This Is Opera – Season 1
Premieres 6.30pm Wednesday, August 19
“I have a passion, a passion that is with me always. And with it, I have learned to cry, to laugh, to feel, to love and to live. A passion that has given me everything, and I want to share it with all of you”.
The introductory monologue from This Is Opera, a brand new series exclusive to Foxtel Arts, is delivered with more Spanish gusto than a toreador after a carafe of sangria, by the show’s vivacious presenter Ramón Gener.
Gener, who was enrolled into the Conservatori Municipal de Musica de Barcelona when he was only six years old, is a trained opera singer who studied under Victoria de los Angeles, no less. A baritone who, by his own admission, “was never going to make it”, but as he told Foxtel Arts, his passion still remains as strong as ever and his quest was to find a state-of-the-art way to express the beauty of ‘the world’s highest art form’.
Genuine, inclusive and vastly intelligent, Ramón Gener is a passionate man wanting to share both the beauty and tragedy of opera music with the world.
Foxtel Arts: Ramón, how did you come up with the idea for the show?
Ramón Gener: I studied piano was six in music school in Barcelona and I am a former baritone, I gave up singing 10 years ago when I realised I could not be the singer I wanted to be. So I created a new relationship with music. A new era of my life started talking about music. I started off doing a very, very, little show on television in Spain. After the success of the show the opportunity came up to do, “This Is Opera”. At first it was in Spanish, but then the opportunity came up for me to do it in English as well. I love talking about music, I love the show and I couldn’t ask for more!
FA: Where did you find your passion for opera music?
RG: My mother. She was always listening to opera at home, and I remember listening to opera in the morning when I would wake up… It was always opera. I would go to bed with opera music on. My mother is a freaky opera fan!
She enrolled me in the Conservatori Municipal de Musica de Barcelona when I was 6, and I stayed there until I was 11 years old. I reached a point where I wanted to go out and play football, or see my friends and I didn’t want to study every night, so I left. But when I reached 18 years old I sung at a party, and a good friend of mine told me to start singing opera music. I told him, look, I hate opera! But my friend insisted, “If you want to try it a friend of mine will help you”, he said. That friend was Victoria de los Angeles!
FA: Now that you have mentioned great singers, you work with the likes of Diana Damrau, Sandra Radvanovsky, Ludovic Tezier, David Alegret and countless others. Did you have a favourite singer you worked with on the show?
RG: There are so many singers in the show and I am lucky to call some of them my friends. A great example of that is Sandra Radvanovsky [from the Tosca episode]. I believe you can see on camera that there is more than two people just working, together. We happened to do what we love and the cameras were there to film it! But I do not have a favourite.
FA: There is a great scene in the “Bel Canto” episode with you and Javier Camarena – who recently gave a rare encore performance at the Met – how was it working with him?
RG: I was so glad to have him on the show as he is more than a singer for me. He is such a lovely person, he came to Madrid to do the show with his wife and kids. We got along great and you can see on camera how great he really is. His skill is out of this world.
FA: Did you learn anything from working with these people?
RG: Yes, of course! But not only with the singers or the famous performers, I learnt a lot about myself being around lots of people. The happiness from being around people singing on the street or sharing their passion with me during filming. Life is the most important thing to me, and to be around people sharing their passion and happiness for life, gave me the opportunity to learn so much.
FA: You can see that in the show… It looks like you are enjoying yourself, Ramón!
RG: I loved taking my piano down to the streets and singing with people, I really loved it.
FA: Who came up with the innovative ways of bringing the opera to everyone? That is what the series is about, isn’t it? Making opera music accessible to everyone, not just those who went to the conservatorium, or listened to opera from a young age…
RG: The most challenging thing was the first idea I had, explaining something a new way for people that did not understand opera. There a lot of people in opera who believe that opera is, “just for us”, and only something for, “us, the elite”, and personally, I hate that attitude. So when I started this my first quest was to do a show that everyone could follow. I tried to be transversal.
FA: How many languages can Ramón Gener speak? It seems every episode when you are in a new place, you speak a new language!
RG: I have two mother tongues! Spanish and Catalan. I speak fluent German and Italian. My English and French are a little… how do you say… left to be desired?
FA: Who is or has been your favourite ever opera singer?
RG: What a hard question. I love so many, but can you go past Maria Callas?
FA: And finally, in every episode you wear a wear a new suit jacket. You have such an array of colours… Which is your favourite?
RG: The Turandot episode jacket! Definitely!
To find out the colour of his favourite jacket, you will have to watch Ramón Gener in This is Opera, from 6.30pm every Wednesday night starting August 19th.