Fernando Cisneros Baritone in the making
Text by Jorge Comensal
Every time I meet someone younger than seventy years of age who enjoys opera, I feel great joy and curiosity to find out how he became interested in this music genre that is so misunderstood. Most people associate opera with a snob public, dressed in gala and obese singers dressed as Vikings. However, for Fernando Cisneros, a young baritone in the making, opera is the highest level of singing. His passion for this music genre comes from a family tradition; his grandmother was a pianist from the National Conservatory of Music and his father sang in the German School Choir as a youngster. Personally, his first rapprochement with opera was when he was two years old with Singspiel by W. A. Mozart, “ The Abduction from the Seraglio,” where his father sang the role of Osmin in the production conducted by maestro Enrique Jaso.
To be an opera singer, one needs, aside from a flawless technique, exceptional vocal and stage skills. In addition, given the collective and grandiose nature of the show, great human and economic resources are needed which are not easy to come by without private or state patrons, which are very scarce in Mexico, where the drama divas are football players faking grave injuries on the field.
Although our country enjoys a rich opera tradition and good teachers and educational institutions, the spaces for interpretation are few, and the lack of incentive complicates the development of young singers. Fernando is part of the “CentrÓpera Enrique Jaso” opera workshop and currently studies with maestro Miguel Hernández, who inherited the musical legacy of maestro Jaso and continues transmitting this great passion for music. He’s taken master classes with great international singers like Mónica Chávez and Noé Colín.
Fernando began studying piano when he was 6 with Silvia Alonso. At 19, he joined the National Music School to study a degree in Piano, but realized that even though he wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to music, he did not want to be a piano player. Currently, he’s doing the last semester of Engineering in Digital Music Production at the Tec de Monterrey and wants to continue his post-graduate studies abroad.
Fernando’s voice is that of a lyrical baritone, a male tessitura, deeper than that of a tenor, but not as deep as that of a bass. Even though a singer can emit notes in a wide register of frequencies, each voice has a specific vocation, a range of notes it expresses with greater ease and beauty. Thus, finding the right roles for one’s voice is a crucial element in the career of a singer since this depends on the interpretative success and health of its instrument.
In the recordings that accompany this article, we can hear Fernando Cisneros sing two arias from The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart’s opera buffa. Figaro, the astute valet that stars in the opera, is an extremely complex character whose emotional variety challenges the singer’s interpretative ability. The music composed for Figaro by Mozart favors a baritone with Fernando’s characteristics, namely, a baritone with a solid ability to sing lower notes.
Let us listen to the arias. In Se vuol ballare, Figaro, enraged by the desire of his master, Count Almaviva, to sleep with his fiancée Susanna, plans to boycott his master’s feudal intentions. With a certain ironic resentment, he assures that he’ll unravel the plans of the count (Tutte le macchine). He challenges him greatly: if you want to dance (Se vuol ballare) then I’ll play the guitar (il chitarrino le suonerò), you’ll do whatever I please.
On the other hand, in Non più andrai, Figaro interacts with a mischievous page, Cherubino, who is about to be sent to the army by the count because of the mess his lechery causes in the palace. Thus, Figaro warns him that he will no longer be able to court (Non più andrai) maids, he will now march through the mountains and valleys (Per montagne, per valloni), with the army. That is why Figaro’s music and feignedly solemn tone invokes a military march.
Fernando likes the role of Figaro because he is an honest character, a good-hearted ordinary man. He’s funny but at the same time smart and astute. He’s constantly one step ahead of Count Almaviva and his love for Susanna is genuine. As a baritone, this young musician admires singers Thomas Allen, Samuel Ramey, Peter Mattei and Gerald Finley. He’d like to play roles such as The Count and Figare in The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni from the Eponymous Opera, Belcore from The Elixir of Love, Figaro from The Barber of Seville, Marcello from La Bohème and, with greater vocal maturity, Enrico from Lucia of Lammermoor.
We hope that, as many young Mexican singers (Javier Camarena, Rebeca Olvera, María Katsarava, among others), Fernando will continue his solid formation and that, following the admirable example of Francisco Araiza, he’ll enrich Mexican opera world as well as the world.