At the end of 1999 five Latvian tenors representing different generations came together to record a Christmas album. Although no long-term cooperation had been envisaged, the combination worked so well that Kārlis Zariņš, Jānis Sproģis, Miervaldis Jenčs, Nauris Puntulis and Guntars Ruņģis decided to continue performing together. Their audiences were delighted and quick to show their appreciation, and 2000 became the year of the five tenors – they performed together so often and to such enthusiastic audiences that a renewal of live concert performances of opera music seemed quite feasible. All five are leading Latvian opera singers, so it was only natural that their performances together were very popular.
The most senior member of the group is Kārlis Zariņš (born in 1930). Despite his age, he is still performing regularly on the Latvian National Opera stage and delighting audiences with his professional performance and fine voice.
Janis Sprogis (born in 1944) is an excellent singer, who has not worked for the Latvian National Opera for some time. Today he is well known as a soloist all over Europe, with a large number of solo albums. His recordings include opera arias, solo songs and Latvian folk songs, as well as popular songs written by Latvian composers, including some by Sproģis himself, with various instruments as accompaniment.
Nauris Puntulis is another unusual singer (born in 1961), who started as a rock musician in the band Pērkons, later developed an interest in academic singing, studied at the Latvian Academy of Music and honed his skills in Italy with the famous Katia Angeloni. Puntulis and his fellow students Miervaldis Jenčs and Guntars Ruņģis, who have also perfected their skills by studying abroad, are now leading singers at the Latvian National Opera. They continue the singing traditions of their master Kārlis Zariņš, who has been their model for several decades. Nevertheless, in these joint albums all five tenors participate with complete equality. Solo sections are followed by harmonious ensembles and no singer is singled out or dominated by the others, giving each singer a chance to show his capacity for singing high notes, his artistic skill and perfect phrasing.
The album “Five tenors in Riga Dome” was compiled with the aim of supporting the restoration programme of the Riga Dome organ – the oldest one in Latvia. This album, therefore, presents works that are ideal for church performance. The tenors themselves have named this album “A Talk with God”. It is an album of sacred music that allows us to experience emotions that are far from our ordinary, everyday feelings. It includes music of Giulio Caccini, Alessandro Scarlatti, Pietro Mascagni, George Frideric Handel, Georges Bizet, César Franck and other well-known composers, with Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria” definitely the most popular work.
The singers’ performance is enhanced by the experienced and masterful organist Aivars Kalējs playing the Dome organ and also by accompaniment provided by the violist Jānis Bulavs, the harpist Oskars Krašauskis and the choir “Sonore”.
The instigator of this project was Jānis Sproģis, who often performs in various churches in Latvia. This outstanding singer claims that serving God and his people gives his life meaning and value. He never fails to surprise his audience with the diversity and creativity of his performances, even working together with hip hop musicians.
Kārlis Zariņš has performed leading roles in innumerable operas and, whether singing serious works or merry songs, his artistic skills are indisputable. When the new album of Neapolitan songs “O sole mio” was released, concert performances of the music were very popular and highly appreciated by countless listeners. The album includes such popular melodies as “Santa Lucia”, “Funiculì funiculà” and “Maria Marì”! The title song has been sung by many outstanding soloists, such as Mario Lanza and Robertino Loretti. Nevertheless, the Latvian quintet’s interpretation is convincing, enhanced by a faultless arrangement by Jānis Kaijaks and the performance of the Latvian National Opera Orchestra and its conductor Aleksandrs Viļumanis as well as the choir “Sonore”.
The sound of beautiful music, pleasant and positive emotions, five outstanding and harmonious voices! On stage the five tenors can be both serious and playful, they work diligently, fastidiously choosing their music, and do not hide their individual personalities, thus making their performances so appealing and captivating.