Light lyric tenor Xavier Prado in Santa Monica. Photo by Westside People
It only takes a few moments listening to him sing to know why Xavier Prado could become one of the world’s best opera singers
By David Rosenfeld
When Xavier Prado extends his vocal chords and projects his voice, people take notice – lots of people. Prado gave us a sampling of his talents at Palisades Park in Santa Monica where he let go like he was on stage at the Metropolitan Opera. In just a few moments a crowd of onlookers were transfixed on his every inflection. When he finished they applauded as if it was a grand performance.
And it’s not just here this happens. It’s everywhere.
The 22-year-old light lyric tenor from Chile has the type of vocal abilities that even opera greats like Luciano Pavarotti might have envied at his age. That’s because opera singers typically mature at age 35, which means Prado could have a big future in an art form as old as the ages.
Speaking with Prado, he’s mature and extremely focused on becoming one of history’s greats. He gave credit to his musical background and teachers like Gabriel Reoyo-Pazos, who has spent the past 25 years performing and then teaching opera in the Los Angeles area. He currently directs the Guild Opera Company, which brings opera to school children throughout the Southland. Reoyo-Pazos called Prado virtuosic.
“That is not a term that is thrown around loosely or often,” he said. “I think Xavier has a great gift. I wouldn’t call myself virtuosic at an early age.”
His teacher described Prado’s voice type as a light Rossini lyric tenor, which means his voice is light and agile and can easily reach the high notes. As a teacher he said he didn’t have to dig for talent. It was just there. His job was to help Prado learn vocal technique so that he could have a career that relied on his voice.
“I think he can have a long and illustrious career, but a career in anything requires a lot of things, not only a great talent, but you have to have a lot of flexibility in your life,” he said. “And it depends on who knows you at what point.”
In addition to Prado, Reoyo-Pazos teaches his brother Felipe, also a lyric tenor. We envisioned the chances of knowing the famous Tenor Brothers someday.
“To have one person in a family who is gifted like that is really amazing and to have two that are brothers is really like a miracle,” he said.
Classically trained back in Chile, Prado received formal training on the violin at the School of Orchestras. It was because of his father’s missionary work at age 15 he came to the United States along with his family and older brother, who’s also an accomplished pianist.
“It’s thanks to the great influence I’ve had from my teachers and my parents and being involved in music since I was very young that I’ve developed certain instincts for singing,” he said. “Certain things that perhaps would come after years of training, I just feel like doing them naturally.”
Performing in the church were some of Prado’s first experiences in front of an audience. Eventually in California he attended community college in Antelope Valley and began to pursue opera more seriously. In September, Prado plays the Duke of Montua in the Pacific Lyric Association’s production of Rigoletto.
“I play the villain of the story,” he said. “I’ve performed it before and I had so much fun with it. It’s going to be a great venue.”
Opera singer Xavier Prado on Montana Avenue. Photo by Westside People
Given the talk these days in the decline of longstanding opera houses, Prado could very well become the type of draw that attracts more people. The possibilities exist too for collaborations with modern music groups. Despite the overall audience decline, Reoyo-Pazos says there have never been as many small thriving opera houses in Los Angeles.
Christine Peake, who runs the Peak PR Group on Montana Avenue, discovered Prado singing at a restaurant in West Hollywood and has been helping him meet people in the opera world.
“Whether it’s a rap song, pop, jazz or soul, I like music if it’s good music, and when I heard him every hair on my arm stood up,” Peake said. “You’d have to be a fool not to realize how special that was.”
For inspiration, Prado looks toward singer Juan Diego Florez who at age 23 made his debut as the leading tenor in a stand-in roll at the 1996 Rossini Festival in Italy. Like Prado, he possessed a matured singing voice at an early age and continues to perform into his 30s.
“The mere act of singing well and being who I am, showing what opera is really like, will make a difference to opera,” Prado said. “I’m not who I am because I deserve it or I’m fantastic. Yes I study and put lots of training into it, but it just makes me feel grateful for what they have given me. I love every second of opera. I breathe opera and it runs through my veins.”