Francisco Araiza

Biography

Country: Latin Continuum  
Araiza's father was a tenor and also the chorus master of the Mexico Opera, so Araiza was exposed to opera at an early age. In 1966, he studied organ at the Escuela de Música in Mexico City, and, to fulfill a curricular requirement, he reluctantly joined the choir, though he was not particularly interested in vocal music. He actually began as a bass, but a teacher found that he had an exceptionally good upper register, with a natural high B flat. Read more Under Irma Gonzalez, he developed his voice into a lyric tenor with a strong ring. He made his operatic debut in 1970 as the first prisoner in a concert version of Beethoven's Fidelio, sang his first major performance as a soloist in Haydn's Creation in 1973, and in the fall of 1974, competed in the ARD Singing Competition in Munich, Germany. While he won only the third prize, the jury recognized his potential as a Mozart singer, and he was given the chance to audition for the Karlsruhe Staatstheater Mozart project, a multi-year full Mozart cycle. He was offered a two-year contract with an option for the third year, but he had not studied Mozart before to any great extent, so Anton Dermota and Richard Holm (two of the three judges) both took him under their wing, training him in Mozart style. He enjoyed great success as Tamino and Ferrando.

In 1979, Herbert von Karajan took a special interest in Araiza's career, and chose him for Tamino in his new recording of Die Zauberflöte. In 1981 he made his U.S. debut, and in 1983, made his Met debut. During the mid-'80s, however, Araiza began to take on slightly heavier roles, but when he started to sing such spinto and dramatic roles as Alvaro in Verdi's La forza del destino, Cavaradossi in Tosca, and even Lohengrin, his voice lost much of its flexibility, becoming rather leathery in timbre as well by the 1990s. In 1996, he was scheduled to sing performances of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at the Metropolitan, but his contract was bought out by mutual agreement. Araiza still performs those lighter roles in which he is comfortable, and also spends much of his time teaching.

Some of his early recordings, the Mozart Così fan tutte under Neville Marriner (Philips) and the Rossini Barbiere di Siviglia, also under Marriner (Philips), are still considered benchmarks for post-Wunderlich and Gedda tenors. Read less


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