Profile of the Spanish baritone Manuel Lanza
Manuel Lanza and Verónica Villarroel
Manuel Lanza as Silvio and Verónica Villarroel as Nedda in Leoncavallo´s Pagliacci (Nov.97).

Kennedy Center Opera House.

He has got the singing in his veins like many Spanish people. No matter if before or after a rehearsal or a performance, when waiting for him at his dressing-room one can hear Manuel Lanza's powerful baritone already from far. Yet, the sympathetic 33-year-old Spanish singer had never intended to become an opera singer. Nobody in his family is involved in the music business professionally, but, when joining some friends for a rehearsal of the school choir, the 17-year-old high school student started to enjoy singing. The director of the choir realized that Manuel Lanza is blessed with an extra-ordinary talent and recommended him to let his voice educate. Manuel took his advice, "I have never really taken the decision to become an opera singer. Everything went so fast that I did not even had the time to think about it. For two years I studied music and voice at the university of music at my home town Santander. After that I was granted a two-year-scholarship for the university of music at Madrid. Just four years after I had started to study voice I got my first engagement at the Teatro de la Zarzuela at Madrid in '90 in 'La del manojo de rosas'. In '93, just two years later I had my debut already at the MET at New York. In '94 followed my debut at the Wiener Staatsoper, in '95 at the Scala at Milano." Laughing he adds, "Still now I wonder sometimes what I am doing here ?"

Supporting for his career were his participations in several competitions, in which he won several prizes. One of these prizes was his participation in a masterclass of Tito Capobianco at Pittsburgh, USA. Since this masterclass took place in '91 he regularly performs there. His engagements at Pittsburgh, where he sang his first major role in 'La Cenerentola' and performed also in 'La traviata', 'Faust' and 'Madama Butterfly', opened him the doors to the MET and therefore to the whole US. His first role at the MET was the one of Schaunard in 'La Bohčme'. The success for Manuel Lanza, who is not related to the late Italo-American tenor Mario Lanza, was great and he returned to the MET as Silvio in 'I pagliacci'. Besides several obligations all over North-America Lanza had his debut at Los Angeles in '96 as Silvio at the side of Plácido Domingo and Verónica Villarroel in Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'I pagliacci'. With the same casting in the leading roles Manuel Lanza opened with 'I pagliacci' the opera season at Washington in November '97, where he gave at the same time his role debut as Mercutio in Gounod's 'Romeo et Juliette'. The 23rd of his roles, which are mainly belong to the lyrical repertory.

In the next years the young baritone wants to grow more into the dramatic repertory. Engagements exist already for the Verdi operas 'Un ballo in maschera' and 'Don Carlo'. "From the viewpoint of a singer I prefer roles like Figaro in 'Barbier di Siviglia'. When you are doing well vocally, you can make this opera to a big success. Also the acting part of this role suits me well. As listener there is nothing like Verdi for me - 'Un ballo in maschera', 'Otello' or also 'Falstaff', which I have sung in the Scala already. The music of these operas I like most," Manuel Lanza gets enthusiastic. His next professional steps he plans carefully,  "You have to care about two things that the role does not damage your voice and that the role becomes a success. This is only possible when the role suits the voice."

Besides a lot of engagements in Spain Manuel Lanza performs regularly at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) and at the Teatro alla Scala di Milano. At the latter he will be part in a production of 'L'elisir d'amore' at the end of October, beginning of November '98. Also in Germany Manuel Lanza is a regular guest singer, as at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, where he has celebrated among others great successes in 'Lucia di Lammermoor' at the side of Alfredo Kraus and Lucia Aliberti. At Munich he regularly performs in 'La Bohčme' on the stage of the Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian State Opera). The Marcello in 'La Bohčme' is a role he likes especially," As a lyrical baritone the role is vocally ideal for my voice. Besides this the part owns beautiful phrases and a wonderful legato. It is also a perfect role for me since I represent a young character, who loves to live and inside myself I am a bit Marcello. A part of me feels like a Bohemian." For an artist, who tours around the world permanently, not surprising. But, Lanza likes most to perform in Europe, "While I am in Europe I am never far from my home country Spain." At home Maria Guedán and his two children Marien, 11, and Manuel, 4, wait for him. His wife he had met during his studies. "She is a lyrical soprano. But children and a career as opera singer is hard to combine for a mother. But she has started to sing again and in December '97 we have been singing for the first time together on stage in 'L'elisir d'amore' at Santander."

With Manuel Lanza one cannot only talk about operas, he is as competent in the field of computers, "Originally I wanted to do something with computers professionally. Now, I have become an opera singer and the computers are my hobby." In the time, which stays between rehearsals, traveling and performing, he likes to read, "Before I start to study a new role I read the drama or the book, on which the opera is based. It is very interesting to know the inspiration of the composer. It gives you a better idea of the interpretation. After I have read the book I know everything or almost everything I need to know for my role. Then I am listening to the music and I am starting to study the music. Sometimes the composer has added things. For example Verdi or Puccini, their music makes the characters appear even more real than in the book. Besides this I like to read books about history and biographies of the composers and of singers of past times."

Birgit Popp


Performances of Manuel Lanza:


Oct. 24, 28                     Munich                      La Bohčme
Oct. 21, 26, 31,
Nov.  6, 8                       Milano/Scala            L'Elisir d'Amore
Nov. 23, Dec. 9,12        Bilbao                        Fausto
Dec. 8, 17, 19                 Santander                 Nozze di Figaro



Jan. . 4,  7                       Viena                         L'Elisir d'Amore
Jan. 29 , Feb. 1, 5          Viena                         Madma Butterfly
February - March         Trieste                      Lucia di Lammermoor
March 15 - 27                Viena                         Pagliacci
Apr. 15, 22, 24, 26         Viena                         Linda, Pagliacci, Lucia
May  12, 15                    Viena                        Lucia, L'Elisir
June   15 - July 24         Milano/Scala           Manon


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