Q & A: Tenor Xabier Anduaga On Winning Operalia & His Return To The Donizetti Opera Festival

By Nicole Kuchta

On July 26, 2019, Spanish tenor Xabier Anduaga (along with fellow competitor Adriana Gonzalez) achieved one of opera’s most coveted distinctions as he joined the circle of Operalia 1st Prize winners. The Operalia competition has been transforming talented young singers into stars of the opera scene since 1993, with winners frequently becoming headliners at top venues across the globe.

This fall, the San Sebastian native will take to the stage alongside Carmela Remigio and Marko Mimica as Gennaro in “Lucrezia Borgia” at the Donizetti Opera Festival, where he last year appeared in the role of Leicester in “Il Castello di Kenilworth.”

Anduaga graciously took time to share his Operalia experience and thoughts on his upcoming return to Bergamo with OperaWire.

OperaWire: Operalia is a prestigious competition which has helped launch the careers of a number of today’s opera stars. How did it feel to discover that you had won 1st Prize and the Don Plácido Domingo Ferrer Prize of Zarzuela?

Xabier Anduaga: It was an unforgettable feeling, simply amazing. At that moment, I could not even believe it. Only a few days later I realized what had happened. I can never forget the moment when Maestro Plácido Domingo gave me the awards, and I will not forget the moment when my girlfriend and I arrived at the hotel – we looked at each other and said, “We have won!”

OW: Tell us a bit about your overall experience competing in Operalia. What was most exciting for you?

XA: It was a week of great stress, for all Operalia participants. But I could say that the best moment for me was the piano rehearsal with Maestro Domingo, before the final round, when with his eyes he conveyed to me what he wanted me to do vocally. It was a spectacular moment – the best of the week, I would say.

OW: What are some qualities that you look for in an ‘exceptional’ singer? With such qualities in mind, could you give us some insight as to how you prepared for this major competition?

XA: For me the most important thing is mental and technical control. It is a basic requirement to be able to sing well. My preparation is a daily commitment. I prepare myself almost as an elite athlete would, training my voice and body every day. I work out every day to keep my head fresh, and I am ready to improve my voice constantly.

OW: In what ways do you hope that your Operalia experience will contribute to a long, successful career in opera?

XA: Winning Operalia is a way of feeling that the work I am doing every day with my teacher is on the right track. And for the rest, we will see.

OW: You will return to the Donizetti Opera Festival later this year to sing the role of Gennaro in “Lucrezia Borgia.” What elements of this opera appeal to you? Do you anticipate any challenges?

XA: Yes! I am happy to return to the Donizetti Opera Festival. It is a festival in expansion that every year welcomes more public, of course international, and it has become a claim of the city of Bergamo. They even celebrate a Donizetti night! To debut Gennaro in Bergamo, where the public is so demanding, is a challenge for me. But I love challenges, they make one grow without stopping. Also, I love this opera, and, especially, the role of Gennaro. It has very different dramatic qualities, as opposed to the other characters I am used to performing, so it is a new endeavor which I am happy to dive into. I’m waiting for the critical edition right now, so I cannot share any more details . . . It will be a surprise.

OW: You will once again perform under the baton of Riccardo Frizza, a leading conductor of the Italian repertoire and the festival’s Musical Director. What have you learned from working with him in the past?

XA: It is an honor to work and study with Maestro Frizza. My first experience with him was incredible. I went to audition for the role of Leicester in “Il Castello di Kenilworth,” and the audition became a working session. He gave me the role right at that moment! Throughout the production we worked a lot, including going through some other roles. Besides being a great teacher, he has incredible knowledge of the voice and knows how to get the best out of you. It was transformative to work with Maestro Riccardo Frizza, and I cannot wait to work with him again.

OW: At only twenty-four years old, you still have many years ahead of you to develop your voice and discover new roles. What are some of your goals for the future?

XA: Indeed, I am quite young and my voice is in development, like me! Since I started my career I have grown a few centimeters. All jokes aside, I do not think too much about the future. I believe that my voice, my instrument, is in charge – my voice will decide what my path will be. You know what I mean? I am doing, and will continue doing, my best to give it proper care and technique. So, I do not set goals, really. At the moment, I am happy singing Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti . . . it is a very broad repertoire and I think it serves as the best school for technique. I also have the great luck of having a great manager, Gianluca Macheda. We think alike and have the same vision. I think I’m very lucky, you cannot ask for more.


InterviewsStage Spotlight