Q & A: Tenor Iván Ayón-Rivas on his year of discovery and “Macbeth” at La Scala

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(Photo credit: Tatiana Mazzola)

For Iván Ayón-Rivas, 2021 has been a party in small groups. Selected by OperaWire as one of the 10 Rising Stars of 2021, the Peruvian tenor also won top honors at Operalia before ending the year with his opera debut at the Teatro alla Scala.

This ascent to the top of the opera had been in preparation for years. Ayón-Rivas began his studies at the Peruvian National Conservatory of Lima with the soprano María Eloísa Aguirre. In 2013, he won the Radio Filarmonía singing competition in Lima, with the famous Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio as the main member of the jury. He then moved to Italy and continued his studies with baritone Roberto Servile before winning the third edition of the Concorso Internazionale di Canto “Premio Etta Limiti” in 2015. Two years later, he sang the role of Alfredo at the Granda Festival in Peru and in 2019 he won the 56th Viñas Competition.

From there his repertoire continued to expand, with the tenor assuming leading roles in works such as “La traviata”, “Rigoletto”, “Il corsaro”, “La bohème”, “L ‘elisir d’amore “,” Faust “in theaters such as the Teatro Regio di Torino, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, the Teatro La Fenice, the Teatro Massimo di Palermo, the Teatro Petruzelli, the Macerata Opera Festival, the Bolshoi Theater and the Opera de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, among others.

OperaWire recently spoke to the tenor about his career and what the future holds.

OperaWire: First of all, congratulations on winning Operalia! You not only won the Audience Award, but also the Grand Jury Prizes, including the Zarzuela Prize. How did he feel to win this prize by singing in your native language?

Iván Ayón-Rivas: Winning the zarzuela award was something I really expected, being the only Spanish speaker among the finalists. Sing zarzuela, for someone who grew up speaking spanish i think it is difficult because colloquial language leads to diction errors which when singing causes you to shift your vocal position and it is very dangerous. To sing zarzuela, you have to study a lot and give it the importance it needs.

OW: Your musical journey started with mariachi music, which is also very popular in Peru. How do you feel about this connection of people with this Mexican genre?

IA: Mariachi music has become a Hispanic-American genre, mariachi bands can be found all across Spanish America, and it is the most famous style of folk music in the world. Mariachi music has so many styles and so many songs that have so many facets of the person. There are songs for all occasions and that makes this type of music possible to be present on any occasion.

OW: In 2017, you and your teacher Roberto Servile paid tribute to Peruvian legend Luis Alva at La Scala to celebrate its 90 years. How did this experience go?

IA: Being able to sing and meet Maestro Luis Alva personally has been very enriching for me. He is a person with a heart of gold. Being able to listen to all of your experiences is a unique experience.

OW: You are now the fifth Peruvian to perform an opera at La Scala after Alejandro Granda, Luis Alva, Ernesto Palacio and Juan Diego Flórez. As a Peruvian, what do you think of this achievement?

IA: I think it gives me even more responsibility in my career and this responsibility makes me want to continue studying and conquer important roles.

OW: Speaking of Peru, the Granda Festival has played an important role in your career. How important do you think this festival is in today’s opera world?

IA: The Granda Festival brings great figures of opera to Lima and gives young people the opportunity to see live and up-close singers who are making careers in the best theaters in the world. This gives young students the opportunity to have ambitions and goals. The importance he has in Peru is very great, and the work Ernesto Palacio has been doing for several years is one of the best the country can have.

OW: You are currently sharing the stage of La Scala with Luca Salsi, Anna Netrebko, Ildar Abdrazakov, under the baton of Riccardo Chailly, in a production of “Macbeth”. How did this experience go?

IA: Being able to be part of the cast of this “Macbeth” was a very enriching experience. Being able to share with high level singers so much humanity and humility has been a unique experience. When you sing with colleagues of such magnitude as them, the work becomes a pleasure and a school because by watching them and listening to them, speaking with them and knowing how they face this great responsibility, an opening night of the Teatro alla Scala, you learn a plot.

OW: Shakespeare put his play in 1040, Verdi gave it the music in 1847, and Davide Livermore presents the work in a contemporary production. What is the highlight of this production for you?

IA: This production has a great human depth. Livermore knew how to capture the personality of each character and embodied all their ideas and ideals in this production. He knew how to deal with the temperament of each of us and knew how to make us enter the psychology of the characters and amalgamate them with our own.

OW: A privateer chief, a libertine duke, a poet, a young lover, a crown prince. These are just a few of the types of male characters that you have played. How do you prepare for your roles? How many of you are in each?

IA: The preparation of each character is very difficult. It takes a lot of study to get used to this role. The work we do with my teacher is long, precise and arduous; each measure, each note, each cadence is worked on. I think every role represents a part of me, whether it’s a poet, a leader, a relaxed person or a dreamer.