Act II: Marcelo Álvarez, Tenor
The Royal Opera House has a very special place in my heart: I have done more role debuts and
more new productions here than at any other theatre in the world. As all of my colleagues will confirm,
this House is known for an atmosphere that encourages creativity because singers, conductors and
instrumentalists alike have the feeling that all the people who work here are one big family. And this
is important because many of us are far from our real homes. I have so many memories because
I’ve had the good fortune of performing here so many times it is difficult to mention them all, so I will
share just a few with you.
My very first performance of the title role in Les Contes d’Hoffmann was here at the ROH at the very
beginning of my career. As I went out on stage for opening night I remember saying to myself,
“I must be crazy—I’m doing my first Hoffmann anywhere and my debut at The Royal Opera House—
all in the same night. I must have truly been mad.” But the cast and artistic team were so supportive
and the audience was so warm. Even though they didn’t know me yet they treated me like I had
sung here forever (not true for all performers in all opera houses, as opera fans will tell you). I will
never forget that night and looking back I admit that it did take a lot of guts for a young singer to do
two big debuts at the same time.
Of course, everyone wonders what happens behind the scenes. I remember having a hard
time in Lucia di Lammermoor because there was a lot of smoke on stage and I am highly allergic.
This caused me great alarm during rehearsals. Ultimately we worked it all out. But, in the first act’s
duet with Lucia, the director had Edgardo sing “Verrano a te” while he was carrying a suitcase. I
remember thinking at the time “It’s very fitting that I’m holding a suitcase because if they don’t get
rid of this smoke I’m going to pack this bag and go home!” I can laugh about it now but it was very
serious at the time. Singing is hard enough, but try singing when there is smoke all over the stage and
hitting you right in the face.
Having Tony as the Music Director makes the ROH special and one of the main reasons singers
love performing here. I have many fond memories of my collaboration with Tony Pappano for my
first performances of the ROH’s new production of Un Ballo in Maschera. While we were rehearsing, I
knew I was preparing for my role with someone rare—a real maestro from the old Italian school and
tradition. With Pappano, I wasn’t just rehearsing for an opera the way one usually does; I was having