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Classical Studies: On a High Note... Keyed Up... A Religious Experience...

These young talents are taking traditional training in a new direction.

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WWD Music issue 08/30/2007
What would people never guess about you?

It's funny, but people are usually surprised to hear that I come from Russia. I moved here when I was 8 years old, so I really don't have an accent or anything.

What's your favorite wardrobe item at the moment?

My new Gucci boots. I saved my money forever to buy them. Also, I have this BCBG pointelle cardigan, it's very unusual, so I love it.

For more news on Natasha, visit here.

A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE: Rolando Villazón's music career began with a leap of faith. His training to become a priest brought him closer to God, but also closer to music.

After Villazón's first year in the seminary, his mentor organized a concert and insisted the Mexican tenor perform.

"After the concert, my spiritual guide told me that my vocation was not with the church but on the stage," says Villazón. "He guaranteed me that one day I would sing at the Metropolitan Opera."

That day came seven years ago when he made his Met debut in "La Traviata." But he got his U.S. start in the Pittsburgh Opera's Young Artists Program, where he explored another passion. "I'm a big Steelers fan, and the program was during football season!"

From Pittsburgh he went on to perform the role of Alfredo in "La Traviata" and collect numerous prizes at Plácido Domingo's 1999 Operalia competition. Not bad for a guy who didn't consider an opera career until the age of 20.

"It's not like God presented Himself in a room and decided it would be my path," said Villazón, now 35. "I always loved singing. In high school, I would sing everything from the Beatles to Plácido Domingo to John Denver."

Indeed, Villazón still loves to sing. "It's not a profession to me. It's my hobby, and I get money for it. Singing gives me the opportunity to put my soul in what I do. Music speaks to everyone. It doesn't matter if you understand what it's about or if you've been to the opera, because music hits you and creates a certain reaction."
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