Adler Profile: Efraín Solís
Mexican-American baritone Efraín Solís is a second-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow who is currently appearing as Papageno in The Magic Flute. He made his Company debut in 2014 as Prince Yamadori (Madame Butterfly) and has appeared as Christian (A Masked Ball), Dandini (Cinderella) and Sciarrone (Tosca). Read on to learn more about his backstage rituals, how we knew he wanted to be a performer and more.
This past October marks the second time that you have stepped into a leading role after an unexpected artist withdrawal. The first was Dandini in Cinderella, and now Papageno in The Magic Flute. How did you react to the unexpected news and how did prepare for learning the role after being given the opportunity?
Dandini definitely was a shock for me, and I don't think I truly realized I was doing the role until the second performance. Since I tend to over analyze, that was the hardest block to get over. Gregory Fortner, our director, was really amazing and pushed me to get out of my head and into the character. Once I got to that point I started to have a lot of fun - plus the cast and crew were amazing to work with and were really encouraging. The Magic Flute has been the cherry on top of an amazing Adler Fellowship for me. When I found out about my new assignment, I knew the hardest part for me would be the dialogue. Thankfully the director and staff were very patient and supportive as well!
What excites you or makes you nervous about Papageno as a character, and what is your favorite moment in the opera to perform?
The only thing that makes me nervous is people's predetermined expectations - because it is such an iconic role. I try to be as true to him as best I can every night. And every night is very different. Some nights I really feel his desperation in finding a mate and wanting to find happiness. Other nights it's breaking the seriousness and really trying to lighten the mood for the audience. I'm the only character that communicates with the audience and I love the feeling when I know I've won them over. One of my favorite moments in the show is the duet with Pamina. He learns a valuable lesson in patience and understanding; if you put good out into the world, the right person will find you.
Can you tell us a little bit about your preparation process in learning a new role, especially balancing leading roles with cover assignments and small comprimario roles in each season?
It really is all about knowing what role you play in the production you are in. As a leading role, especially Papageno, you have to focus on carrying a big portion of the performance. As a cover, I always try to be supportive of the person I am covering. I also take that as a moment to learn from the person I am covering. I learned so much about freedom on stage and vocal colors when I was covering in The Marriage of Figaro this past summer, and look forward to covering Brian Mulligan in The Fall of the House of Usher. He's a consummate performer and one hell of a singer. In a comprimario role, your job is to support the leads. You do that by always knowing your material. I remember when I was singing Sciarrone in Tosca, I was late for an entrance during an early rehearsal and Maestro Frizza stopped and said "you cannot be late. If you are late, Tosca does not know that Cavaradossi has passed out from all the torture he has endured, and she cannot agree to Scarpia's demands. You cannot be late!" Mark Delavan said he never envied the Sciarrone and always sympathized because of his difficult entrances. From that moment on I knew that comprimario work is just as serious as the leads. You have to care just as much as they do or the show does not go on.
What is your favorite memory or experience from your time as an Adler Fellow?
My favorite memory thus far is going back and forth between Cinderella and La Boheme for Families. Being on stage with friends is one of the best experiences any singer could ask for. I've been very lucky to have that several times as an Adler, but La Boheme and Cinderella were very special.
What is your favorite neighborhood or place to visit in San Francisco and why?
I've been hanging out more in the Marina District lately. Great restaurants and nice people. Walking along the beach is one of my favorite things to do on a day off as well as running at Kezar Stadium.
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received as a young singer thus far?
Always strive to be the solution, not the problem. Also, inspiration is inhalation. Thomas Hampson said that to me once and my voice teacher has a mantra very similar to it. Two things I remind myself of constantly.
What is your favorite language to sing in and which one do you find the most challenging?
I love languages so I can't possibly pick one!! The most challenging thus far has been Russian, but I hope to get better at it so that I can venture into other Slavic languages.
What would be your desert island Opera playlist?
Lucia di Lammermoor - such an amazing opera. Anything Mozart or Strauss. I tend to listen to mostly operas I won't sing anytime soon. Wagner and the big Verdi operas as well, and I most likely know more soprano and mezzo arias than I do baritone!
Do you have any specific backstage rituals?
I love coffee, and so I have to drink coffee before any show. I also need to eat during intermission to keep my energy up.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a performer?
I grew up singing and performing at church and school, but didn't decide to do it until I was to go to college and had to decide what to study. Music was the only thing I was passionate about and I even thought about going into teaching. But after I did my first opera scene, there was no going back.