Opera Singer Fernando Varela

More from this show

Opera tenor Fernando Varela will appear on Arizona Horizon to talk about his career and his PBS special, “Fernando Varela: Coming Home.”

TED: OPERA TENOR FERNANDO VARELA HAS PERFORMED AROUND THE WORLD. AND AS A SOLO ARTIST. THAT IS FERNANDO VARELA COMING HOME WHICH AIRS TONIGHT AT 7:00 RIGHT HERE ON ARIZONA PBS. JOINING US NOW IS FERNANDO VARELA. WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON."

FERNANDO VARELA: THANK YOU SO MUCH. IT'S A PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

TED: GREAT TO HAVE YOU HERE. MY GOODNESS, YOU WORK WITH LIONEL RICHIE, THE BEACH BOYS. YOU'VE WORKED WITH POP GROUPS AS WELL.

FERNANDO VARELA: YEAH, I'M KIND OF THE BLACK SHEEP OF CLASSICAL MUSIC. I WRITE A LOT OF MY OWN SONGS. OF COURSE YOU KNOW YOU HEARD ONE WHICH IS JUST A GLORIOUS SONG. I THINK IT'S ONE OF THE GREATEST MELODIES EVER WRITTEN. BUT, YOU KNOW, I WAS MENTORED BY DAVID FOSTER. I TOURED WITH DAVID FOSTER ALL OVER THE WORLD. I WAS JUST WITH HIM LAST WEEKEND IN FACT. SO I HAVE A NEW ALBUM COMING OUT. PBS TELEVISION SPECIAL. MY DEBUT SPECIAL, WHICH AIRS TONIGHT. THAT'S WHY I'M HERE IN PHOENIX.

TED: YOU'RE AN OPERA SINGER. BUT YOU KNOW ABOUT POP. USUALLY WHEN PEOPLE HAVE GOOD VOICES, THEY THINK OFF TO ROCK 'N' ROLL OR POP AND R&B OR THE WHOLE NINE YARDS. OPERA, HOW DID YOU GET INTO IT?

FERNANDO VARELA: I GOT INTO IT JUST LIKE MOST MEN GET INTO THE WORST SITUATIONS IN THEIR LIFE. I WAS CHASING AFTER A GIRL. NEXT THING I KNOW, I FIND MYSELF IN THE OPERA CHORUS, THE DIRECTOR WAS SO DESPERATE FOR MEN. I HAD NEVER SANG IN MY LIFE. HE SAID I JUST NEED BODIES IN THE CHORUS. LEARN THE WORDS, I'LL TEACH YOU HOW TO SING LATER. THAT'S KIND OF WHAT STARTED THIS CRAZY JOURNEY.

TED: DIDN'T YOU EVER SING IN THE SHOWER OR THE CAR AND GO, MY VOICE ISN'T SO BAD.

FERNANDO VARELA: I SANG IN THE SHOWER. JUST LIKE MOST KIDS SING IN THE SHOWER. I LOVED THE JACKSON FIVE AND A LOT OF POP MUSIC. I NEVER THOUGHT I'D BE DOING THIS FOR A LIVING.

TED: WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU REALIZED I GOT A PRETTY GOOD VOICE HERE?

FERNANDO VARELA: I WAS DOING A MASTER CLASS WITH A LEGENDARY SOPRANO. SHE PASSED AWAY AT THE AGE OF 104. WHEN I WAS WORKING WITH HER, SHE WAS IN HER 80s. SHE WAS A FIERY SOPRANO. I WAS 22 YEARS OLD AT THE TIME. I ACTUALLY HAD A CAREER IN FINANCE. AND I WAS JUST KIND OF DOING MUSIC ON THE SIDE. I WAS DATING THIS GIRL NOW. AND SHE COULD SENSE THAT I JUST KIND OF HAD ONE FOOT IN, ONE FOOT OUT. IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY AT THIS MASTER CLASS SHE SAID TO ME, YOU KNOW, I SANG WITH PAVROTI WHEN HE WAS YOUR AGE. YOU ARE BETTER THAN HE WAS AT HIS AGE, YOU NEED TO TAKE THIS MORE SERIOUSLY. I WAS LIKE, WHAT.

TED: NO KIDDING.

FERNANDO VARELA: FROM THAT MOMENT FORWARD, I KIND OF SAID OKAY, I BETTER ACTUALLY START, YOU KNOW, TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY AND THINKING OF IT AS A CAREER.

TED: AND THINGS HAVE TAKEN OFF FROM THERE. IT'S A CAREER THAT IS NOT JUST OPERA. YOU DO A LOT OF POP MUSIC. TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO.

FERNANDO VARELA: I GREW UP IN SUCH A MUSICAL HOUSEHOLD. I WAS BORN IN PUERTO RICO. WE MOVED TO FLORIDA WHEN I WAS 8 YEARS OLD. I GREW UP IN ORLANDO. MY PARENTS ALWAYS HAD TONS OF DIFFERENT MUSIC PLAYING IN THE HOUSE. I GREW TO HAVE A LOVE FOR THEM ALL. AS AN ARTIST, IT WAS KIND OF NATURAL TO DABBLE IN DIFFERENT STYLES. I HAVE A PASSION FOR LANGUAGES. I LIVED IN ITALY FOR A COUPLE YEARS, I SPEAK ITALIAN FLUENTLY. SPANISH IS MY FIRST LANGUAGE. I HAD THIS LOVE OF LEARNING LANGUAGES AND MUSIC AND I TRIED TO, YOU KNOW, TRY TO PRESENT THEM AS AUTHENTIC AS POSSIBLE. I DON'T WANT TO SOUND LIKE AN OPERA SINGER SINGING A POP SONG.

TED: HOW DO YOU KEEP THE POP FOLKS FROM SAYING HE'S JUST AN OPERA GUY?

FERNANDO VARELA: I -- MY SHOWS, I TRY TO HAVE SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY. I TRY TO MAKE IT A VARIETY SHOW. I THINK, YOU KNOW, AS A CLASSICAL ARTIST, I THINK WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE SURE THAT CLASSICAL MUSIC REACHES THIS NEXT GENERATION. AND THE WAY THAT I'M DOING THAT IS BY TRYING TO MAKE IT A LITTLE MORE ACCESSIBLE. SO I TRY TO DO SOME POP SONGS. AND THEN WE KIND OF DO THIS AND WE HAVE DIFFERENT VARIATIONS OF THE FUSION. AND IT'S REALLY WORKED. I'VE DONE A LOT IN EUROPE. AND YOU SEE A LOT OF TEENAGERS AND KIDS THAT THEY'RE LIKE, OH, HE'S NOT JUST SOME STUFFY OPERA SINGER, HE GETS US. THEY GET INTO THE MUSIC. EVEN SOME OF OUR FRIENDS THAT HAVE TEENAGERS HERE IN THE STATES.

TED: YEAH.

FERNANDO VARELA: THEY START HEARING THAT -- SOME CLASSICAL SOUNDS AND THEY'RE LIKE, OH, THAT'S COOL, THAT'S PASSIONATE. I CAN RELATE TO THAT. I THINK THAT'S THE GREATEST RESPONSIBILITY WE HAVE AS, YOU KNOW, ARTISTS IN THE CLASSICAL SPACE IS TO TRY TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TO GET YOUNG PEOPLE MORE INVOLVED.

TED: WE TALK ABOUT THAT ALL THE TIME WHEN WE HAVE THE FINE ARTS FOLKS ON THE PROGRAM. AGAIN, 7:00 P.M. TONIGHT. YOU'RE HERE AT THE STATION ALL NIGHT.

FERNANDO VARELA: YEAH. CALL IN, I'LL BE HAPPY TO TALK TO YOU. WHATEVER IT TAKES.

TED: DUET ON THE PHONE. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR SUCCESS.

FERNANDO VARELA: THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Fernando Varela: Opera tenor

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

The four men of Il Divo
airs June 2

Il Divo XX: Live from Taipei

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

A photo journalist walking a destroyed city

Frontline: 20 Days in Mariupol

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: