Friday
April 18, 2014

Juan Rodó, singer-actor

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

‘It’s sad we have such a media-obsessed audience’

Juan Rodó
By Luciana Ekdesman
Herald Staff

Born: November 28, 1966, Buenos Aires
Studies: Musical Arts
News routine: Clarín online
Social media: Facebook

One hour to go before the curtain call for Pasos de Amor at Teatro El Nacional. The theatre is empty and the last rehearsal is about to end. Rodó enters inconspicuously though a side hallway and greets his colleagues much the same way. While music keeps playing softly in the dim-lit room, one of the most outstanding artists in Argentine musical theatre (Drácula, Beauty and the Beast, Les Miserables) sits quietly in an empty row and talks to the Herald about theatre, opera and television.

At a time when there’s so much social tension, what’s it like to make Pasos de Amor, a musical with such a peace-focused theme?

This is a novel show and quite necessary due to its topic. Not a lot of plays have been written on this subject and, needless to say, until now nobody thought of bringing together four iconic characters: John Paul II, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Martin Luther King and Gandhi.

While the audience knows such a gathering never happened in real life, it’s very easy to get immersed in their dialogue and accept the conversation as something quite real. The train where they meet stands for life itself...

I couldn’t agree more. That’s where the possibility of change burgeons — their journey on the unexpected paths of destiny.

Your character is the train operator, the everyman — an observer with a story of his own and a personal wish for peace and a world free of discrimination....

Indeed. What’s more, the operator could be the audience itself. He’s just another man turned witness of a remarkable gathering. His situation makes him more human and easier to understand, perhaps. His only wish is to get married and have children. He can see what others can’t because he opens himself to others’ thoughts and opinions. There are people who can bring changes about and one must be open enough to see and recognize them for what they are.

Can a theatre play change our whole perspective on life?

Of course it can, when it invites you to ponder. I just want to say this play in particular is quite an invitation, with monumental stage design, incredible effects, exquisite music that is very varied and carefully thought by Gabriel Senanes and excellent singers. All in all, it’s a magnificent combination.

How do you think an Argentine-authored musical would do in the rest of the world?

If we’re talking about this play, I’d say it could work because the characters are universally known. Regardless of the country where this play would be staged, I believe people would easily empathize. Actually, they are planning to take it to other Spanish-speaking countries. The subjects in themselves might seem nationalistic but the core is universal and could touch audiences anywhere.

What contemporary figure would you put on this train?

A figure to match these four characters? Someone as iconic as them? That would be very hard to find... These characters were so undisputed in their fight because they only represented the defence of a value. There aren’t many of those... Except for non-believers, Jesus is a historical character who changed the course of history, ergo the ‘before Christ’ and ‘after Christ’ tags.

So, no suggestion from Argentine ranks?

I would probably get my mother because she played a big part in my evolution as an artist.

Would Pope Francis get in this group?

His work is only just beginning. I think that he hasn’t reached that level of importance. He needs more time to prove himself.

How do you see Argentina’s operatic life today?

I’m not as involved as I used to be but I believe our thorniest issue is the lack of venues: we only have the Teatro Colón, Teatro Argentino in La Plata and Teatro Avenida where two foundations are doing tremendous and commendable work — Juventud Lyrica and Buenos Aires Lírica. If not for these venues, there would be no room for Argentine artists to grow and evolve. On the other hand, international stars have moved to the foreground to such an extent that Argentine artists get less and less opportunities or venues to put their talent and expertise to work. We sorely need more venues for opera audiences and singers alike.

Should opera as a genre be more accessible to all and sundry?

But of course. I think — and my experience with musicals helps me here — that there are formulas which really don’t have to be so monumental. Could such a thing as an underground opera exist here? Something closer to the people? Might we have a work that is easier to produce and doesn’t require a massive staging? It can be done, just as you can do musical theatre with no other props than chairs. I believe that when you open these less grandiose places, you also open minds and more people come to see your work.

Do you mind being pigeonholed as a musical theatre artist?

Not a bit. I feel privileged to belong to the musical genre. I have been doing this for so many years it has given everyone a sense of continuity. And I have so many dreams left to fulfil.

How do you reconcile yourself with the role of Dracula and being constantly associated with this character?

It is a precious role to me and Pepe Cibrián Campoy’s Drácula is the only work that induced such euphoria. Musicals tend to enjoy a nice welcome here but Drácula was the only work that actually shook everything up, it’s revolutionary. And for me, it’s still incredible to know I’ve been part and am still part of this story.

When you were 20 or 25 (the age of the characters in Pasos de amor), what were your dreams and aspirations?

I dreamed about becoming an artist and I had a need to work my way around music and canto. And I wanted to be a pianist, too. I used to dream about becoming someone important.

When democracy was restored in Argentina, you were an idealistic young man. Have you ever flirted with politics?

No, never!

Are you tempted to work in television?

No, I’ve done a couple of gigs but I didn’t find it all that interesting. It’s just not for me.

There have been so many rumours about great dancers such as Eleonora Cassano, Julio Bocca and Maximiliano Guerra appearing in Bailando por un sueño this year. Would you like to be in a reality show?

I’ve never been asked to, but no. I think reality shows may be useful sometimes, if you want to win the popularity you’d need for musical theatre. In fact, many participants become so famous that no matter what they do after the show, their success is guaranteed. We have such a media-obsessed audience... That is sad, perhaps. Going to the theatre to see an artist on stage because you know them from TV, that’s truly sad. One has to go looking for something else.

You’ve always said so. But many have wondered why wouldn’t Rodó appear in more market-bent shows...

Maybe some artists do these shows because they need to. Unless I get a truly interesting proposal, I’m not into that. I think Hernán Piquín is the only one that did it gracefully, as an artist and a popular character. But he’s perhaps the exception.

Theatre seasons in Mar del Plata and Carlos Paz have proven this as a difficult one. What would you tell people to get them to come and see your show?

I believe it is an original and outstanding idea that gives them a lot of food for thought. It is a special experience for adults and children alike. It’s just innovative and unconventional.

@lucianaek

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