Ramón Vargas, Mexican-born star tenor, has been active for more than 35 years. His early career has been shaped by shining light and the darkest shadow: while debuting on the most prestigious stages within one year, he struggled with a horrible family tragedy behind the scenes. Let’s get to know this special person who will soon sing in Hungarian cities Győr and Debrecen!
“[Singing] is an extra strong way to communicate with human beings. When you are sad or when you are happy – you sing. Singing is indeed like praying twice.”
These are some thoughts, inspired by Saint Augustine, that Ramón Vargas believes about music. He was born in 1960 in a Mexican family, the seventh of nine children. He started to work on his voice in his childhood and studied music, winning a national prize with 22 years already. In the same year he debuted with his first opera role. He caused a huge surprise by not choosing some well-known Verdi or Rossini, but a not-so-known Haydn opera, Lo Speziale. He made his way to the centre of attention, and soon received even more roles, now in popular operas like Falstaff and Don Giovanni. In 1986, he won a prestigious prize named after Enrico Caruso, then went to Vienna to continue his studies there.
His international breakthrough happened in the season 1992/1993. First he debuted on the Staastoper stage in The Barbier of Sevilla, then he was approached by the New York Metropolitan. He received a role in Lucia of Lammermoor, and he took the role from Pavarotti who left the piece in the middle of the rehearsal process because he had issues with the directing. Vargas arrived in the middle of an accustomed and well-rehearsed performance, but he took the challenge very well. The show was such a success that it is still the most often mentioned episode of his career.
“I was so young, I didn’t realize exactly what happened!”
– remembers Vargas, who considers Pavarotti the best voice in the last 50 years, and Plácido Domingo the best opera stage performer. His biggest role model is Giuseppe di Stefano whom we might not know as much as the other two tenors, but who was very popular in Mexico during Vargas’ childhood.
The third sparkling moment in 1993 was another debut, this time in the Scala in Milan. Vargas seemed to be on the path towards a successful and happy life… But then fate intervened. Vargas’ firstborn son was born in an Italian hospital, and due to the negligence of the doctors, he suffered brain damage during birth. Despite all the love and care he received from his parents, Eduardo died at the age of seven. Vargas reached out to art, and then education and charity work, to leave earthly hell behind. The Eduardo Vargas Memorial Fund was created in 2000 to prevent tragedies like theirs, and to support special needs children and their families. Ramón Vargas supports the Fund by the proceeds from his concerts, too.
This is also a reason why we should buy tickets for Ramón Vargas’ performances. We can be sure that he gives voice to children in need, and also that we get a lovely bel canto experience. To commemorate his debut in the Met, Vargas still likes to sing in Lucia of Lammermoor, just like operas by Mozart, Verdi, Donizetti, Rossini and Puccini. Nevertheless, he is still famous for finding rarely played operas for his repertoire, both from better known composers (like Salieri or Haydn) or not so well known ones (like Simon Mayr or Domenico Cimarosa).
He lives in Vienna with his wife and two sons, so it is worth browsing the opera programme there for his performances. And not so far away from Austria, in the Hungarian cities Győr and Debrecen, he will give two aria evenings in the near future, performing with the Győr Philharmonics and conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi.