Chilean-American tenor Jonathan Tetelman has already earned a reputation in the opera world as a dedicated, distinctive and versatile artist. Having signed an exclusive agreement with Deutsche Grammophon last autumn, he has now recorded his debut DG album, Arias, set for release on 5 August 2022. With his agile technique, dramatic eloquence and rich palette of vocal colours, Tetelman here inhabits a range of roles from the French and Italian repertoire. Deutsche Grammophon is pleased to have been able to record the album in the unique acoustics of the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and to work with such supportive partners as the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria and its Music Director Karel Mark Chichon.
“Singing lets me become who I am,” says Tetelman. Both a means of expression and a source of strength, it has always been part of his life. As a pupil at the American Boychoir School in Princeton, he discovered the joy of performing classical music both at home and on tour across the US and further afield. This later led him to the Manhattan School of Music, from which he graduated – as a baritone – at the age of 22. There followed a period of self-discovery. Unable to see a future for himself as a singer, and lacking direction and perspective, Tetelman changed tack and spent three years working as a DJ on the New York club scene. “I felt completely lost,” he recalls. “It was like a piece of me was missing.” As soon as he realised that the missing piece was classical music, he immersed himself in his studies again and, with immense discipline, transformed himself into a tenor. “Since then,” he says, “I’ve known that if I want to achieve something, I can do it, but I need a good reason.”
His hard work and resilience paid off. With his tenor voice of exceptional warmth and resonance – a “lyric one, with lots of power”, as he himself says, a “Romantic voice in the classic sense” – he is now in demand all over the world and stands on the threshold of a major career. Not only a gifted singer whose instrument has undergone an impressive development, Tetelman is also a passionate stage artist who throws himself into every role he plays. “I love working through the psychological aspects of the characters,” he explains, adding that he finds it fascinating to explore each role and the ways in which it develops as the plot unfolds.
Now 33, Tetelman sees Arias as “validation of all the hard work, the proverbial blood, sweat and tears that I’ve invested in my singing, my art and my voice”. Focusing on Italian and French repertoire of a variety of periods and genres, the album is designed to showcase the different colours of his voice. “We chose pieces that make an emotional impact for their gentleness and delicacy on the one hand, and for their heroic and dramatic qualities on the other,” notes the singer.
One aria featured here to which he has a particular attachment is “Addio fiorito asil” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. “It’s the first piece that I ever sang as a tenor and in which I felt for the first time vocally at home,” explains Tetelman. “For me there is no greater music than Puccini’s, it has a special place in my heart.” As well as excerpts from three operas by Verdi, Arias also includes music by Bizet, Cilea, Giordano, Mascagni and Massenet. Another major milestone in Tetelman’s career, meanwhile, is reflected in the extracts from Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini: it was as Paolo that he had his first great success at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.
Both a starting point and a destination, Arias is an impressive recording which captures the expressive power and radiant tones of Jonathan Tetelman’s voice at this early stage in his career. Listeners will no doubt be eagerly anticipating what comes next, as is the singer himself: “I’m really looking forward to the process that’s just started and feel I’m at the beginning of a really exciting journey.”