Fernando Varela sings.
It’s just that simple. He does not sing just because he has a beautiful, expressive voice. He does not sing just because it brings him success and acclaim. Fernando Varela sings because that is who he is. He sings what he loves, whether it is a pop standard, an original song he wrote, or Puccini’s noblest tenor aria “Nessun dorma.” The underlying truth – who he is and what he does, in everything he dreams and achieves – is what brings Fernando Varela to the center of a worldwide stage with the release of Vivere, his first recording for Universal Music/Verve Label Group.
The high wire act of this powerhouse voice can wow all kinds of audiences, from the opera house to the nightclub. If most tenors live in one sphere and like to dabble in another, Fernando Varela wants to embrace them all and reinvent the possibilities. He puts that dream on the line with Vivere.
“I belong to a new generation of tenors,” he says. “We have to work hard to remain creative and make classical music exciting for young listeners. I want to create something completely new, something magical.”
Since Vivere aspires to nothing less, it had a long and globe-trotting birth – 2 years of writing and recording at Abbey Road Studios in London, and in Los Angeles, New York, Berlin and Orlando (where Varela lives), as well as in Belgium, the homeland of his producer Patrick Hamilton.
“The greatest challenge was to combine all the styles in a way that blended them harmoniously,” Varela says. “It’s really difficult to describe all my facets as an artist, so I have to try and use my music to express what I am and what I do. With this album, I feel that I am defining myself for the first time.”
“Vivere,” the soaring, anthem title track is the album’s signature song. The Latin word “vivere” means “to live,” even “to endure,” and the word exists in the most singable of all languages, Italian. The message of the song is pure Fernando Varela, and he thinks “Vivere” is a song that people will hear and become inspired.
“We shape our own happiness,” he says. “I want to encourage anyone listening to see every moment as a new opportunity. Many people don’t end up achieving greatness because they are afraid to fail. But we learn the most about ourselves when we fail, when we fall and hit rock bottom. I want to inspire my fans with my story. People used to laugh at me for chasing my dream. Today I want to show that everything is possible if you believe in yourself. There is great talent in us all; we just have to recognize it and make every day count.”
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Fernando Varela was eight years old when his family moved to Florida. He found himself at an immediate disadvantage, speaking only Spanish.
“From a young age, I had to fight to belong, to find my place in life,” Varela recalls. “Once I learned English, I gained respect first through my achievements in sports … In the hardest and roughest times of my life, though, I’ve turned to singing. It’s like talking, to me.”
Growing up in Central Florida and listening to the vibrant pop music of the time, he also sang in his school choir and later in the chorus of the Central Florida Lyric Opera. With no formal training – and maybe to impress a girl he liked – Varela later auditioned for a spot at a renowned music school. The jury laughed at him and sent him packing with the advice to keep his day job, even to stay away from music due to his lack of talent. He knew better.
“As a child, I would imitate Michael Jackson in front of the mirror,” Varela says. “Later it was The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Chicago and also artists such as Frank Sinatra and many of the great Motown acts. I was always the black sheep amongst classical singers. I love diversity of styles. I never wanted to limit myself to one direction. My aim is to inspire emotions and my language is music. If I move in a specific genre, I don’t want to sound like an opera singer longing for a bit of a change. I want to perform every style as authentically as possible, whether it’s pop or classical.”
That voice professor’s dismissal only fired the ambitions of Fernando Varela, son of a motivational speaker and a young man determined to realize his dream. Having previously built a career in finance, he decided to walk away from it all and roll the dice on his voice. Varela set off on a worldwide odyssey, absorbing music wherever he went and making friends who would shape his future.
Luciano Pavarotti’s longtime conductor Giancarlo Chiamarello became a trusted advisor to Varela, as did the celebrated Metropolitan Opera coach and conductor Joan Dornemann and even the legendary soprano Licia Albanese. Then a YouTube performance video of Varela caught the attention of Grammy-winning writer and producer David Foster, who mentored him for two transformative years. Varela toured the world with Foster, learning his craft and earning the respect of singers such as Barbra Streisand and Lionel Richie. The experience led him to join the trio Forte Tenors, in which he appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and later at the White House, Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall in New York, and in Las Vegas. The experience led him back to his original dream – a solo career.
His debut album proves that the dream has come true. In addition to “Vivere” and the essential “Nessun dorma!”, it also features several original songs that Fernando Varela wrote – “Gloria,” a grateful reflection on what music means to him and his own journey as an artist; and the touching “You’ll See My Face,” inspired by the loss of a dear friend who lives now in his memory. But Varela loves to entertain in the most exuberant way with another original of his: “Ti Amo Per Siempre” reminds the listener how he gets arena crowds on their feet and dancing in his live performances.
“You are going to be a big star!” Barbra Streisand told Fernando Varela, and Lionel Richie said, “Unbelievable. You just stopped the room! That’s magic!”
Fernando Varela sings. He always has. This time, the whole world is listening.
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