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Sieben Fragen an ... Rolando Villazón - Deutsche Oper Berlin

Seven questions for ... Rolando Villazón

Rolando Villazón, one of the most acclaimed stars in the opera firmament, is this year’s presenter of the Grand Opera Gala in aid of the Deutsche AIDS-Stiftung

Herr Villazón, in November you’ll be presenting the Grand Opera Gala in aid of the Deutsche AIDS-Stiftung at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. You’re very involved in fundraising for various causes, organising benefit concerts, supporting charities. Why does it mean such a lot to you?
When you’ve had as much luck in life that I’ve had, you’re honour-bound to give something back, to do some good – or at least try. After all, however much you do, there’ll always be people in need.

Is classical music powerful enough to change the world, to make it a better place?
If you ask me, people need three things in life: art, love and humour. And you can count yourself very lucky if you have all three. Art is the soul of society; it can heal many wounds. And I see music as having a special standing within the art classification. It’s the most direct line to our hearts and is able to give shape to the internal chaos that is palpable within all of us.

And you use this effect that music has on people to get them to donate and help others?
I do. When great artists perform great arias, which is what will be happening in Berlin, the energy generated is enormous. The music is a source of emotion and inspiration – to get involved and help people, among other things. I’m always staggered by how generous people have been by the end of one of these fundraising evenings. That’s what it’s all about, after all: not just enjoying art but also doing something of real benefit to others – in aid of life itself.

Who is touched by opera? Would you say that opera, of all genres, can break down boundaries?
There is this idea that opera is only pitched to a certain social class of people, but that’s not the case. Opera is for everyone, and the music is accessible for everyone - regardless of class or origins or skin colour. The music itself is thoroughly democratic and straightforward in the way it touches us.

In Berlin you’ll be doing some singing, but your main role will be as presenter for the evening. You’re no stranger to introducing and moderating events. What is it about the job that you like so much?
It’s actually not so very different from my day job as a singer. Very early on in my career, when I sang in LA TRAVIATA, I was almost always given the part of Alfredo, and I figured out quite soon that I was basically there to draw attention to the Violetta character. If I’d tried to hog the applause myself and get the audience to focus on me, I would have messed up the opera and killed its soul and totally misunderstood my role. Presenting is a similar skill: it’s about shining a light on other people and focusing on their talent and story. I love doing that.

Is it generosity that lies at the core of your profession?
Not at the core of my profession so much as the core of life itself! You always have to give everything you’ve got. That’s how I see things, anyway. Each moment is hugely important. I always give 100%. I don’t see any point if giving any less.

In your role as presenter of the benefit gala you will be following in the footsteps of an illustrious predecessor: Loriot. What areas of overlap do you and he have?
The first time I sang at the event someone told me Loriot was the anchor for the evening and asked me if I knew him. I had to admit I hadn’t heard of him, but the moment I saw him doing the job I knew that he was a truly remarkable person, a great artist. I then devoured everything he’d done and written. He’s been a huge inspiration to me and he’s not just a role model to me; I look up to him because he’s tried his hand at so many things. And I really identify with the way he’s never let people pigeonhole him.

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