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Marcelo Guzzo – the road from Barga to Broadway

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During most of last winter there was a new face and voice to be seen and occasionally heard in Barga – the deep mellow baritone voice of Marcelo Guzzo. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, he graduated from the National Lyric Arts School and is hailed as one of the most outstanding Uruguayan singers of his generation being declared the “Best Uruguayan Lyric Voice of 2001” at the Giuseppe Verdi International Singing Competition.

Marcelo Guzzo’s career began to rise when he sang Alfio in concert performances of Cavalleria Rusticana with Andrea Bocelli and Veronica Villarroel at the San Antonio Opera, which led to him being engaged for the same role opposite Chiara Taigi at the Taormina Festival in Italy after which he traveled to Tel Aviv to sing Germont in La Traviata.

In 2010 he sang Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with the Dallas Opera and the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Teatro Solis in Uruguay. He made his Lyric Opera of Kansas City debut in 2010 as Escamillo in Carmen and made his Hawaii Opera debut in 2011 in a new production of Les pêcheurs de perles as Surga and The Count in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Detroit Opera.

“The tall baritone Marcelo Guzzo was robust and charming… ” – The New York Times
“His voice is ample in size and beautiful in tone.” – The Post and Courier
“Strong and lusty.” – The Fresno Bee
“Marcelo Guzzo was bluster and swagger with a voice to back it up” – San Antonio Express News

He spent the winter right here in Barga Vecchia with his wife, the stunning South African singer, Anelle (her site is here) Many times during that winter we set up an appointment for an interview with Marcelo to find out just what it was that brought him to Barga and for him to talk about what it was that he found so alluring here but each time for one reason or another, the appointment was lost and so in the end he and his wife left the city before we could delve a bit more into Marcelo Guzzo and his story (his site can be seen here) so it comes as a nice surprise to see his name popping up on a site in the USA reporting on Marcelo taking off in a completely new direction away from opera and instead taking a leading role in a national tour of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s classic musical – South Pacific.

 

When it comes to pursuing dreams, South Pacific tour star Marcelo Guzzo is willing to pursue his all over the globe. Inexplicably drawn to opera at an early age, Guzzo, who grew up in Uruguay, knew there wasn’t much of a forum in his native country to practice the art. His passion took him to France and Italy for training, as well as Stateside in Charleston and New York. The singer (who only learned English seven years ago) is now starring as the dashing plantation owner Emile de Becque in the national tour of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s classic musical. Broadway.com caught up with Guzzo to talk about adapting to musical theater and real-life sweeping romance.

In opera, you perform a couple times a week. How are you adapting to the eight-shows-a-week schedule?
Truly, it’s been breaking all my rules. I found a very interesting package of options that I didn’t know I had before. It takes a great deal of discipline, concentration and understanding to bring the role of Emile de Becque each night. It’s not a role where you can put in half of yourself. You need to have the full engagement of your energy and artistry to deliver the message.

Being that you’re from the opera world, how familiar were you with South Pacific before signing on to do the show?
I was not really familiar with it, but the first American song I ever performed was “Some Enchanted Evening.” I remember hearing Robert Merrill sing it, and I said, “Oh my God, I need to learn this piece!” I debuted it in a concert hall in Omaha. I’ve since put it in my concert repertoire. Learning the entire piece though was a different thing. We have a saying about life: You can always connect any point to the front. Somehow, the points go click, click, click in.

You’re singing some of the greatest musical theater songs ever written for an actor. How does that feel?
This is the greatest part. When the greatest masters achieve anything in the arts—painting, musicals, opera—they put the spirit inside the music. If we are good enough, the spirit comes to life. That’s what made this musical a classic. The spirit is just there waiting for us to bring alive the tradition for the people that have been connecting emotionally with this musical.

The romance between Emile and Nellie is one of the most classic love stories in musical theater. How is it working with your Nellie, Katie Reid?
It’s been great. We developed a very nice connection from the beginning. Day by day in the repetition with the strong foundation, we’ve found much more colors to our characters. That’s been the most engaging. You have a foundation of the character, but each day you find a much more refined way to connect what you want to say.

Do you have a sweeping South Pacific-style romance in your own life?
I got married two years ago. I understand the lyric exactly, “Once you have found her, never let her go” because I found my wife in a supermarket in New York. We crashed our shopping carts in a Whole Foods. After that, I’ve never let her go. She’s from South Africa. I’m from Uruguay with Italian descendents. We met in New York, and I fell in love right there on the spot. I know exactly what I sing; I know exactly what it is. It’s not a cliché. Love at first sight really does exist. I’m married to that woman.

What was it like growing up in Uruguay?
I’m fortunate enough to grow up in a family who supports the growing of my career in new directions. It took me a long time to realize I could make my career as a singer, since being in Uruguay, there’s only two or three performances a year. It wouldn’t pay the bills. The only choice I had was jump into the world. I searched for teachers and auditions. I studied in France and Italy. I got scholarships at universities in New York.

How did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
For many years when I was in Italian singing choirs, I never asked myself, ‘Why opera?’ I couldn’t answer that question. It was just the call of the music. I can’t explain it, but it made me say,”Yes, yes.” I didn’t even understand opera fully; I just knew that it was right. When I had the chance to learn under one of the most important opera teachers in Uruguay, it made me say, “Yes!”

Opera is such a small field and is so competitive. How was your experience breaking into the field?
It’s an incredible challenge—one that never stops. It gets more challenging the more that you work. It takes work and a little bit of luck to find the right mentors and people to surround yourself with in your career. It’s not enough just to have a talent. One of the hardest steps for me was to become a professional student. That reach from professional student to professional performer is the toughest one.

What do you think you’ll do after South Pacific? Do you want to stay on the operatic concert track or develop the acting side of your career?

I’m going to pursue the same mix of musicals and opera in the future. I’ve really found this very inspiring and crucial to developing any form of performance. It’s clear today that an opera singer cannot just be an opera singer; you really need to be an actor. – source

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