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Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007
Tenor believes in power to generate new realities
By ANGELA JEFFS
Since making his operatic debut in 2001 in Mozart's "Die Zauberflote" in Paris, Dominique Moralez has received nothing but adulation throughout Europe and the Americas. His voice has been described as "shimmering -- with power and sweetness, perfect voix mixte and exquisitely refined pianissimo."
Now Asia is benefiting from Moralez's talent -- together with his determination to break new vocal ground. Never one to sit on the fence or sink into the apathy of fame, he believes in generating what he calls "creative interruptions." For this reason, he is packed and ready to leave Tokyo for Hong Kong by the evening flight.
The second-youngest of eight children of Mexican parentage, this bright-eyed and hugely optimistic 32-year-old began singing in a church choir at age 9. Envy raged at the kid with long curly blonde hair who was always being picked for solos and lead roles. But Moralez got the last laugh.
"When our conductor left, the choir was split into two, and I got sent to the opera. Now I stand on the stages of the world, and 'Oliver' is most likely in IT."
Seriously, he says it was a great thing to be singing professionally so young. He was chunky back then, and thought the big payoff was in being fed onstage. But he was also getting paid.
Staff at a brokerage laughed when Moralez rang, wanting to invest his earnings. His mother had to sign for him when he opened an account, and the cash stayed there until he was in his mid-20s. "No, I didn't make a fortune, but it came in very useful at the time."
Life took a turn down at age 14, when (because of family problems) Moralez was put into foster care. Moved from one placement to another, he found himself cast adrift by the welfare system at age 18 with only his voice holding any promise of a future.
"One of the things I've been doing here in Tokyo is making a film based on my struggles to survive. It was only because of many kindnesses, backed by my own perseverance, that I was able to study at first at New England Conservatory, with an apprenticeship at the Opera National de Paris.
After returning from singing for a year at Flordia Grand Opera in Miami, he moved to New York. An agent then allowed his talent to sit on a shelf for three years. It was only when Moralez took his career into his own hands that his fortunes changed.
Now he is thrilled with life. He "absolutely loves making music, the joy it brings to people," adding that if he wasn't totally in love with what he does, he wouldn't be doing it.
Part of such pleasure comes from being thorough. When first offered a Rossini opera, he researched the composer for three months, principally in Italy. He sought out coaching in Salzburg; read every article and watched every video he could get hold of; learned his role on a beach.
"I adore Rossini. Not only is his music infused with the highest level of integrity, but he offers the vocalist perhaps the most challenging repertoire with regards the agility of the voice. I honor every note."
Last year he began a cultural crossover. He made his stage debut here with the Japan Opera Foundation singing Il Cavaliere' Belfiore in Rossini's "Il Viaggio A Reims" at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. Having made his Asia debut in Hong Kong as far back as May, he is now making the place his own. "I like to call it home."
Wanting to generate music that speaks in general to a wider public and younger audiences, Moralez is interested in classical crossover, not only between East and West but all the musical genres.
"I'm so privileged in the classical scene, being a frequent oratorio and recital artist, and associated very much with roles created by Mozart and Rossini. I also teach master classes -- a great honor."
Now is the time to start experimenting, he says, discussing his rock opera, currently under production. It reflects, he says, social and political issues of the day, and shows ways in which East and West can create a new vision for the future, rather than fall back into old patterns of China-U.S. breakdown.
"You can't slap politics across peoples' faces. If you preach, they will shut down fast. This is where music is so effective, with the power to overcome all boundaries. You don't need to speak Portuguese to love fado."
As for his film (working title "Victory"), this seeks not only to cross borders but is designed to generate a conversation about transformation. He wants people to understand that turning points appearing to be negative can be turned to advantage.
"But great visions don't happen if it's only me. I'm constantly on the lookout for like-minded souls who seek positive change as much as I do."
April will see him back in Tokyo, accompanied by the guitarist Capital, and presenting music by the Brazilian composer Guinga at Harajuku Hall in Shibuya.
Building on his success of 2005, he will perform a French repertoire program at the Le French festival in Hong Kong in May, and the following week sing Romeo in "Romeo and Juliette" at the Opera Hong Kong. July he has been invited to Singapore, debuting with the Singapore Lyric Opera in the role of Count Almaviva in Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia."
He intends to release his film at a Hong Kong premiere, backed by a live music event. "I want to get it into as many movie festivals as possible, have it seen by at least a million people by the end of the year. Not hard to do these days by DVD or online."
Meanwhile, he continues working on his rock opera, due to premiere in Woodcote this summer; his newly formed Royal Rock Orchestra, with strings, a rock band and an electronic engineer, is already in rehearsal. He's considering also a full-length feature film, and to write a book.
No one, he assures, is responsible for generating dreams except himself. "Courage is about acknowledging the fear and doing it anyway. In choosing to powerfully generate the world we want, I can generate my reality. It's about honoring one's own word. It's about generating the interruption."
Web site: www.dominiquemoralez.com Dominique Moralez and Capital (Los Dos) at Harajuku Hall on April 15: www.hakujuhall.jp/ Tickets via Votre Ticket Center (www.votres.co.jp)