(Photo credit: Tatiana Mazzola)
For Iván Ayón-Rivas, 2021 was a breakout party. Selected by OperaWire as one of the 10 rising stars of 2021, the Peruvian tenor also took home top honors at Operalia before finishing out the year with his opera debut at the Teatro alla Scala.
That ascension to opera’s peak was years in the making. Ayón-Rivas began his studies at the Peruvian National Conservatory in Lima with the soprano María Eloísa Aguirre. In 2013 he won the Radio Filarmonía singing contest in Lima, with the renowned Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio as a main jury member. Then he moved to Italy and continued studying with the baritone Roberto Servile before winning the third edition of the Concorso Internazionale di Canto “Premio Etta Limiti” in 2015. Two years later he sang the role of Alfredo in the Festival Granda in Peru and in 2019, he won the 56th Viñas Competition.
From there his repertory has continued to expand with the tenor taking on prominent roles in such works as “La traviata,” “Rigoletto,” “Il corsaro,” “La bohème,” “L’elisir d’amore,” “Faust” in such theaters as the Teatro Regio di Torino, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro La Fenice, Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Teatro Petruzelli, Macerata Opera Festival, the Bolshoi theater, and Ópera de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, among others.
OperaWire recently spoke to the tenor about his career and what the future holds.
OperaWire: First off, congratulations on winning Operalia! Not only did you win the audience’s award, but also the major jury prizes as well, including the Zarzuela award. How did it feel to win that award singing in your native language?
Iván Ayón-Rivas: Winning the zarzuela award was something that I really expected, being the only Spanish speaker of the finalists. Sing zarzuela, for someone who has grown up speaking Spanish, I think it is difficult, because colloquial speech leads to mistakes of diction that when singing leads you to move your vocal position and it’s very dangerous. To sing zarzuela you have to study a lot and give it the importance it needs.
OW: Your musical journey started with mariachi music, which also very popular in Peru. How do you feel that connection of the people with this Mexican genre?
IA: Mariachi music has become a Hispanic American genre, mariachi groups are found throughout the whole extension of Spanish America and it is the most famous folk music style in the world. Mariachi music has so many styles and so many songs that count so many facets of the person. There are songs for any occasion and this makes is so that this type of music can be present at any occasion.
OW: In 2017, you and your teacher Roberto Servile paid a tribute to Peruvian legend Luis Alva at La Scala to celebrate his 90th birthday. How was that experience?
IA: Being able to sing and personally meet maestro Luis Alva was very enriching for me. He is a person with a heart of gold. Being able to listen to all of his experiences is a unique experience.
OW: You are now the fifth Peruvian to sing an opera at La Scala following Alejandro Granda, Luis Alva, Ernesto Palacio, and Juan Diego Flórez. As a Peruvian, how do you feel about this achievement?
IA: I think this gives me even more responsibility in my career and this responsibility makes me want to continue studying and conquering important roles.
OW: Talking about Peru, the Festival Granda has played an important part in your career. What do you think is the importance of this festival in today’s opera world?
IA: The Festival Granda takes great opera figures to Lima and gives young people the opportunity to see live and up close singers who make a career in the best theaters in the world. This gives young students the opportunity to have ambitions and goals. The importance that it has in Peru is very great, and the work that Ernesto Palacio has been doing for several years is one of the best that the country can have.
OW: You are currently sharing the stage at La Scala with Luca Salsi, Anna Netrebko, Ildar Abdrazakov, under the baton of Riccardo Chailly, in a production of “Macbeth.” How has this experience been?
IA: Being able to be part of the cast of this “Macbeth” has been a very enriching experience. Being able to share with high-level singers of so much humanity and humility has been a unique experience. When you sing with colleagues of such magnitude as them, work becomes a pleasure and a school because just by looking and listening to them, talking with them, and knowing how they face this great responsibility, a Teatro alla Scala opening night, you learn a lot.
OW: Shakespeare set his play in 1040, Verdi gave it music in 1847, and Davide Livermore is presenting the work in a contemporary production. What is the highlight of this production for you?
IA: This production has a great human depth. Livermore has been able to enter the personality of each character and has embodied all their ideas and ideals in this production. He has known how to deal with the temperament of all of us and has known how to help us enter the psychology of the characters and amalgamate them with ours.
OW: A corsair leader, a libertine duke, a poet, a young man in love, a crown prince. These are just some of the men types of characters you have interpreted. How do you prepare your roles? How much of you is in each one?
IA: The preparation of each character is very difficult. It takes a lot of study to get the throat used to the role. The work we do with my teacher is long, precise, and arduous; every measure, every note, every cadence is worked on. I think each role represents a part of me, whether it be a poet, a leader, someone relaxed, or a dreamer.