It is a rainy day in Lisbon today, a bit gray like usually in autumn. But our day, mine and Alex’s, will be brightened by a happy meeting.
Christian, Alex’s old friend, comes to meet us with his lively dog Chopin. And yes, Chopin, like the famous composer. Of course, a music lover like him could not have chosen a better name.
Christian, Christian Lújan, is in fact a baritone with a beautiful voice. But he is also a multi-faceted artist. Ready to discover more together?
Christian, Colombian by origin, arrives in Lisbon by accident.
It happened 15 years ago, when at the age of 21 he follows his mother, who, after the divorce, decides to come to Lisbon. Their arrival will not be the easiest because, as Christian tells us, they arrive without a visa and will spend 6 days at the airport in Lisbon waiting to know if they can enter the country or not.
Four months later Christian enters the National Conservatory where he begins to study opera singing. He also begins to attend the Faculty of Musicology in the FSCH, but without completing the course.
Music was now his way and Christian will never stop following it.
“But how did it start?”, I ask him. Again by accident.
Christian is originally from Medellín, central Colombia, not exactly a country where the culture of opera can be considered particularly rooted. He grows up with two different educations: his mother is an Adventist (Seventh-day Adventist Christian church, ed), but Christian attends the Salesian school in his city, is a vegetarian at home, eats meat at school, at home Saturday is respected as a day of rest, but at the same time begins to be part of the Salesian choir.
In the meantime, he begins also to play. It was customary to introduce children to music with small courses and Christian discovers the double bass which will be his first instrument.
And so begins his connection with music: between his double bass and the psalms sung with the choir during Mass. Until one day someone hears him sing. Antonio, professor at the faculty of medicine, but passionate about music and choir director. He hears something different, special in Christian’s voice and suggests that he start healing this gift from him. And so he begins studying at the Medellín Institute of Fine Arts and opens up to the world of opera.
When his mother decides to leave for Lisbon, for Christian it is an opportunity to arrive in Europe, in the continent where the opera and the culture of opera singing have been rooted for centuries.
And that’s how it started, and it was in Lisbon and its conservatory that he dedicated himself to this new world.
Christian still remembers his first work and his first role, that of Pinnellino, the cobbler of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, at the San Carlo in Lisbon. He was 23 years old. I ask him how excited he was. Christian replies: “Excited? No. Terrified ”. This is his memory of the first two performances. But deep down, he tells me, it’s always like that. The first performances are those of tremor, anxiety, then you enter the scene, one evening after another, and little by little you begin to enjoy the show and the excitement of music and opera.
Lisbon will not be his only destination. He will move to Belgium for three and a half years where he will perfect himself at the Flanders Opera Studio.
And it is in Belgium that the great turning point in his life will come. He will return to meet a colleague, Mariana, from Lisbon, an opera singer too, whose path he had already crossed but without the spark being struck. Two different characters at the time, she lively, he in a phase that he defines as “bohemian”, had not met. But fate gave him a new chance, in Belgium, where they ended up sharing an apartment and fell in love. Their love story has lasted for ten years now and a few months ago was crowned by the birth of the very tender Camila.
Christian has played so many roles, but when I ask him which are the ones he most identified with or loved the most, he has no doubts: Scarpia (the “villain” of Tosca) or Marcello (the painter of La Bohème), and the tragic roles of the romantic opera, especially that of Giacomo Puccini.
Today Christian lives on music, but he didn’t forget the times when he devoted himself to many different jobs and in the meantime, he moved from one audition to another. Certainly a tiring situation at first, but that never made Christian give up. Today he has been able to make his name and his special voice known in the world of opera and finally can live off what he has always dreamed of.
But Christian’s range of artistic nuances doesn’t stop with music and opera singing, and while he tells us he started studying to learn Chinese massage techniques, he also talks about a photography project. He says that he is not a professional, but his photos really leave you speechless. (Search Instagram @quotidianoss, and judge for yourself).
The project is extremely interesting: spending a morning with a stranger and photographing him in his everyday life, natural, naked. These are not models but ordinary people.
Christian has always been passionate about photography, even as a boy, and tells of when at the age of 15 his camera was stolen with the film still inside and some photographs including two first photos of nudes. Since then this project has been suspended until today.
Christian tells us that he had to fight against a series of preconceptions and that he needed time to confess, even to his own family, that the nude was the subject he chose for his photographs. A project that has now been going on for about 5 years and that gives us images of a natural everyday life, without filters, without constructions.
A world to be discovered, in short, that of Christian.
In the meantime, the rain has given us a moment of respite and Chopin doesn’t stop jumping on Christian’s legs: it’s time for a walk.
So we accompany them and take the opportunity to chat more about life, the many changes experienced, the projects of the future and, above all, about the new wonderful adventure of his recent paternity.
Here we are, it’s time to let them go, but first I still have a curiosity: “And the double bass?”
He hung on the wall of a farm in Colombia. Maybe one day Christian will go to retrieve him, maybe he will stay there as a sign of where it all began.
Before saying goodbye, Christian tells us that in his future there are still journeys, still places to discover and in which to test oneself. After all, art is a continuous evolution. But in the meantime we can still enjoy his voice in the Lisbon theaters, an experience not to be missed, that of letting ourselves be carried away by the magical atmosphere of the opera and the melodious voice of our Christian.