Hometown favorite returns for September Songs
Tenor Marcos Vigil holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from New Mexico State University and a Master’s Degree and a Professional Studies Certificate from the Manhattan School of Music. A Las Vegas, N.M. native, he comes back frequently to add his voice to the creative musical offerings performed locally. September Songs will feature Vigil and multi-talented musician Ronald Maltais, in a Sept. 20 performance in the Plaza Ballroom. The program will feature 19th and 20th century lieder, art songs and arias sung in German, Italian, English and Spanish
The event is sponsored by the Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas Arts Council and Southwest Capital Bank. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Words and Music Concert Series, Marcos Vigil, artistic director, and the Meadow City Academy of Music, Ronald Maltais artistic director.
ORP: Briefly talk about your journey from small town Las Vegas to the bigger and highly competitive arena of New York.
Marcos: Unlike those stories of someone hopping on a bus and heading to the big city with a suitcase, a few bucks, and big dreams, my path was quite different. It started when I graduated from Robertson High School, then I attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance. It was after graduating from NMSU that I applied to the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where I earned my Master’s Degree as well as a Professional Studies Certificate. I have been living in New York City ever since. So, it was after finishing school, I would say, that I decided to follow a bit of a different path than one might conventionally follow shortly after attending the conservatory. I went to a summer program in upstate New York called the Bel Canto Institute. It was there that I decided to focus on developing and refining my vocal technique, and I also wanted to gain a better understanding of Italian traditions. At that point, I found my current teacher, Eduardo Valdes, and as a result of our work together, I feel I have a deeper understanding of what my voice is capable of doing. It was a big risk, because it was at that point when most young singers are expected to start building up their resume with performances, young artist programs, and apprenticeships, but I chose a very different route. So at this point, I’m grateful for the confidence I’ve built because of the work that I’ve done with my teacher, and now in this next phase, as the opportunities present themselves, I’m able to showcase my skills. It’s a matter of casting the line out and seeing who’s gonna bite. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and perseverance but I love music and I love the process that’s involved in preparing, learning and performing. So, while the journey hasn’t been remotely easy, it has been absolutely amazing, and I don’t regret the path that I’ve chosen.
ORP: To whom do you attribute your pursuit of a career in music? What would you say to that person today?
Marcos: I can’t attribute my pursuit of a career in music to any one person specifically. I’ve always known that I was going to be involved in music, ever since I was a child. Back then I listened to the radio and sang a lot, but I didn’t know then that it was something that I would choose as my vocation, it was just something that I had a great time doing. There were so many people who influenced me, supported me, and helped contribute to my development, especially my family because their support and understanding was the foundation that I could build upon. In addition to my family, my music teachers were very encouraging as well. First, Donald Romero while I was at Memorial Middle School, then Wallace Sanchez and Greg Tyrone at Robertson High School. As a teenager, I also studied piano with Linda King, and I had a chance to sing with the NMHU/Community Choir directed by Andre Garcia-Nuthman. My experiences with these teaching artists were important in helping me develop as a musician and in my pursuit of a career in music. What would say to them? l would offer them my heartfelt gratitude for all their encouragement, guidance, and faith in me, and for being a part of my journey.
ORP: Who was the first person to say of you, “Hey, this kid can sing!” and how did it make you feel?
Marcos: I can’t recall who the first person was to say that I had a voice, or say “Hey, this kid can sing!” It just seemed that when I opened my mouth and let out a tune, there was a positive response! I guess I didn’t really understand this until my senior year in high school in the mixed choir at Robertson. It was at that point when people started to take notice and compliment my voice. It’s funny because in high school I joined the choir as a way to practice sight singing and ear training. At that point of my life, I thought that I was going to study composition and become a composer, but because of the reactions to my voice and the fulfillment I found in performing, I ultimately chose singing and opera.
ORP: There are many opportunities for operatic and contemporary music performance. What would be your dream role?
Marcos: One, which I’ve had the opportunity to sing in a concert version, but not on stage, is Count Almaviva from Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). It’s a wonderful role because there are so many dimensions to the Count, and the plot is so crazy; it would be so much fun to portray his character within the context of the craziness that’s going on in the story. Other roles which I would love to perform at some point would include the Duke from Verdi’s Rigoletto, Ferrando from Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, Don Ottavio from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Tom Rakewell from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, to name a few. Along with opera, we can’t forget about the many oratorio works which require a tenor soloist, as well as the vast art song repertoire which represents well over two hundred years of music from different countries. I would say the most challenging part is researching and finding the music and the roles which are appropriate for me.
ORP: How important is it to be a dedicated student of your art by practicing regularly?
Marcos: It’s incredibly important! Practicing regularly is an absolute necessity. There’s not only the technical vocal work which happens through practice (scales and vocal exercises), but there’s also the work that’s involved in learning a role and creating a character. Learning the music, the text, and learning your role and what you’re singing about is so important. Many take for granted that we’re often singing languages in which we’re not fluent, so we work on translating word for word not only what we’re saying, but what everyone else in the piece is saying as well. We also have to work on diction, which means pronouncing the words correctly. Then there’s memorization of both the music and the text, and that undoubtedly requires repetition, repetition, repetition!
ORP: You participate in local performances from time to time. Why is it important to you to remain connected to the community?
Marcos: First off, I have deep family roots not only in Las Vegas, but in northern New Mexico as well, both sides of my family have lived in this area for generations. I also have fond memories of the area, and I loved growing up here at the time that I did. Since moving to New York, I make a point of visiting on a regular basis because coming home to New Mexico and Las Vegas is a way for me to recharge my batteries and reconnect. It’s been during the last few visits that I’ve seen the positive changes that are happening here in Las Vegas. The new galleries, restaurants, the work being done on the east side with the Castaneda Hotel, the Railroad district, the thriving businesses on Bridge Street and on the Plaza; these are all such exciting developments. All these things I’ve mentioned served as inspiration to create the Words and Music Concert Series, as a way to give back to our community that I believe has given me so much.
ORP: From among the great tenors in recent times, whose vocal performances have influenced you the most and why?
Marcos: Those who are the most influential are those who are the most similar to my voice type. For example, while a tenor who sings larger, more dramatic type of repertoire may be absolutely phenomenal, his technique might not be one which I relate to. So given that, I would have to say Ramon Vargas, Roberto Alagna, and my teacher, Eduardo Valdes have given live performances which I’ve found to be influential because of the clarity and ease in their production. Aside from tenors, I’ve heard and seen influential performances from other voice types as well. Barbara Frittoli’s performance of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Ferruccio Furlanetto’s performance of Jacobo Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra, and Renée Fleming’s performance of Imogene in Il Pirata, are a few which come to mind. All displayed wonderful technique and gave riveting performances of their respective roles. In addition to current singers, I’m also influenced by recordings of past singers as well, such as Tito Schipa, Benjamino Gigli, Alfredo Kraus, Nicolai Gedda, and Francisco Araiza.
ORP: Talk about the Sept. 20th concert and give a brief overview of the program.
Marcos: The performance on Sept. 20th is a benefit concert for the Meadow City Music Academy, created by Ron Maltais, and the Words and Music Concert Series. We met a couple of years ago and have kept in touch, hoping to find an opportunity to collaborate at some point in time. In July, I contacted Ron to let him know that I’d be visiting Las Vegas in September and wondered if he’d be available and interested in putting something together at that time. Fortunately he was, and within a rather short period of time we came up with the September Songs concert! Ron has done an amazing job in finding the venue and in handling many of the logistics, and I’ve been responsible for programming the concert. Through emails and phone calls, we’ve been able to work it out, and I believe that we’ve come up with what’s going to be a really beautiful evening of music. The performance will be held in the ballroom of the Historic Plaza Hotel, and the program is going to include art songs and arias from the 18th and 19th centuries by Bellini, Strauss, Schubert, Brahms, Schumann, as well we selections from Vaughn Williams’s Songs of Travel. A meet and greet/reception with Ron and myself will follow the performance so guests can mingle and enjoy refreshments. We invite you to come out and enjoy an evening of great music here on the Plaza.
Recital: September Songs
Marcos Vigil, tenor
Ronald Maltais, piano
Wednesday, Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m.
Plaza Hotel Ballroom
Tickets: $ 20
Available at the Las Vegas Arts Council, Plaza Hotel Reception Desk and online (LVAC)
Image courtesy of Marcos Vigil, Jen Joyce Davis photographer