have two new roles this season --Leicester in Maria Stuarda that I will do in Frankfurt and Percy in Anna Bolena that I will do in Cologne. I will sing a concert in New Orleans with Maestro Domingo and also the Verdi Requiem in Essen. And I will close my opera year with a new production of Rigoletto in Berlin with my friend Pablo Heras Casado in the podium. One of the most exciting things I have this season is my first solo recital tour that I will start in the Bay Area in the beautiful hall on the campus of UC Davis and then also perform in Munich and Mexico.
There have been some exciting events in your personal life recently - we read about your recent marriage to soprano Sara Gartland in the New York Times wedding section. How do the two of you plan to combine your careers and personal life?
We are very blessed and she is quite a catch! She is a beautiful woman with a gorgeous voice and a spectacular spirit. I confess that I am a normal man – I just got married and I would like nothing more than to be a regular husband at home with my beautiful wife making dinner and sitting by the fire. But, we are both performers and we know that separation will be a big part of our lives. Just after the honeymoon, we spent 3 months apart. Skype and Facetime are our friends – they should sign us up as sponsors!!
When you’re NOT singing opera, what do you MOST like to do?
This is a complicated question. When I am not singing opera, I most like to hang out with my beautiful new wife, eating tacos al pastor, and watching my team – Barcelona – play soccer. This is perhaps the only area where Placido Domingo and I disagree – he supports Real Madrid not Barcelona!!! But the reality is that I am studying and practicing at the same time as I am watching soccer and being with Sara. In my relaxed time, I can enjoy being quiet and romantic and just being still in one place with Sara. This is a dream.
Also, let’s ask the question…What’s the absolute best thing about being married to a soprano?
Well, some of the greatest music in the world for lovers is written for soprano and tenor – so singing in the shower is perhaps more fun for us than others.