NYFOS logo

Efraín Solís

Efrain-3212+copyBaritone Efraín Solís answers our questions about self-care, favorite singers, and more in advance of three appearances with NYFOS this season:  García Lorca: Magician and Muse on April 24 at Merkin Hall and Manning the Canon on June 23 in Orient, NY and on June 25 at the LGBT Center in NYC.


You completed the prestigious Adler Fellowship program at San Francisco Opera in 2016 and since then you’ve been singing with opera companies and orchestras across the country. How have you found the transition from the young artist residency to your fully-launched professional career? Any surprises? Particular challenges?

Going through the Adler Fellowship at San Francisco Opera was a challenging but gratifying experience. I learned so much as an Adler about myself and what I was capable of. SF Opera trusted me so much from the get go and I found myself in several high pressure situations during my two years there. Thankfully, there was constant encouragement from the musical and administrative staff at both the Opera Center and SF Opera. I found a lot of comfort in my daily rituals—coffee and exercise every morning. To this day that’s what keeps me sane on the road, which is a major part of transitioning out of the young artist phase. Ultimately, the music is worth the stress of being on the road so much.

You sing a wide variety of repertoire, from the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro to Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock. How do you navigate singing in those different styles?  In what ways do you adjust your technique or your approach?

I enjoy bouncing around different styles; it keeps me on my toes and entertained as well. I don’t think much about changing “technique” but I liken it to driving. When you’re in a big theater you have to give a little more gas, but in a recital hall you can take your foot off the pedal and play with softer tones and colors without worrying about being heard. I also am a big musical theater fan and take any opportunity to stretch that muscle when possible. But even then the breath and sound production doesn’t really change. I simply think in that style and the muscles know what to do. Thomas Hampson said to me once that thinking about color and style had nothing to do with “technique” and everything to do with breathing into the space of that emotion. That theory has stayed with me for years.

If you could sing with any performer from the past, whom would it be? What would you sing?

I’m a Callas fan through and through. If there were one singer I would’ve loved to simply be in the presence of on stage, it would be her. I’d be happy to sing “Per voi” in Traviata to her Violetta. Non-operatic singer, I’d choose Jose Alfredo Jimenez. He is one of the most prolific mariachi composers and singers that ever came out of Mexico.

You are appearing in two very different NYFOS shows this season: Garcia Lorca: Muse and Magician in April and Manning the Canon in June. What do you find most compelling about each program? Which songs are you most excited to perform?

I’m very excited to sing both programs. The Lorca because I studied Spanish and Latin American Literature in my undergrad extensively. His poetry is simple and deep; he loved learning, which effected so much of his writing. I’m enjoying reading his poetry and seeing how composers chose to heighten its emotional landscapes. I’m very excited about the Bolcom “Sonata” we are performing—it has many tricky florid passages which mirror Lorca’s love for Cante Flamenco and el Cantaor (Flamenco Song and Flamenco Singer). I haven’t gotten to sink my teeth into the Manning program, but I’m very excited for the varied program Steven has planned!

Outside of NYFOS, do you have any upcoming projects that you are especially looking forward to?

I am considering a cross country trip for my 30th birthday, so if anyone has any tips let me know!

Since you are our Mr. April, can you share your favorite things about spring? Or tips for surviving spring showers and high pollen counts?

I travel with a lot of allergy relief supplies. Zyrtec, a humidifier, neti-pot. I unfortunately suffer from serious spring allergies, which means I have to be extremely proactive. Years of trial and error have taught me that a humidifier could very well make or break a month long stay in a hotel.

What was the last music you listened to before answering these questions?

It would be the cast of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna by Pepe Martinez, here in El Paso, TX. This commission by Houston Grand Opera is one of my favorite pieces to perform and every sing through with this cast moves me to tears.

When you aren’t making music, what is your favorite way to spend your time?

I enjoy yoga and running daily. Without it I would not be able to survive as a traveling musician. Being from Southern California I find so much happiness at the beach, so you can find me close to the water regularly when I’m home. I also spend as much time with children as I can, especially my close friends’s kids at home. I have so much fun running around and playing with them, and always babysit for free.

NYFOS is devoted to ‘song’ and the wide variety of styles that term encompasses. What is special about ‘song’ to you? Is there anything about this particular form that is significant to you?

Song is so important to me. My grandmother used to sing all the time when I was a kid. Even now I visit her whenever I am home. If I put on a song she loves she has an involuntary response and has to sing. I try to recreate a bit of that when I’m singing songs. It’s a piece of me I can share with the audience.

What is your favorite song? (Qualify your answer to this possibly impossible question as needed.)

At this exact moment it would have to be “Dear someone” which I used for one of my “Song of the Day” entries on the NYFOS blog. So, if you’d like to hear that head on over to the blog.

Raymundo Pérez y Soto: La Cigarra

We close this week with one of my favorite Mariachi songs ever. I heard this song at a friend’s party once a long time ago and completely fell for the words and the show stopping quality of the vocals. It’s almost always sung by a woman and it requires so much control and agility from the female voice. Switching from chest to head voice all in one phrase is no easy feat! On top of that the text is gorgeous – almost like the Mexican version of “Der Lindenbaum”. It’s what mariachi music is all about: passionate lyrics and music!! I’ve attached the commercial recording by Linda Ronstadt who’s father is said to have taught her all about mariachi music. This is a great recording, but the videos of her singing live are really much more exciting. Sadly the quality of the recordings are not great. But I hope you enjoy nonetheless. Till next time, abrazos!

“La Cigarra” sung by  Linda Ronstadt

The Cicada

Don’t sing to me anymore, cicada
Let your singsong end
For your song here in my soul
Stabs me like a dagger
Knowing that when you sing
You are announcing that you are going to your death.

Sailor, sailor
Tell me if it is true that you know,
Because I cannot distinguish,
Whether in the depths of the seas
There is another color blacker
Than the color of my sorrows.

A little dove came flying
That bore a wounded breast
Now almost crying
Said to me very afflicted
Now I am weary of searching for
A mutual love.

Under the shade of a tree
And to the beat of my guitar
I sing this huapango joyfully
Because my life is finished
And I want to die singing
As the cicada dies.

Sondheim: Marry me a little

Okay, so I may be on a bit of a Sondheim/Company kick. But this is one of my favorite shows! Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m inching towards 30 this year that I’m starting to get much more of what Mr. Sondheim was trying to get across. Either way, this is one of my favorite pieces of the whole evening. Amy says to Bobby in the dialogue prior “You have to want to marry somebody! Not just some body.” I love how a simple space between two words can make a world of difference. Regardless, this number hits home for me. Maybe it’s that Bobby hasn’t figured it all out just yet, but he’s okay with that. It’s a bit how I feel about life and love. We may never figure it out completely, but at least we’re trying to? “Want me first and foremost…Keep me company” might be my favorite line. Raul Esparza also infused this role with so many underlying emotions, it’s hard to watch and not feel for him.

Sondheim: Side by Side

I love this number from Company by Maestro Sondheim. The revival cast now features some gender switches and I’m hoping I can catch it in NY. It’s everything you want in a broadway show, plus a little bit of (okay a lot of) subtext. But it’s a good old broadway romp and I love every minute of it.

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings: Dear Someone

For my second selection I’ve chosen “Dear Someone” from the album Time (The Revelator) by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. They are both credited for writing this song, but some internet digging actually revealed that they actually were not the original writers of the tune, which was written by Ry Cooder. He wrote “I always knew you were the one” for the 1980 film The Long Riders. They did write the words, though, and added some great harmonies too. The first time I heard this song I played it on repeat for days. Thankfully CDs are no longer a thing, or I would’ve worn my out a long time ago. The way Gillian Welch and David Rawlings weave their voices together — it’s magical. The words are beautiful and match the wistfulness of the tune perfectly. If I ever marry I’m pretty sure I want to dance to this song at my wedding.

“Dear Someone” Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

“I always knew you were the one” Ry Cooder

Louis Alter: I love the way you’re breaking my heart

We start this week on a very easy, light hearted note. Originally written in 1951 by Louis Alter with words by Milton Drake, I discovered “I love the way…” with this exact performance. Not only are the words and music wonderfully quirky, I think Rachael Price is one of the best voices I’ve heard. She really knows how do seduce you with her phrasing. There’s an instrumental, almost brassy, quality that really attracts me and she has the ability of flipping it completely becoming very smooth and velvety. Genius! She’s now lead singer of the band Lake Street Dive —which I also love. They have a more modern funk style that is so much fun. She started as a jazz vocalist and she stretches those muscles here. Some would describe this as easy listening, but I can’t imagine doing anything else once she starts singing.

Song of the Day: March 4

Efrain-3212 croppedThis week we welcome baritone Efraín Solís to Song of the Day! He has sung with companies such as San Francisco Opera, Virginia Opera, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. You can hear him with NYFOS on Tuesday, April 26th concert at Merkin Hall in Compositora: Songs by Latin American Women (get tickets here). 

 

For my last post I will end with a song that ends most of my recitals. There is something special about tradition and because of my family this has become one for me. The last time my grandfather heard me sing was my Senior Recital for my undergraduate diploma. I sang “El dia que me quieras” by Carlos Gardel and dedicated it to my grandparents in the audience. My Abuelo passed that September as I was settling in my new home in San Francisco. This has always been a beloved song in my family, because of the wonderful black and white film with the same title, and I remember spending summers at my grandparents’ house watching many famous black and white films on television with them. This one always stuck, and below you can see why. My grandmother always said that my grandfather stole her from the farm she grew up on, and in my imagination this is how I envisioned them falling in love.

It’s been a pleasure sharing some of my favorites and thank you to NYFOS for allowing me to ramble for a bit on here. Abrazos!

Song of the Day: March 3

Efrain-3212 croppedThis week we welcome baritone Efrain Solis to Song of the Day! He has sung with companies such as San Francisco Opera, Virginia Opera, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. You can hear him with NYFOS on Tuesday, April 26th concert at Merkin Hall in Compositora: Songs by Latin American Women (get tickets here). 

 

“L’invitation au Voyage” by Charles Baudelaire is a well-known poem among singers. With settings by Henri Duparc and Emmanuel Chabrier, I’d be hard pressed to find a singer that has not read through one of these versions. A couple of years ago I was made aware of another setting of this poem while attending a recital in San Francisco, by Stephanie Blythe and Warren Jones. I was blown away by this setting and found myself sobbing by the end of the number. It was almost an uncontrollable sob – really an ugly cry. There is a balance in this setting of pure bliss and hope as well as a longing that he knows will never be fulfilled. It really struck a chord in me and made me want to explore Léo Ferré and his contemporaries further – Jacques Brel, of course being another favorite. Léo Ferré is a common name in France, but unfortunately not many other places. His poetry and compositions are regarded as true protest art and from videos of his performances he seems like quite a quirky and spontaneous character. 

Song of the Day: March 1


Efrain-3212 croppedThis week we welcome baritone Efrain Solis to Song of the Day! He has sung with companies such as San Francisco Opera, Virginia Opera, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. You can hear him with NYFOS on Tuesday, April 26th concert at Merkin Hall in Compositora: Songs by Latin American Women (get tickets here).
 

 

I was in love with Musical Theater in high school, and of course who doesn’t love Barbra Streisand? I remember seeing Yentl and being so moved by her performance and the tradition of the movie musical, which appeared so natural for her. I saw an interview where she was asked about performing with Judy Garland, and she went on to tell about her terrible nerves. She explains that Judy was holding her arm so tightly, as you can see during their performance, and how eye opening it was for her to see this icon of film and television as a real human being. That made this performance even more powerful to me – and I love a good mash up!
Both songs were written in 1930, coincidentally, and both became Hollywood hits. I also included the original 1930’s clip of Happy Days from the film Chasing Rainbows so that you can see how Barbra applied her signature smooth style to the song.

 

Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy (Arlen/Koehler)

Happy Days Are Here Again (Ager/Yellen)

Song of the Day: February 29


Efrain-3212+copy
This week we welcome baritone Efrain Solis to Song of the Day! He has sung with companies such as San Francisco Opera, Virginia Opera, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. You can hear him with NYFOS on Tuesday, April 26th concert at Merkin Hall in Compositora: Songs by Latin American Women (get tickets here). 
 
Being asked to pick five songs that reflect who I am seems like a very challenging task – especially for someone like me, who gets easily carried away in their thoughts. But, I’ve decided to start with my childhood and see how far I get. Here we go!

As a kid I was always involved in music – attempting to play the flute, never grasping my father’s ability with the guitar, but always singing away. I remember in middle school we watched a film that always stuck with me. We have all seen (I hope) the 1993 classic Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit with Whoopie Goldberg and Lauryn Hill, but did you know there was a 2004 French remake?! Of course, it wasn’t truly a remake – but it’s pretty darn close.

Les Choristes roughly follows the same storyline as Sister Act 2, but with a bit of a classical twist. The new music teacher, Clément Mathieu, can’t figure out what to do with his class of ill-mannered, rotten kids – until he discovers they can sing. He then holds chorus auditions (they are hilarious and included for your viewing pleasure) and finds that the most talented and sensitive student (Pierre Morhange) is also the most emotionally destructive. He proceeds to guide him towards receiving a music scholarship, and brings local fame to the choir and school. Mathieu takes the boys on an unsanctioned day trip, but the school ends up burning down the same day. The headmaster takes out his aggression on Mathieu and he is fired. We discover at the end of the film that Morhange did receive the scholarship to study music at the Conservatory in Lyon and became a famous Conductor.

All of this was so moving to me. Seeing a boy with practically nothing and a music teacher who believed in the power of music so much that he changed the lives of so many children, I was inspired then to strive to do the same with my singing. The second clip is one of the most beautiful moments in the film when Mathieu teaches Morhange about humility and respecting the music and being a member of the ensemble. Enjoy!

The Auditions

La Nuit – Jean Phillippe Rameau

New York Festival of Song • One Penn Plaza • #6108 • New York, NY 10119 • 646-230-8380 • info@nyfos.org