René Barbera arrived at UNCSA with a double scholarship. And a high B.
It was 2004, and students and the School of Music faculty gathered for the “first-of-year hearings” — when faculty become acquainted with new and returning students for assignments and placement. There was great interest in the young tenor from Texas, who was the undergraduate vocal program’s first-ever Fletcher Scholar, receiving significant merit-based financial support.
Barbera sang the famous aria “La donna è mobile” through Verdi’s “Rigoletto, ” which ends having a vocally punishing high W. When he finished, one faculty member uttered an expletive in astonishment. Barbera’s soon-to-be vocal teacher, Voice Department Chair Marilyn Taylor , was amazed. “High notes were nothing with regard to him, ” she remembered. “I heard how effortless it has been for him. This was 1 of those voices that didn’t have to think about how to achieve the top. That was the voice he had. It’s the natural talent. He had been fearless. ”
Since that will auspicious day, Barbera has appeared on the stages of the world’s major opera houses and concert halls, and has sung, by his count, 35 different roles. He was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2008, and won top awards at the particular Operalia Competition in 2011. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut within Rossini’s “L’Italiana in Algeri” in 2016, and it has been delighting audiences at Teatro alla Scala, Paris Safari, Palau de les Arts, Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège, and Dutch National Ie, among many others. In April associated with this year he did the role of Nadir in Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” with The Dallas Opera, and will return to the Met in the 2022-23 season as the Italian Singer in Richard Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier. ”
The critics possess raved. “Barbera, a fast-rising and increasingly appreciated presence in the particular world of opera, offers a voice every tone of voice teacher dreams about, ” wrote the San Diego Union-Tribune after a recital in 2015. After their performance because Alfredo in Verdi’s “La traviata, ” Texas Classical Review commented: “He definitely has the ready-made career niche within roles associated with this ilk, and, at this point, appears headed toward stardom. ” The particular Seattle Times commented on his performance in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola, ” noting that “his high Cs plus Ds are as viscerally exciting since his bravura coloratura technique. ”
“I love in order to perform, ” Barbera said with a laugh. “I tend to be a performative person. If I get the attention of a room, I will relish it! ” And he especially relishes the memories of singing “La traviata” at La Scala — one of three operas he has performed in that popular house — and his Met debut, despite the fact that “Walking out on that stage is one of the most nerve-wracking things you can do. ”
Barbera was born Erich René Barbera within Laredo, Texas, and at a young age moved to San Antonio. At the age group of 10 he joined the San Antonio Boys Choir as a boy soprano, in addition to studying piano regarding six years. After performing in choirs throughout high school, he received a scholarship to the particular University associated with Texas in San Antonio to pursue a degree in music education. Despite words of encouragement that he experienced soloist skill, he dropped out and went to Colorado to be with his brother, quickly finding a job doing windshield repairs from car washes. “I moved there to find myself, ” he explained. “I had to get out of Tx. I didn’t think performing was the thing I would do. I did not want to quit singing but didn’t think this would become a profession. ” Not wishing to close the door, however , this individual took a voice lesson with Martile Rowland, who urged your pet to join the summer opera program she directed within Colorado Springs called the Vocal Arts Symposium. It was there that will he met Steven LaCosse and James Allbritten , Music teachers members with UNCSA who are now the particular artistic director and music director (respectively) of the A. J. Fletcher Safari Institute , the school’s graduate-level safari training program. They saw his potential plus arranged intended for his scholarship or grant.
For the next four many years, Barbera has been in a whirlwind of classes. “My time as an undergrad on UNCSA had been outrageously busy, ” he or she said. “Classes all day time, followed by ie rehearsals in evenings, choir rehearsals and concerts, papers to write, tests to study to get, operatic roles and song repertoire in order to learn, plus trying to make a little money upon the side singing at church, weddings and funerals. The school taught me how to juggle far more than We thought I was capable associated with.
“Admittedly, ” he noted, “I didn’t always manage to keep it entirely together and dropped the particular ball a lot more times than I could possibly count number! ” Within fact, this individual said, “I was the typical college student. I had been young; I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I used to be not super-focused. There was a girl, ” he laughed. “In the senior 12 months we had a big breakup. I gave myself a week to feel the pain. ” At that point, he or she shifted gears, got the headshot, made an audition CD, plus sent away applications pertaining to young artist programs and competitions across the country. “It has been time to take the momentum and run with it, ” he said.
In fact, this individual didn’t graduate.
“He sang his senior recital plus went off to their first season casting, ” recalled Taylor. “It was for that Merola Ie Program within San Francisco. He looked like a new Caruso. These people took him immediately. ”
From there it was on to the Florida Grand Opera Young Artist Program, and then in order to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Safari Center. Within 2011, he was the particular first-ever sole recipient of all three top awards of Placido Domingo’s Operalia Competitors in Moscow, winning the First Prize for Ie, the First Prize meant for Zarzuela ( a form of Spanish musical theater), as well as the Audience Prize — an event that will he remembers as “an out-of-body experience. ”
Barbera, whose family is associated with Mexican lineage, spoke English and The spanish language growing up. “In middle school and higher school I took Spanish classes to bolster our skill set. I worked really hard in order to master this. ” Indeed, his language skills have come in handy when he or she learns a new role in a foreign tongue. “I speak Italian, not fluently, but very well, ” he laughs, remembering how a bartender in Spain asked why this individual spoke The spanish language with an Italian accent! “I’m able to communicate and be understood in German. My French is not so good, although I may pronounce it very well and can understand a fair amount if spoken slowly. ”
His roles have got taken your pet around the particular globe — to Milan and Una Scala, Vienna and the Wiener Staatsoper, Genoa plus the Teatro Carlo Felice, Rome and the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Palermo as well as the Teatro Massimo, Tokyo and the New Nationwide Theatre, and Valencia as well as the Paulau sobre les Artistry Reina Sofía, to name but a few. He has also toured with musicAeterna, performing Verdi’s Requiem in 10 cities, including Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Hamburg, Vienna, and from The Shed in New York City.
As Barbera gained progressively more engagements in Europe, he great wife, Anna — whom he fulfilled when both were living in Chicago — moved to Berlin within 2017. It was the convenient locale and they loved this. Then the pandemic hit, work dropped away, and he opted not to function. “I decided that the risks for myself and my wife had been too high, ” he or she explained. And so, in the summer of 2020, while still in European countries, Barbera finally had the chance to do something he had usually wanted to perform: He took the undergrad classes online which he got missed with UNCSA. “I got the particular official news that We had completed my degree while I was in Sicily, ” he remembered. “I’ll never forget that moment. I known as my wife, crying, plus she had been terrified, thinking that someone acquired died! ”
The Barberas returned to the U. S. in 2021, and René, now 38, was able to continue his scholarship and complete his master’s degree within vocal performance at the A. J. Fletcher Opera Institute at UNCSA, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary .
“Years from now I actually really want to end up being able in order to settle down and teach voice in an university or conservatory setting, ” he said. “Knowing that a bachelor’s level would be insufficient for such a position, I elected to get this year to get the master’s, which would begin in order to open all those doors. ”
Certainly, Barbera provides found traveling “the hardest part of the business — everything that comes beforehand plus being aside all the time, ” he mentioned. “It’s exhausting. You’re constantly in a new bed, too few pillows. The mental load of speaking another language can be pretty tiring. You don’t have the points that make you feel at home. ” This individual manages in order to unwind, this individual said, simply by indulging in one of his nonmusical passions: video games, along with his Oculus Quest 2 .
In the particular meantime, he or she continues to sing internationally — and work with Marilyn Taylor. “I’ve been learning with Dr. Taylor now for nearly 18 years, ” he notes. “She’s wonderful to work with — doesn’t let me get away with much, and keeps me honest. She cares so a lot about our development because humans every bit as much as she cares about you about our own vocal development. ”
For her part, Taylor swift has traveled to see him make his debuts in Chicago and Santa Fe, on the Fulfilled and La Scala, and with the Minnesota Orchestra and The Dallas Opera, among others; Barbera flew her to Berlin for a week for preparation of a role.
What does the girl see since his forte? “Primarily the voice, their inherent musical instincts designed for it, and the experience that has helped shape him, ” she said. “He’s nevertheless a natural talent. He’s open-minded; he steps outside the box. He’s very cautious plus he does the work; and he’s got the very big heart and will help someone else who is having a hard time. ”
She recalled going in order to Italy to hear him sing the particular role associated with Nemorino within Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore. ”
“At Una Scala, people were lined up outside in order to get his autograph, ” she kept in mind. “He has star power. ”
Lucy Kraus has written for The particular New York Occasions and other publications, and is the former older publications editor at the particular Nyc Philharmonic.
This article appeared in the 2022 issue of Scene.
READ THE COMPLETE ISSUE