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The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has recorded with Rolando Villazón; now they get to meet in person.
Villazón was the tenor soloist on the choir's recent recording of Handel's "Messiah." Because the chorus and soloists don't sing together in the oratorio, though, he was able to record his arias in Paris. "From the minute we met him, we knew we'd met someone very special," Tabernacle Choir music director Mack Wilberg said of those sessions, which stretched over four days in 2014. "He's not only a wonderful singer, he has great charisma." In a phone interview from his Paris home, Villazón was equally effusive about the choir's "very warm, very friendly" conducting staff and recording personnel. "It went beyond just people doing their jobs," he said.
Villazón, a regular fixture on European television as host as well as performer, will likewise do double duty as singer and narrator on the Salt Lake City concerts. "It's a lovely idea," he said. "It creates a stronger connection with the audience."
At a time when he fears society is becoming less open and trusting, "it will be beautiful to come sing what the real message of Jesus is to have empathy and do to others what we want to have done to us," he said.
Born and raised in Mexico City, Villazón was discovered while singing in the shower in his early teens. A neighbor who ran an arts school heard him through the apartment walls and invited him to audition. "If you remember the show 'Fame,' it was that kind of performing school," the tenor said. "From there, I got a feel for the stage and my love of creating music was born." He made the move to opera in his late teens and now is especially acclaimed for his portrayals of Verdi and Mozart heroes. Villazón also is a novelist and stage director.
When • Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-10, 8 p.m.; broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word," Sunday, Dec. 11, 9:30 a.m. (patrons can attend the live broadcast or tune in on KSL TV or radio)
Where • LDS Conference Center, 60 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • Free, but "sold out"; standby line forms at the Temple Square flagpole