Tenor Javier Camarena Sings Bizet and Donizetti at the Met and Across Europe, Plus New Album on Decca, Tucker Gala, Recitals and More in 2018-19
On the heels of the release of his first solo album, Contrabandista, on Decca Classics, Mexican tenor Javier Camarena’s “infectious” voice (New Yorker) and “brightly eloquent” performances (LA Times) take him to New York and across Europe this season. Already considered the pre-eminent Mozart and bel canto specialist of his generation, Camarena has just completed a run as Arturo in Bellini’s I Puritani in Barcelona, followed yesterday by the Tucker Gala at Carnegie Hall, and is currently starting rehearsals for the role of Nadir in Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles at the Metropolitan Opera. The tenor returns to the Met stage in February as Tonio in Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, and again, in the same production, later in the spring at London’s Royal Opera House; sings Ernesto in the same composer’s Don Pasquale at the Opéra de Paris and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Bayerische Staatsoper; and reprises Les pêcheurs at Spain’s Ópera de Bilbao. In December and January, during a rare lull in his production schedule, Camarena keeps busy with concerts and recitals in Spain, Switzerland, the U.S. and Mexico.
With Contrabandista, Camarena became the first artist featured on Cecilia Bartoli’s new series of recordings, released under the umbrella of Decca Classics. Produced by the Cecilia Bartoli Music Foundation, the “Mentored by Bartoli” series aims to support and oversee new recordings by exceptional artists. Contrabandista is a concept album that delves deep into the life and music of legendary Spanish tenor, composer and impresario Manuel García, the father of the great opera singer Maria Malibran, whose music was explored by Bartoli on her own 2007 album, Maria. Camarena sings a collection of García’s works, including three world premiere recordings, alongside arias by Rossini and Zingarelli, and is joined by Bartoli for a duet from Rossini’s Armida. The album’s roster is completed by period-instrument orchestra Les Musiciens du Prince – Monacounder the direction of Gianluca Capuano.
Camarena’s current season sees him revisit some of his most beloved roles, many of them in company with two of his most frequent co-stars. In the role of Nadir, he sings the ravishing Act 1 duet “Au fond du temple saint” with Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień as Zurga, in two productions of Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles at the Met and Spain’s Ópera de Bilbao. Kwiecień was also part of the recently-completed production of Bellini’s I Puritani at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, with Camarena in the role of Arturo, and the two reunite in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at the Opéra National de Parisin the spring. South African soprano Pretty Yende is likewise Camarena’s leading lady in all but one of this season’s productions, including the title roles in Lucia di Lammermoor at Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper, with Camarena singing Edgardo, and Donizetti’s La fille du régiment opposite Camarena’s Tonio, in a shared production that will bow at the Met in February and continue at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in July. Yesterday Camarena returned to the Tucker Gala in Carnegie Hall for the third year running; in December and January he gives recitals in Spain, Switzerland, and the U.S. featuring music from the new album; and he performs a Christmas concert in Mexico.
The tenor made his Met debut in 2011, and in a production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola in 2014 became only the third tenor in 70 years to sing an encore from the Met stage, joining the privileged company of Luciano Pavarotti and Juan Diego Flórez by repeating Don Ramiro’s showstopping second act aria, “Si, ritrovarla io giuro.” In 2016 he gave another encore as Ernesto in Don Pasquale, only reinforcing what The Observer said of the first occasion: “Now Mr. Camarena has proved beyond a doubt he is one of the most thrilling tenors performing today. The roaring, stomping ovation that greeted his act two aria was the unmistakable sound of a star being born.”