Tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, last seen as the Duke of Mantua in Houston Grand Opera's production of Rigoletto, was all set to return to HGO for the title role in Werther when COVID-19 crashed the season.
Instead of being part of the first performance of Jules Massenet's Werther at the Wortham Center in more than 40 years, Chacón-Cruz was asked by HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers to give a concert performance. He'll do that on November 13 as part of HGO's Live From the Cullen series. His repertoire begins with southern Italian songs, moves to American and Mexican (including "Bésame mucho" and a tango), then more classical songs and finishes with an aria from Werther.
Speaking by phone while waiting for his rehearsal in the Cullen Theatre, Chacón-Cruz said in selecting the line-up of songs he'll do, accompanied by HGO principal coach Kirill Kuzmin, "I decided to go with the theme of hope and peace within yourself."
Chacón-Cruz, an HGO Studio alumni who has sung more than 50 roles in countries around the world and who is now based in Miami, says he has become a better recital performer over the years. "In opera you're immersed in a world that the audience is living around. It's a whole story that has a beginning, middle and ending. During a recital there are multiple micro worlds that each song or aria will become. With time I have noticed that I have become a much better recitalist and concert performer because I have learned to give each individual piece its worth and transport the audience between songs to a different world. Which is very hard.
"I admit when I was younger I would sing the song and try to survive," he says adding that now he makes it his goal to bring out the meaning in each song.
Actually, as soon as the coronavirus changed live performances in March, he began a series of concerts from his living room, doing more than 40 of them. "Some weeks we reached over 4 million people from those concerts."
Growing up in Sonora in northern Mexico, Chacón-Cruz says he used to sing for fun with a mariachi band when he was a teenager. "I thought everybody could sing; whomever didn't sing it was because they were shy or something. I wasn't shy. Slowly and surely my name got a reputation for a guy who sangvery well with mariachi.
A tradition in Mexico is that when someone is going to propose, he brings along a singer to serenade the prospective bride. Chacón-Cruz was hired for a lot of these.
"My mother couldn't take it anymore. She said 'That's it. You're not going to go out with your mariachi friends. You're going to get disciplined. I made you an appointment at the university.' And she sent me to a voice teacher." And that's where he was exposed to and entranced by the operatic voice.
A few years later he sang his first main house lead role as Pinkerton in HGO's production of Madame Butterfly.
Asked why people should listen to his upcoming concert Chacón-Cruz responded: "I think it’s a good way to to allow yourself to be vulnerable and to allow yourself to process a lot of what we are feeling. I want it to be cathartic. I want it to be something that will encourage you if you have tears in you to let them out if you have despair to change it for hope. Music has this ability to find within you to look forward. It can make you also sad. but through the sadness and the tears it's how you take those feelings out and exchange them for something more positive.
Arturo Chacón-Cruz's recital is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 13 through HGO Digital. It can be viewed through Marquee TV, an on-demand streaming platform. Free.
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