Rolando Villazón announces his return to the stage
18 December 2009
Mexican tenor, Roland Villazón (Photo: Pamela Springsteen courtesy Virgin Classics)
Mexican tenor, Rollando Villazón, has announced that he will return to the stage in March 2010 following surgery on his vocal cords. His first appearance will be a one-off performance at the Vienna State Opera as Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore on 22 March 2010.
Villazón cancelled all his 2009 engagements following the discovery of a vocal cyst, which was successfully removed in Paris earlier this year.
Announcing his 2010 dates via a video message on his official website, Villazón explained that “I am currently singing and am just polishing little details to be able to come back as soon as possible to the stage next year.” He also thanked people who sent him letters and gifts during his period of recovery, saying “I can feel the warmth of your hearts and this has meant so much to me during this time.”
Vocal cysts are not unusual amongst singers and actors. An early symptom of the condition is a slight roughening in vocal quality, which a singer is more likely to notice and seek help for than a non singer.
Describing the anatomy, treatment methods and potential impact of a cyst on a singer’s career, Tom Harris (Consultant ENT surgeon and specialist in Voice Disorders with the British Voice Association), explained to Opera Now:
“The first thing to understand is that a cyst is buried deeply in the body of the vocal cords (or, more accurately, the vocal folds), inhibiting the smooth movement of the folds’ cover. This superfical cover is normally very pliable and slides upwards as the airstream pushes the vocal folds apart during voicing. They can be seen in stroboscopic light breaking like waves on a shore over the top surface of the vocal folds: it is this movement that gives us the clear quality or timbre to the voice.”
“The symptoms of a vocal fold cyst will vary depending on the location of the cyst. It is very important to remember that cysts are not related to poor singing technique - in fact, it is more likely that the singer has to be very skilled in order to sing around the problem.”
“Typically, the cyst will make one vocal fold stiffer than the other. During voicing, the vocal folds come together and meet in the midline of the airway, so the normal vocal fold is constantly impacting against the stiff swelling. This can cause a reactionary swelling in the normal fold. If this happens, the vocal quality will start to become breathier as the two swellings wedge the folds apart, preventing their normal closure.”
“Long periods of sustained singing are likely to cause the symptoms to worsen, while rest improves things temporarily.”
“Surgical removal of a cyst should only be undertaken by a surgeon who has specialised in micorsurgical techniques for voice disorders. It is also important that the singer's problem is properly diagnosed so the correct surgical approach is used.”
“Post surgical recovery from the removal of a cyst takes several months and the success of the operation can vary. If the cyst has been removed completely without damaging the superficial cover then the results are likely to be good. In these cases the singer usually experiences improved flexibility that makes singing easier, and after an appropriate period of rehabilitation a patient such as Villazón should be able to return to a full and busy schedule without concerns or special precautions.”
One look at Villazón’s schedule for 2010 confirms this optimistic prognosis: the 37-year-old’s opera roles next year will include Lensky in a revival of Eugene Onegin at the Berlin State Opera under Daniel Barenboim, his Zürich Opera debut as Alfredo in La traviata, and Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, plus numerous concert and recital appearances throughout Europe and in Mexico.