Questions and answers: baritone Fabián Veloz on his debut at the lyrical opera in Chicago, Scarpia and his fondest memory at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires
Argentinian baritone Fabián Veloz is one of his country’s most renowned opera singers.
His professional debut was at the South American premiere of “Estaba la Madre” at the Teatro Argentino in La Plata and he went on to perform with some of the main companies of the South American company, including the Teatro Avenida, the Teatro Argentino and, of course, the Teatro Colón where he has been a fixture since his debut as Germont in “La Traviata”.
But it didn’t stop there and Veloz’s career has seen him take the world by storm, appearing in major opera houses in Naples, Mexico City, Madrid, Santiago, Atlanta, Rome Bologna and Beijing, among others.
He’s now in the middle of his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut, taking on the role of Scarpia in “Tosca,” a role he’s performed all over the world and is set to reprise later this year at Santiago and the Teatro Settler of Buenos Aires.
OperaWire had the opportunity to talk to the baritone about his biggest North American debut to date, taking on the villainous role of Scarpia, and his fondest memory at Teatro Colón.
OperaWire: Congratulations on your debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. How does it feel to make these debuts:
Fabián Veloz: I am really delighted to make my debut with such an important company and in this historic theatre. Working here has been a great pleasure with great singers and a team of professionals who are part of the Opéra Lyrique. This is my first time working with Michelle Bradley and Russell Thomas (Tosca and Cavaradossi) and from the first moment I felt very comfortable with them. I felt the same with Louisa (Régie) there were very genuine feedback.
OW: You will play the role of Scarpia in “Tosca”. Who is Scarpia for you? What makes him an endearing character?
FV: Scarpia is a policeman, torturer and master manipulator and he has a particular fascination with Tosca. What makes him an essential character is his veneer of nobility, his sarcasm, but above all his power.
OW: How did this particular production shape your interpretation?
FV: This production helped me understand the gentleman side of Scarpia. Why my vision of the chief of police was more animal, more aggressive, even if Louisa made me discover that sometimes the “Baron” is a gentleman especially when he feels that he cannot take Tosca by force.
OW: What are the most difficult aspects of interpreting Scarpia? How do you connect with a villain like him?
FV: Scarpia’s challenge is not to play the obvious. When I come on stage, it’s easy for people to see the bad guy, but I try to create a believable character. At first, it was easy to bring out the strength and power of the character
But this production helped me understand the gentleman side of Scarpia. Yes, absolutely we mature the role as well as the interpretation.
OW: What are the vocal challenges of taking on this character?
FV: You always have to have voice control – It’s a difficult and heavy role and it would be very easy to shout it out and hopefully avoid doing it.
OW: Do you have a favorite musical moment?
FV: My favorite moment is in act two where Scarpia confesses her love, even in her own way. It is for me the only place where he says what he feels. Previously he says “Quest’ora Io L’attendeva” (I was waiting for this moment…a very long time ago) then he sings “I’m in love with you…I saw you like I’ve never seen you before before… But when I saw him with your lover I swore you would be mine…” This moment is an ecstasy for me.
OW: How does Puccini’s music feel for your voice compared to other composers you sing about, like Verdi, Bizet or Mozart?
FV: The big difference between this Puccini (Tosca) and the others is that this role is very close to the verismo style. The text should be said in a non-romantic way even when the melody line says something else.
OW: How did you know you wanted to be an opera singer and embark on this career as an artist?
FV: I’ve always loved singing and making music but I didn’t know anything about opera until I started taking singing lessons for fun while running my own business and that inspired me. surprised because many people, recognizing that my talent wanted to help me move my career and I was able to enter an opera company and evolve there by taking on more important and more demanding roles while refining the craft. I am also very lucky to have the support of my family and my wife Gabriela and to be able to make a living from what I love to do: sing opera.
OW: In the fall, you will perform in Chile and Buenos Aires. What is your relationship with the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires? What are your best memories there?
FV: The Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires is like my home. I built my career in theatre. I have sung many very important roles and have always been guided by the great maestros of Teatro Colón. One of my fondest memories was when I opened the 2019 season as Rigoletto. Personally, the day of the premiere, a month after my father died, I think that moment was incredible. I didn’t think I was going to finish the show but I always remember he was proud of what I did and that’s why he helped me sing until the end.
The end of this performance was such a mixture of joy and sadness that I spent the entire performance holding back my tears and at the end, I couldn’t hold it back any longer. Fortunately, I had my family with me and I remember us hugging and thinking that my father, wherever he was, was with me that night.
OW: Looking ahead in your career, what is one operatic role you would like to play that you haven’t done yet? Why?
FV: There are many roles that I would like to sing but one of my favorites is Simon Boccanegra. The nobility of the musical line and the humanity of the character of the father finding his lost daughter and the majesty of the role of supreme Verdian style.