Twenty years have elapsed since José Concepción started his career as a belcantista tenor.
It all began when he was only a seven year old child and sang as a soloist in the folklore ensemble Tetir from Fuerteventura (Canary Islands), whose artistic directorship was held by his father.
His prodigious voice enthralled audiences all over the island and he kept on singing until 1992, when being 16 years old he went to Las Palmas of Gran Canaria to take part in a meeting of young soloist singers representing Fuerteventura, his homeland.
His performance was a great success and in spite of being exceedingly young, he enraptured many of the attending artistic personalities of the opera and music entrepreneurs, with his natural gift for bel canto, his exceptional voice and his artistic capacity, to such an extent that he was even offered contracts to sing within some both national and international companies.
But he didn´t want to rush whatsoever, so with humbleness and wisdom, decided that it was better to wait and acquire more artistic maturity as a singer and experience on stages.
This way, he went on increasingly improving his voice and amazing spectators all over the Canary archipelago in each and every one of his concerts, until it dawned on him that he needed to leave his beloved Fuerteventura, his relatives and his many friends in the island which saw him be born, to grow up as an artist.
THE BEGINNING OF AN ARTISTIC LIFETIME AS OPERA TENOR
And the opportunity came in 1996, when with the financial help of his family, some friends of Fuerteventura and werewithal of their own provided by some artistic managers from the island, he could go to Madrid to deeply study music and canto, enrolling in the Singing School of the prestigious soprano Ana Fernaud (professional singer of Lied, Oratorium, Vocal Symphonic Works, French and Spanish Songs, Professor at the Madrid Superior School of Canto and a remarkable authority in Master Classes of Canto along with singing technique, performance and the ellaboration of a specific repertoire to each type of voice, with a great background training excellent singers).
A few weeks later, the first artistic turning point in José Concepción´s lifetime arrived when on December 8, 1996 he went to Ana Fernaud´s School to have a hearing, and when the lyric soprano listened to the Fuerteventura singer, she became spellbound and said to him something that he didn´t expect: You have got an extraordinary voice for the Opera !
It boosted José Concepción´s morale and optimism and he began to devote an average of twelve hours a day to intensively study musical theory, history of classical music, singing technique and so forth, steadily feeling an unswerving love and passion for bel canto and a vital necessity of giving body and soul to it.
AN AVID COLLECTOR AND LISTENER OF FIRST-RATE HISTORICAL OPERA CDs
In addition, very quickly, he started to have a penchant for buying top-notch CDs with recorded live concerts of the best tenors ever, spending all nights long listening to them and painstakingly studying the style, deep tones, high-pitched tones, duration of notes, timbre and characteristic tone quality of voices notes, etc, of the foremost singers of the German and Italian opera.
He strove after learning from all of them, trying to glean the most relevant aspects of each one that could be useful to get him better and better as a tenor.
Therefore, Opera CDs of classical music seals like EMI Classics, Naxos Historical, Vai Music, Urania, Past Perfect, Acrobat, Warner Classics, RCA Victor Red Seal, Decca, Malibran-Music, Pentatone Classics, RCA Victor Living Stereo, Deutsche Grammophon, Phillips Classics, Sony Classical, London, Ica Classics, Living Stage, Orfeo Live Recordings, Bongiovanni, Vox, Myto Historical Line, Golden Melodram, Fono Enterprise, Teldec, IDIS and others were progressively acquired by José Concepción,
- Jussi Björling, the Swedish tenor (one of the opera leading figures in the world between mid thirties and late fifties) with unique timbre, outstanding phrasing, wide legato, flexible volume regulation — very apparent when he sings Cielo e Mar romance from Amilcare Ponchielli´s second act of La Gioconda— and an uncommon authority on stage, without forgetting his singing line applied to verismo in Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, L´Arlesiana, Fedora, Andrea Chenier, etc, his great fluency with French arias of Pearl Fishermen and Romeo and Juliet, and his noticeable full expansion of the armonic richness of his exceptional voice.
His 1956 New York studio recording of Puccini´s La Bohème performing the role of Rodolfo, with Victoria de los Ángeles (Mimí), Robert Merrill (Marcello) and Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the RCA Victor Orchestra and Chorus, is considered to be a masterpiece.
- Tito Schipa, the embodiment of absolute tenor between 1920 and 1940, singing a stunning Furtiva Lacrima only second to Enrico Caruso´s one and some reference-class scenes of Don Pasquale by Donizetti, it all with astonishing singing line, diction, legato, emission smoothness including very low intensity tones uniting a crescendo, a forte and a decrescendo and an amazing stylistic pureness, standing out in his mythical and exceedingly beautiful Sogno Soave e Casto from Don Pasquale finished with an almost intangible and fascinating high-pitched A Flat, along with arias from Andre Chénier, La Bohème, Cavalleria Rusticana, Don Pasquale, L´Elisir d´Amore, La Gioconda, Lucía di Lammermoor, Manon Lescaut, Marcella, Tosca, Rigoletto and La Traviata.
- Beniamino Gigli, a stately figure of the XX Century Opera between twenties and fifties, incarnating the real art of singing, with sizable yet honey-toned lyric voice of immense beauty and technical facility which reached his highest qualitative peaks when singing Puccini´s works, with an exquisite use of the intermediate voice greatly making up for the fact of not being able to reach enough solid and powerful limit notes.
Together with Tito Schipa and Jussi Björling, he made up the trio of stellar tenors during the Metropolitan Opera of New York halcyon days between twenties and fifties of the 20th Century, specially between 1920 and 1935, its golden period under the helm of the great operistic entrepreneur Giulio Gatti-Casazza (who had started his tenure as a general manager in 1908), in adition to other top class tenors like Enrico Caruso, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi and Giovanni Martinelli, the baritone Titta Ruffo and the bass Feodor Chialiapin.
Regarding Gigli, everything related to phonation worked like a charm in an awesomely easy and spontaneous way in him, particularly when singing lyric tenor roles, but widening his possibilities in heavier and more dramatic repertoires belonging to the realm of tenor spinto (even Radames and Don Alvaro, which forced him to succesfully go to the limit with his voice, although his style, often oozing excessive extroversion and liberties with legato, was not the best) through his ability to generate very pure sounds thoroughly linked to a flexible and ductile singing line, rich in changes of volume and colours, with a prodigious timbre which didn´t lose its impressive patina even in the most delicate middle voice, as well as a peerless ability to accurately attack the B-flat in a truly grandiose way, being likewise able to fulfill very sweet and subtle onslaughts like in È la solita storia del Pastore in Lamento di Federico of Francesco Cilea´s L´Arlesiana.
On the other hand, Gigli´s vocal splendour as a lyric tenor in characters like La Bohème´s Rodolfo and Charles Gounod´s Faust always impressed José Concepción, since the Recanati tenor boasted a vocal profile utterly identified with the young romantic hero, with the added benefit of an idoneus velvety timbre and a tremendous talent turning singing into second nature, as if he were speaking on the stages.
- Richard Tucker, the best American tenor ever, who developed a thirty year intense career (between 1945 and 1975), particularly fruitful with the Metropolitan Opera House of New York, in which he debuted with remarkable success performing the role of Enzo from La Gioconda by Ponchielli on January 25, 1945, which would be followed by a historical performance singing the role of Aida´s Radames for the broadcasts of the NBC Symphony Orchestra of 1949 conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
Tucker was undoubtedly one of the best tenors of XX century, both from a vocal and a dramatic viewpoint, with further legendary performances like Carmen´s Don José in 1954 with Victoria de Los Ángeles and Risë Stevens as partenaires at the Metropolitan Opera House, or his superb 1954 EMI studio recording Don Álvaro in La Forza del Destino by Verdi (with a fabulous and exceedingly dramatic Maria Callas as Leonora), Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera by Verdi with Zinca Milanov (as Amelia), his famous Mario Cavaradossi from Tosca by Puccini historical RCA brodcast on January, 7 1956 conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos and with Floria Tosca performed by Renata Tebaldi and Scarpia by Leonard Warren.
He was a tenor whose wide lyric voice evolved into a lirico-spinto one featuring near dramatic proportions and flexibility, able to take up an extensive repertoire including roles from Verdi (one of the best specialists ever in this composer, thanks to his vocal line and noteworthy dramatic temperament), Puccini, French works and Mozart, being in the spotlight as Manrico from Il Trovatore, Rodolfo from La Bohème, Turiddu from Cavalleria Rusticana, Canio from Pagliacci and in his greatest Puccinian role: the chevalier Des Grieux from Manon Lescaut.
- Fritz Wunderlich: A very brilliant German tenor with a crystal-clear voice, exquisite diction and intelligent but passionate interpretation skills, particularly in Mozartian roles, with historical performances like his famous The Magic Flute´s Prince Tamino and The Abduction from the Seraglio´s Belmonte, without forgetting his great renditions of Schubert and Schuman´s lieder cycles (including his unbeatable Dichterliebe from Heine´s Lyrisches Intermezzo Verse Prologue and 65 poems), though his huge gift enabled him to tackle a very comprehensive repertoire also including Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Rossini and others.
A man who put his thought and heart in every note, with a fairly beautiful lyric tenor timbre, gorgeous, easy and direct high-pitched tones, great volume, very long fiato, utter mastery of the middle voice, absolute control of the regulators, elegant phrasing lacking any affectation, exceptional stylistic versatility, and a prodigious range of nuances.
- Giuseppe Di Stefano, another historical Italian tenor who developed his career between late forties and early seventies, boasting a unique velvety voice, great presence on stages and tremendous mastery of mezza voce and diminuendo, along with a wonderful phrasing.
His cream of the crop repertoire encompassed Verdi´s Rigoletto, Donizetti´s Lucia di Lammermoor, Bellini´s Puritains, Puccini´s Turandot and works by Wagner, Gounod and Bizet.
His sensitivity has always been highly appreciated by José Concepción as a model of something which should be necessary for every good opera singer.
THE RELATIONSHIP WITH A FASCINATED ALFREDO KRAUS. THE LEGENDARY MAESTRO BECOMES JOSÉ CONCEPCIÓN´S MENTOR UNTIL HIS DEATH IN 1999
José Concepción has already decided to work very hard with one aim in his head: turning into a professional Opera tenor.
He has spent some months in Madrid (Spain) attending Ana Fernaud´s Singing School, when suddenly something utterly unexpected occurs.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the best tenors of XX Century (who made a goldsmith´s work on his voice throughout his professional lifetime, achieving a prodigious perfect technique with tremendous mastery of the higher octave and exceptionally easy, brilliant and high-pitched notes learnt through very hard work and numberless rehearsals, and proving to possess C, D Flat and D High — for example in Bellini´s I Puritani and even E Flat in some arias of Giacomo Meyerbeer´s Les Huguenots and Rossini´s William Tell — , as well as having practically been the only tenor during the last quarter of Twentieth Century who sang in tone operas like Bizet´s Fishermen of Pearls, Donizetti´s Linda di Chamounix, Bellini´s I Puritani, Bellini´s La Fille du Regiment, Jules Massenet´s Werther, Charles Gounod´s Romeo and Juliet, Donizetti´s La Favorite and Bellini´s La Sonnambula, Jacques Offenbach´s The Tales of Hoffmann), foremost figure of bel canto and living in Madrid, happens to watch José Concepción sing in early 1997.
The best ever Jules Massenet´s Werther interpreter became flabbergast and told José Concepción that his voice was wonderful but it was unhoned, big and projected in a natural way, something which came out of him, besides commenting that his ear was excellent.
And Alfredo Kraus made the decision of unselflessly helping José Concepción, beginning to impart him free master classes of canto both inside his own home in Boadilla del Monte, at an academy in Madrid with a hired piano paid by him and at the Reina Sofía Center.
This way, Alfredo Kraus played the piano and José Concepción sang, putting voice to the notes.
The maestro constantly opened José Concepción´s mouth, making resonances reach his nose, trying to teach him his very special, exclusive and unconventional singing technique, with a nose making the voice soar incredibly upwards.
Three years went by, and after this highly intensive preparation made up by the master classes imparted to him by Ana Fernaud and Alfredo Kraus along with his in-depth study of musical theory, the improvement of his voice and many hundreds of hours listening to a number of Opera Master tenors compact discs and some concerts in which he sang at the Pérez Galdós Theatre of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in 1996, at the chamber room of the Madrid Auditorium in 1997 and at the Maestranza of Seville Theatre during that same year, José Concepción went to Vienna (Austria) to attend to a highly specialized singing technique course (only one month before Alfredo Kraus sad demise in September of 1999) and after finishing it, he had a great success at the Wiener Staatsoper, one of the shrines of world opera, with all the audience standing up, bursting into applause and shouting Bravo, following a free repertoire in which the tenor from Fuerteventura sang a Mozart´s Aura Amorosa, La Donna è mòbile aria from Verdi´s Rigoletto and Sombras del Nublo from the Canarian composer Néstor Álamo.
FOCUSING ON ITALIAN AND MOZARTIAN OPERAS
Though José Concepción is a great admirer of the German and Austrian opera and their classical most representative interpreters like the sopranos Kirsten Flagstad, Frida Leider, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Gundula Janowitz, Jessye Norman, the tenors Richard Tauber, Fritz Wunderlich, Wolfgang Neumann and Waldemar Kmentt, the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the bass-baritone Hans Hotter, he is specially a great enthusiast of the Italian and Mozartian operas, more in line with his qualities and sensitivity, id est, a kind of amorosa, joyful and dynamic opera in which he can faithfully depict the role of a character in love or an opera buffa, because he has got remarkable interpretative skills and exudes a great sense of humour, as well as having successfully proved his tenor mettle depicting exceedingly complex characters like Manrico from Il Trovatore, in which voice must sound lyric, heroic and dramatic depending on the moments.
For example, when he sings in Giuseppe Verdi´s La Traviata, his eyes simply shine.
And the same happens in Puccini´s La Bohème or Rossini´s The Barbier from Seville.
It´s conspicuously discernible that he is satisfied and engrossed in what he does, deeply loving it with a very high level of passion, and with a top priority goal: to make the audiences enjoy and see a well done work.
In this regard, when he is immersed in the role of Duke in Rigoletto or La Traviata, he can appear in the doldrums or smiling, according to the instants.
On the other hand, José Concepción has always been infatuated by the great difficulty of Mozart´s operas, which were conceived by the Salzburg genius in such a way that tessituras can´t be changed and you can´t lower or raise any note, so they must be sung exactly as the partitures were written by him in the second half of XVIII Century.
Some months later, in early 2000, José Concepción is invited to sing as a tenor by the García Lorca Theatre and Amadeus Roldán Theatre in Havana (Cuba), where he studies with the conductor Félix Guerrero (composer, musical director and General Manager of the National Lyric Theatre of Cuba, who would die on December 21, 2001) and the lyric singer and canto professor Lucy Provedo, making an impact on the artistic entrepreneurs of Opera of the island and some scouters from Eastern Europe attending his performances.
He´s offered important concerts to sing in Europe and United States, but once more he doesn´t want to accelerate things any way.
He hasn´t ever craved for scoring triumph as fast as possible and by any means, so for the nth time in his life, Jose Concepción opts for going on studying more and more, improving his Opera singing technique and dramatic qualities on stage and working harder and harder.
But shortly afterwards, he receives a call from the Renata Scotto Opera Academy in Savona (Italy), founded three years before, in 1997.
It´s once in a lifetime opportunity and José Concepción travels to the Ligurian city to further improve and grow as a tenor, beginning a highly worthwhile relationship with the legendary Italian opera diva Renata Scotto (world-class historical soprano and opera director, preeminent specialist of bel canto repertoire, as well as making excursions into verismo, Grand Prix du Disque for her Deutsche Grammophon recording of Rigoletto, Frankfurter Allgemeine Award for her Portrayal of the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, Opera News Award in 2007 bestowed by the Metropolitan Opera Guild, Honorary Doctorate by Julliard School in 2009, two Emmy Prizes for the telecasts of La Gioconda and her direction of La Traviata in the New York City Opera and reference-class singer and interpreter with milestone recordings like Lucia di Lammermoor stereo hi-fi one at the Teatro alla Scala with Giuseppe Di Stefano and Ettore Bastianini recorded with two Neumann KM-46 mikes on the sides and a handmade Schoeps M201 mike in the middle for Mercury Living Presence label in 1959, her early sixties performances of La Bohème with Tito Gobbi and Gianni Poggi and La Traviata with Ettore Bastianini and Gianni Raimondi conducted by Antonio Votto, and of course, the benchmark Madame Butterfly directed by Sir John Barbirolli for EMI and with Carlo Bergonzi and Ronaldo Panerai respectively as tenor and baritone), which turns into the best possible teacher for him at that period.
Renata Scotto operistic huge experience and know-how prove to be fundamental to instill on José Concepción a sturdy awareness of the major significance of performance qualities to become an actor on stage for the correct representation of the different operas and their main characters, in addition to being able to take the audiences away from their outside lives.
It stands for a way to sing merging musicality and expression, with willpower, studying commitment and thorough preparation to attain a towering performance.
The Italian soprano thoroughness and search for perfection in everything she does (she was even able to turn into a top class designer of her own costumes from late eighties onwards through a painstaking study of books dealing on various kinds of fabrics and period styles) had from the start a deep influence in José Concepción, particularly to grasp the necessity of having to know the meaning of being a singer who knows how to act and make a character believable, and the difficulties inherent for any belcantista tenor trying to expand his repertoire to Verdi, because the verismo is drama in music and the composer wrote asking everything from the tenor´s voice, so you need to study very much and develop a special technique to properly fulfill fortissimi, pianissimi, coloratura, legato, legatissimo, high notes, low notes, instants of great drama, and each character needs his/her specific right expressions and words, so the singer must indefatigably go into another world and steadily fight to understand everything that Verdi wanted to convey with his music.
FURTHER PERFECTIONING OF HIS TECHNIQUE WITH GHENA DIMITROVA, MONTSERRAT CABALLÉ, MARIANA NICOLESCO AND MIRELLA FRENI
Between 2002 and 2004, José Concepción went on singing in numerous European opera theatres like the Guimerá Theatre in Tenerife (L´Elisir D´Amore), Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Theatre (Rigoletto), the Craiova Theatre (Cavalleria Rusticana and Ballo in Maschera), the Constanza Theatre (L´Elisir D´Amore and Aida) and the Theatre of the Opera of Praga (where he reached a great success singing Rigoletto, La Traviata and La Bohème).
But Ana Fernaud, Alfredo Kraus and Renata Scotto taught José Concepción never to rest on his laurels but always try to better himself, and once again, the tenor from Fuerteventura, loyal to his vital keynote of falling in love with what he sings to the utmost, decided to increase his level of preparation even more, attending to master classes imparted to him by four historical divas of the Opera: Ghena Dimitrova, Mariana Nicolesco, Montserrat Caballé and Mirella Freni.
José Concepción met Ghena Dimitrova in Vienna in 2003 (three years after she had retired from stages, and two before her death in Milan on June 11, 2005).
The Bulgarian soprano (famous for the impressive power and extension of her voice throughout her 40 year career, had a very deep insight about the opera world, having excelled for many decades with landmark performances, as when she made her debut in New York in May 1984 at Carnegie Hall, singing the role of Abigaille in a concert version of Nabucco, mesmerizing the audience, or with her extraordinary performance in the role of Princess Turandot at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1987, displaying awesome vocal power and high notes able to penetrate the heavy orchestration) gave a lot of good advice to José Concepción, including the great importance of a powerful voice to match the original partiture of some operas, such as they were conceived by their composers, and the pivotal necessity of learning special techniques to preserve the voice quality and its traits throughout many decades.
On the other hand, he met the Romanian soprano Mariana Nicolesco in Prague (Czech Republic) in 2004.
José Concepción spent a whole year living in the Ultava river city, working at the Prague State Opera with Mariana Nicolesco and other opera singers, while simultaneously receiving master classes by her on a daily basis.
Mariana Nicolesco ( Officer of the Order of the Arts and Letters in France 2000, Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity 2004, UNESCO Artist for Peace 2005, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, a world-class soprano internationally famous for her rich, vibrant and intense voice in synergy with outstanding dramatic qualities and an energetic personality, whose long career started in 1972 working with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Rodolfo Celletti and who subsequently excelled in a wide repertoire including Baroque, Bel Canto and Verismo, performing the roles of Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart, Mimí in La Bohème by Puccini, Leonora in Il Trovatore, Luisa in Luisa Miller by Verdi, Tatyana in Yevgheny Onegin by Tchaikovsky, Beatrice di Tenda by Bellini, Maria di Rohan by Donizetti, Marguerite in Faust by Gounod, Amelia in Simon Boccanegra by Verdi, Desdemona in Otello by Verdi, Liù in Turandot by Puccini, Elettra in Idomeneo by Mozart, and others, as well as being the creator in 1997 and honorary president of the Hariclea Darclée International Voice Competition, annually held in Braila, Romania, one of the hubs of European operistic life during XIX and XX Centuries, aiming at discovering new talents in the scope of lyric opera, and whose prestigious jury has been made up hitherto among others by Josef Hussek — Opera House manager in Hamburg and Vienna, artistic manager of the Salzburg Festival — , Félix Serraclara — Spanish baritone, director, producer of Opera performances and lyrical tours organizer —, the Chinese mezzosoprano Baoyi Bi, Stephan Poen — Doctor in Musicology, Lyrical Art Professor and author of gorgeous arias video projections of Hariclea Darclée interpreted by Mariana Nicolesco — , the great baritone Nicolae Herlea and many others) was likewise instrumental in the molding and upgrading of José Concepción´s virtues as a tenor, thanks to her huge background as an internationally acclaimed soprano and particularly through the expertise and know-how acquired during her many years tenure preparing laureate bel canto tenors and baritones in the different editions of the Darclée Voice Competition, with the invaluable help of the orchestra conducted by the maestro Marco Balderi.
Regarding Montserrat Caballé, José Antonio Concepción met her for the first time in Zaragoza, where he flew on a plane to have an audition during the master classes imparted by the opera diva — and in which she taught that vocal quality isn´t everything, highlighting the primary relevance of learning to breathe to attain the projection of the voice, and the necessity for every singer of exercising the breathing organs to build up a sound architecture — .
The world-class Spanish lyric soprano (Best Solo Vocal Interpretation Grammy Award 1968 for her performance in the album Rossini Rarities, National Prize of Music in 1988, Prince of Asturias of the Arts Prize 1991, Golden Medal to the Merit of Beaux Arts, Menéndez Pelayo University Doctor Honoris Causa in 2008, Ordine al Mérito della Reppublica Italiana 2009, Barcelona University Doctor Honoris Causa 2011), a foremost figure in the history of opera with a comprehensive repertoire of more than 90 works, with her perfect mastery of technique, velvety timbre, inspiration, exceptional vocal quality and stability, exceedingly accurate emission, great control of the nuances and the coloratura within the musical phrase, specialist in the bel canto repertoire where she has always excelled with a very beautiful pianissimo in the high-pitched tones and an uncommon ability to flawlessly hold the voice during the most protracted phrasings and begetter of magic performances ( like her legendary ones of Bellini´s Norma Casta Diva at the Theatre Antique of Orange, France, on November 11, 1974. providing the character with an unmatched neoclassical beauty, highlighting her most maternal and feminine side, his 1965 international success at the Carniege Hall of New York replacing Marilyn Horne in the role of Lucrezia Borgia, along with works by Donizetti and Verdi) heard José Concepción sing an aria of Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni at the Luis Galve Hall of the Zaragoza Auditorium, and something uncommon happened: she was amazed on listening to his voice and told him: Do you want to sing in the final concert of my Master Classes? And José Concepción accepted, singing in the Mozart Auditorium of Zaragoza.
And with respect to Mirella Freni, José Antonio Concepción met her at CUBEC (Accademia di Belcanto di Modena), where he went to attend to her master classes of canto.
The legendary Italian soprano (French Legion D´Honneur 1993, Italian Cavaliere di Gran Croce 1993, Special Gala Concert directed by James Levine to celebrate her 40th Anniversary of her Met debut and 50th on the stage, best Mimi in the world during the last fifty years, famous for her richly nuanced belcantista performances, the discovering of new musical or dramatic truth in them, her sensitive phrasing and a full palette of colours, whose international celebrity started singing the roles of Adina, Susanna and Zerlina in the Glyndebourne 1960 Donizetti´s L`Elisir D´Amore staged by Franco Zeffirelli, Nannetta in Falstaff at the Covent Garden and La Scala, Mimi in Puccini´s La Bohéme at La Scala in 1963 staged by Franco Zeffirelli, where she gleamed brightly with her sublimely spun legato, subsequently singing during seventies and eighties heavier roles of Verdi´s operas as Elisabetta de Valois in Don Carlo — with John Vickers as partenaire — , Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, Desdemona in Othello, Elvira in Ernani staged by Luca Ronconi, Aida, Leonora in La Forza del Destino, after which she stretched her repertoire even more from early nineties with further Verismo roles like Giordano´s Fedora in London Covent Garden, La Scalla do Milan, Paris Opera, Great Liceo of Barcelona and Zurich, Cilea´s Adriana — reaching a great success in the New York Metropolitan Opera —, Tatiana from Tchaikovsky´s Yevgeny Onegin, and others) has also been decisive in the improvement of José Concepción´s voice and style through her teachings and her more than half a century of background as a belcantista soprano on worldwide opera theatres, besides infusing him with an unwavering yearning for turning every time he sings into a gala performance giving it all.
Needless to say that Mirella Freni´s awesome ability to keep immaculate her sensational timbre purity throughout decades while simultaneously getting into a more spinto repertoire like Francesco Cilea´s Adriana Lecouvreur, Tatiana from Tchaikovsky´s Eugene Onegin and in the title role of Puccini´s Manon Lescaut ( she is still extraordinary in her Met February 1990 performance, continuing to sing Puccini with seemingly reckless ardor while preserving a surprisingly fresh and beautiful sound, in addition to supplying vocal and dramatic credibility) became a trove for José Concepción´s learning and maturity as an artist.
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INTERNATIONAL BREAKTHROUGH AND SUCCESS OF JOSÉ CONCEPCIÓN
2005 marked the departure year of José Concepción as a successful international professional opera tenor, preceded by a very long, hard and exhausting period of nine years — which began in 1996 — with all kind of sacrifices and hardships to increasingly improving his technique, learn as much as he could, educate his voice and feed his soul with music, which is for him the most wonderful thing on earth.
His triumphant début in the role of Duke of Mantua from Verdi´s Rigoletto in 2005 at the Prague State Opera was only the first many subsequent blossoming successes from then onwards, singing and peforming a number of operatic lyric roles like Edgardo from Donizetti´s Lucia di Lammermoor, Rodolfo from Puccini´s La Bohème, Nemorino from Puccini´s L´ Elisir d´Amore and Alfredo in Puccini´s La Traviata and many others.
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This way, he has achieved triumph in many important worldwide theatres since 2005 hitherto, standing out his performances in:
- The Prague State Opera (Czech Republic), in the role of Duke of Mantua in Giuseppe Verdi´s Rigoletto.
- The Prague State Opera (Czech Republic), in the role of Calaf in Giacomo Puccini´s Turandot.
- The State Opera Stara Zagora (Bulgaria), singing the E Lucevan Le Stelle aria from Giacomo Puccini´s Tosca.
- The National Auditorium of Music of Madrid, playing the role of Calaf in Giacomo Puccini´s Turandot, with the soprano Teresa Castal (in the role of Liu), the baritone Luis Santana (in the role of Mandarin), with the Filarmonía Orchestra and Choir conducted by Pascual Osa.
- The Opernhaus Graz (Opera House of Graz) in Austria, singing the role of Mario Caravadossi from Puccini´s Tosca, accompanied by the Graz Symphony Orchestra.
- The Constanza Opera Theatre (Romania), in the role of Radames fromVerdi´s Aida and in L´Elisir D´Amore by Donizetti.
- The Prague State Opera (Czech Republic), in the role of Count of Lerma from Verdi´s Don Carlo, in the role of Enzo Grimaldo from Amilcare Pochielli´s La Gioconda.
- Switzerland and Regina Maria Theatre at Oradea (Romania), playing the role of Radames from Verdi´s Aida in a tour with the Italian sopranos Raffaella Battistini and Olivia Latina.
- The Finnish National Opera in Helsinki, playing the role of Ernani from Verdi´s opera bearing identical name.
- The Cathedral of Sofia (Bulgaria) where he sang in a performance of Verdi´s Requiem.
- The Magyar Állami Operaház (Hungarian State Opera House) of Budapest, playing the role of Riccardo, English governor of Boston from Verdi´s Un Ballo in Maschera.
- The Auditorium of Barcelona, singing during Beethoven´s 9th Symphony Orchestra.
- The Guimerá Theatre of Tenerife, singing in L´Elixir D´Amore by Donizetti.
- The Lope de Vega Theatre of Seville, singing in Rigoletto, La Traviata and L´Elisir D´Amore.
- The Great Theatre of Liceo in Barcelona, singing in the Homage Concert to Pau Nadal.
- Fuerteventura Palace of Formation and Congresses, singing during the Lyric Concert held on October 1, 2015 with the pianist and composer Osias Wilenski (Argentina) and the bass Ioan Vrasmas (Romania), a day in which the audience was offered a vast choice of works by Verdi, Puccini, Rossini and Mozart.
Among other operistic pinnacles, José Concepción sang masterfully the aria Nessun Dorma during his performance of Prince Calaf of Puccini´s Turandot.
- Japan, during a tour of the Prague State Opera.
- Fuerteventura Palace of Congresses, singing in Puccini´s Madame Butterfly On October 2, 2016
- The Cervantes Institute of Warsaw (Poland).
José Concepción deems Opera as a multidisciplinary art including music, dance, painting in the scenery, poetry, theatre, literature, etc, and thanks to his impeccable technique steadily bettered through many years, he has proved to be able to performed both roles belonging to the sphere of bel canto and other heavier and more intense ones pertaining to verismo orbit (where he displays his great scenic strength in operas whose end often makes people remain in silence) as spinto tenor, like Riccardo in Ballo in Maschera, Calaf in Turandot, Carlos in Don Carlo, Radames in Aida, Manrico in Il Trovatore, etc.
Moreover, he has been until now directed by masters like Robert Jindra, M. Conti, R. Ciorei, F Zamfir, N Jaunis, R. Gutter, P. Bear, M. Martinez, S. Brotons, C. Sandu, Miguel Angel Gomez, Happy Warrior, Koichi Inove , Dinos Constantinides, Omeo Rimbu among others, having recently recorded a CD album with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Italo-Australian soprano Michelle-Marie Francis Cook.
And he has even accepted risky challenges putting him through his paces, like the representation of Puccini´s Il Tabarro (organized by the artistic Fuerteventura firm Luna de Lobos Productions) at the Puerto del Rosario and Corralejo auditoriums on October 13 and 14, 2012, in the role of Luigi ( the stevedore Giogietta is in love with), along with the soprano Gema Scabal (Giorgetta, Michele´s wife), the baritone Miguel Baena ( Michele, owner of the barge in the Seine river), the soprano Aila Rodríguez (La Frugola, wife of Talpa stevedore), the Bulgarian violinist Marilina Dobreva, choreography by Sabina Varela, musical direction by Gianpaolo Vadurro and scenic direction by Fabián Álvarez.
It was a success, which is highly commendable, since it is a one act very intense work oozing huge dramatism and scenic strength, growing sinister by the moment and where love (particularly tangible in the fairly passionate duet between Luigi and Giogietta, where tenor and soprano sing in unison, concluding in a high B and tragedy coalesce in the Paris of early XX Century. it all being wrapped by a very beautiful music, though this first one of the three operas (together with Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi) making up Il Trittico features exceedingly complex technical difficulties for singers, to such an extent that it is scarely represented and is virtually impossible to 100% perform it without errors, with only very few really great productions of it having been fulfilled, like the one of 1971 with the New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Erich Leinsdorff for RCA with a great Plácido Domingo in the role of Luigi, Leontyne Price (Giorgetta), Sherrill Milnes (Michelle) and Oralia Domínguez (La Frugola).
Within his operistic debuted repertoire stand out:
La Traviata (Alfredo)
Ballo in Maschera (Riccardo)
La Boheme (Rodolfo)
Madama Butterfly (Pinkerton)
Turandot - In versione concerto (Calaf)
Lucia Di Lammermoor (Edgardo)
Romeo et Juliette (Romeo)
José Concepción lives presently in Barcelona (Spain) and staying true to his penchant for improving more and more every time, in spite of singing worldwide, performing the opera roles of his busy schedule, he keeps on perfectioning his vocal technique with Jaume Aragall and Mirella Freni, and what´s more important, he goes on being the same humble person as twenty years ago.
He does know his roots, loves Fuerteventura with all of its being and will never forget the people from this incredibly beautiful island, his hometown, who helped him when he started his way as a tenor, including his parents Miguel Concepción and María Hernández (who worked hard since his childhood to bring him up), Cirila Cabrera Saavedra (who was likewise always there when Jose needed support), Rosi Polín and of course the mythical Anita La de Los Estancos, his grandmother, quite an institution in Fuerteventura, who sometimes spent his whole monthly widow´s pension to help finance the majorero tenor´s trips and a woman even more important for him than the Goddess María Callas and Aida, his favourite opera.
Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza