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New Classical Tracks: Villazon and Abdrazakov team up for tenor-bass 'Duets'

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New Classical Tracks is a Syndicated feature airing nationally on Classical 24 & statewide on Minnesota Public Radio. Listen to the segment.

READ THE TRANSCRIPT - It might be as rare as a white peacock, yet equally as beautiful. According to Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon, it's the first recording featuring duets for tenor and bass. Better yet, he was able to create this project, titled Duets, with two incredible friends and colleagues, Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov and conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin, leading the Metropolitan Orchestra of Montreal.

"Sometimes, you look back and you say, 'Whoa, how was this all possible, to find the time to all be there?' And I have to say this is the first CD with duets from a bass and a tenor. There are no such CDs, because there is very little repertoire."

The recording starts off with probably the most famous duet between a tenor and a bass, "C'etait le soir" … "Au fond du temple saint." The way your voices blend is just stunning. And I know Yannick made a comment about that, how moving it was to hear you sing this aria from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers. Tell me what that experience was like for you in that setting?

"It was quite special; we were all very moved. I mean, Yannick was very inspired; we were inspired; we were each other inspiring the others. And yeah it was one of those moments that will remain in my heart and in my mind for a long time - I mean, forever. It was very, very beautiful. The orchestra, the whole thing was great."

Another incredibly beautiful moment comes in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, which is the second aria that you sing together, and it is so beautiful. I've had to listen to that several times.

"It's because we aimed for intimacy on this one. You feel it. You start performing, and you start playing with it. You have the conductor that understands and goes into that direction. And you just join together with him, with the orchestra and then everybody is exactly in the same way, in the same line. And then the magic happens."

There are also some lesser-known works on this recording. One, in particular, is the opera Mephistopheles, by Arriaga Boito. Tell me about these two arias and this opera that people may not be as familiar with.

"Yeah, Boito wrote this opera. It's a very beautiful opera. Faust is played by the tenor, as in Gounod. The devil, of course, had to be played by a bass, by a naughty bass like Ildar. Ildar starts the section with a famous long aria, the whistler aria of the devil. And that that makes it a nice little moment of of devilish importance."

Do you have another favorite on this recording that we haven't talked about yet?

"Well, the Don Pasquale is one that I really like. It's a very difficult duet; it's a very challenging duet for the tenor. And it leads to this great finale between the two of them sort of fighting or, you know, arguing between each other in a very, very galloping way that Donizetti was able to bring to life with his music."

Duets is a new recording featuring a rare, and beautiful encounter between three leading figures from the world of opera: Rolando Villazon, Ildar Abdrazakov and Yannick Nezet-Seguin.

Listen to the New Classical Tracks podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

You can enter for a chance to win a copy of this week's featured CD on New Classical Tracks. Winners will be drawn at random. Be sure to enter by 9 a.m. CST on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.