Mexican-American baritone Efraín Solís
is a first-year Adler Fellow who has been seen in performances throughout the Bay Area. In the 2013 Merola Opera Program, he sang Junius in The Rape of Lucretia and covered the Count in The Marriage of Figaro. As a graduate student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he performed the title role of Don Giovanni,
Guglielmo in Così fan tutte
, and the title role of Gianni Schicchi
and in the spring of 2013 he joined Opera Santa Barbara as a member of their Studio Artist Program. Chosen as a finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the 2013 Houston Grand Opera's Eleanor McCollum Competition, he will make his San Francisco Opera debut as Prince Yamadori in Madame Butterfly
, and can be seen in A Masked Ball
in the 2014-15 Season. Below, Efraín discusses his education in San Francisco, musical family, and love of artisanal coffee.
What was your reaction upon learning that you were selected as an Adler Fellow? What are you most looking forward to during your Fellowship?
I was extremely excited - knowing the long line of Adler alumni, I felt honored to be a part of such a group of select singers. Because San Francisco Opera is encouraging of the Adlers, I'm looking forward to working with the company throughout the Main Stage performances and learning from guest artists as much as I can.
What are your favorite memories from the 2013 Merola program?
I would have to say the Lucretia performances. As a cast we established a deep bond, which I don't think many of us had experienced before, and each performance felt extremely electric. Seeing the impact our performances had on the audience was really moving. They understood the message we were trying to send - all thanks to the hard work of Peter Kazaras and the cast.
Efraín as Junius in the 2013 Merola production of The Rape of Lucretia. Photo by Kristen Loken
You recently graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. What made you want to come to San Francisco to study? What do you like most about the music scene here?
I came to study with my teacher, César Ulloa. I had a lesson with him and knew we would do great work together. This all happened because of Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald's guidance. She encouraged me to audition for César, and her instincts were spot on. I had been up to San Francisco a few times for auditions and knew that the music scene here was so well supported by the community and I was ready to move into a bigger city environment.
When did you first begin studying music? Did you come from a musical family?
I grew up singing in choirs and acting in children's theatre, my dad is the music director at our church and my mom used to be a singer there - so I was always around music. I didn't decide to study music until I was in high school and knew that I wouldn't go to college if I wasn't studying music.
Efraín at the Merola Grand Finale 2013. Photo by Kristen Loken.
Who or what inspired you to become an opera singer? Who have been your role models as a professional musician?
I was fortunate enough to have been provided with a few voice lessons from my high school choir director, then we discovered I had a natural placement for opera. When I dove into the music of Mozart and Puccini I was hooked! I've always looked up to Plácido Domingo because of his endless devotion to the music and opera. He's truly an inspiration and my family was more encouraging of me singing opera, because they knew who he was.
Who are your musical inspirations? Whom have you most enjoyed working with during your career?
I look up to Simon Keenlyside tremendously. I heard him in recital when I was a student at SFCM and was completely blown away. His technical abilities and his connection and understanding to the text left me awestruck. I really enjoyed working with Jose Maria Condemi last year at Opera Santa Barbara and I look forward to working with him this year in Tosca and Un Ballo in Maschera. His understanding of characters and singers and what it takes to really build an opera organically has played a great part in my development as a young artist.
Efraín as Junius in the 2013 Merola production of The Rape of Lucretia with Robert Watson. Photo by Kristen Loken
Are there any roles or pieces that you have particularly identified with during your career? What have been your favorite performances in your career thus far?
Mozart has been the majority of my repertoire as a young baritone - my two favorites have always been Figaro and Don Giovanni. Figaro I relate to the most because of his unending love for Susanna and the genius of Mozart in that score. One aria after the next, I'm completely blown away. The Don, because he gives me the opportunity to let my bad guy come out - and what baritone doesn't enjoy playing the bad guy?
Who are your favorite composers of and characters in opera? Do you have any dream roles you would like to perform?
I really enjoy playing the bad guys - a dream role for me would be Enrico in Lucia. I'd love to keep a balance though - Posa from Don Carlo would be amazing to sing as well. I love Donizetti, Verdi, Mozart, and Strauss.
When you aren’t at the opera house, what do you enjoy doing? Where in San Francisco do you like to hang out?
If I'm on a break from rehearsals or coachings, I'm usually at Ritual Coffee in Hayes Valley (I'm a coffee addict). On a day off I enjoy going out with friends for dinner and drinks. I'm a big fan of specialty cocktails, and a few friends of mine love bartending, so I get to enjoy their concoctions.
What is your favorite…
Book? Before Night Falls, by Reinaldo Arenas
Film? Can I say Dexter?
Cocktail? Anything with Tequila or Mezcal.
Efraín with John Arnold at the 2013 Merola Grand Finale Photo by Kristen Loken.