Almost everyone of us can sing but only very few can sing exceptionally well. One of these very few people who can sing like nobody can is Rudi Fernandez-Cardenas. Coming from Peru, the gentleman was sitting down and talked with me in one fine afternoon after a brief photo shot session. It was a few hours prior to “Amistad” (meaning “friendship”), a classical music show in which he and a female Indonesian classical singer would perform in tandem.
The bariton singer looked relaxed. Not a single symptom of stage freight was shown by his facial expression. I bet it was thanks to his blend of pure talent and relentless practice for so many years. My hunch proved right. As a well-trained professional singer, Rudi managed to show the audience his caliber that night.
He enjoys being considered younger than he actually is. Who doesn’t? As I mentioned “twenty five”, he smiled at me and kindly corrected me:”thirty two.” I gasped and a second later a laughter broke the awkward silence. “We’re peers!” I screamed with joy. He mentioned we both are under the same Chinese horoscope: swine. I had no slightest idea that Peruvians know Chinese horoscope, too. So our interview – just like the title of his performance that very night – was not really like an interview, which is supposed to be formal and succinct. I felt the warmth of friendship as I was conversing with him. And to forge our amistad, he offered me to connect on Facebook. I agreed.
Having sung since 10 years old, Rudi started singing in public 2 years later. “So I have been singing for 20 years. In the meantime, I studied a lot with teachers and in conservatoires,” said the dark-haired singer.
Before Rudi made mention of his birth place, I was imagining he was born in the capital of Peru, Lima, where the access to education was relatively easy. But then he explained he was born in the middle of Amazon Jungle of Peru. I was floored. His success story was quite random as it may seem; from the tropical forest to the place he lives in currently, Paris.
Rudi thought he himself found the talent. “No one really pushed me to do this (singing). I did it by myself but they (his family) always supported me,” he remarked. He was lucky that he launched his career from early on as it was quite common for most parents in Peru to push their children to make a living as a doctor or lawyer. “Anything but a musician. Singing is okay, as long as it is a hobby, not a profession,” Rudi murmured. Peru is evidently not alone.
As a singer, Rudi who now is a voice coach with several students feels the urge to pay attention to his instrument. “Even if I’m having fun, I’m trying not to do it excessively as it may harm my body and voice.”
He admitted he loved nature exploration. “I like nature, of course.” Yet, I’m sure he likes singing than nature. Rudi loved botany and understood a little bit of it. He showed me his cracked-screened iPhone and mentioned about a ravishing plant he recently found in Jakarta. In Iquitos, his hometown, it’s called “patikina”.
As he landed on Jakarta, Rudi was reminded of his motherland. Both places have tropical climate. Hot and humid all year long, he added. “But we (Lima) don’t have huge buildings like you (Jakarta). We only have one 10-story building,” he elaborated in a modest tone. I had no chance to tell him those skyscrapers cost us a great deal, environmentally speaking. The groundwater in Jakarta has been severely drained from perpetual and massive suck by millions of households and thousands of grand buildings he admired. That said, I guessed Lima is much more fortunate to have and still preserve the pristine environment.
Since a decade ago, Rudi had stayed in Paris. The last-born son who have two elder brothers seems to enjoy his staying there after leaving Lima (2000-2004). In Paris, he studied music at a conservatoire from 2005 to 2009. “It was the biggest music school in France, Conservatoire National Superiur de Musique et de Danse de Paris.
Claiming he isn’t that original, Rudi admitted Maria Callas (1923-1977) was his heaviest influencer. “Callas was bigger than opera,” he affirmed with utmost enthusiasm. The Greek-descent woman was an American-born operatic, coloratura soprano whose bel canto style of singing was particularly suited to 19th-century Italian opera. “Coloratura” itself can be roughly defined as “elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody, in operatic singing in particular.” And “bel canto” refers to a lyrical style of operatic singing using a full, rich, broad tone and smooth phrasing. With his brimming eyes, Rudi added,”To me, she was a genius.”
Rudi’s long and successful singing career thus far apparently has no obvious patterns. He is the one and only singer in the family; whereas, his father makes a living by building things. He is an engineer. Her mother is a full-time housewife, who according to Rudi “never sang but had a very good pair of ears”.
As to why he loves singing, Rudi failed to explain logically. “There’re things you can’t explain. I even didn’t realize it (his love of singing). I just do it, following something bigger than me,” he uttered.
To be successful, Rudi revealed his ‘secret’. You need to be in the state of work 24 hours a day and practically live with your singing job “inside”, he told me. He likened his dear voice cord to muscles of a bodybuilder. “You cannot spend 10 hours a day working out at a gym. Only 1-2 hours a day. You cannot force it too much,” Rudi spoke, snapping his fingers to give emphasis. And because it’s still work no matter what, Rudi gives himself days-off. He learned it the hard way after singing without taking proper rest. As a solo singer, sometimes he didn’t work or perform for a long time because in Europe, in times of crisis like now, there’s less work for people and this fact affects musicians as well. Sometimes, however, all the work comes together at the same time. So it makes sense that singers there don’t want to say no when offered a job. At last, Rudi learned when to say no and started taking care of his instrument.
Rudi applies discipline to stay fit to sing. He sleeps 8 hours every day and muts not consume hot spicy foods right before performance.
As a singer, he knows how to deal with critics and dissenting audiences. “If they don’t like it, what can you do? If it doesn’t work, it’s okay.”