''I really enjoy this and it would have never happened if Placido had not invited me to his program.''
Of course, Placido Domingo would have never known of Jesús Hernández's singing talent if the Mexican-American had only asked the opera giant for an autograph as he originally intended.
'''I wanted to ask you if you'd be willing to listen to me,''' Hernandez recalls spontaneously querying Domingo after a concert in San Antonio in 2007. '''I'm planning to study voice seriously, but I don't want to [waste] my time…if I suck.'''
Anyone who's heard the great tenor Hernández sing can attest that Domingo made the right call after hearing him perform a couple arias backstage, encouraging Hernández to join the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington National Opera. ''He told me that I should be singing opera,'' says Hernández, who up until then had made his focus the military. He served six years as a U.S. Army soldier, including a tour in Iraq in 2003.
Since graduating from Domingo's program in 2010, the 31-year-old has become a rising star in the opera world. He's performed as a soloist with opera companies in as far-flung of places as Baltimore, Toronto, New Zealand and Texas, essentially the Mexico native's home base; it's where his parents, ex-wife and his two young children live. Later this month, he'll perform with the Opera Camerata of Washington.
Presently he's performing a show of popular Latin love songs for Washington's InSeries. Hernández is accompanied by musician and actor Monalisa Arias and pianist Mari Paz for this program of boleros from Cuba, Mexico and other Latin American countries. Hernández isn't displaying his full operatic voice at the show. ''Of course there will be a few times where I'll up the voice, but it's more of a romantic, intimate concert.'' In fact, …de mi corazon latino, or ''From My Latin Heart,'' is a great date for those who might have grown up or fallen in love with Latin standards such as ''Cucurrucucu,'' ''Dos Gardenias,'' ''Preciosa'' or ''Granada.'' English translations of the songs are offered in super-titles above the warmly decorated stage, while Arias reads romantic poems written by Latin women and translated into English.
In his wildest dreams as a kid, Hernández says, ''I thought I'd be just a regular soloist who sings rancheras with a mariachi as a hobby, never as a professional, singing classical.''
But the boleros style is ''actually the reason why I started singing,'' adds Hernández, who would emulate the ''Mexican Frank Sinatra,'' Pedro Infante.
''Now going back and singing the bolero -- it's very exciting for me to do this.''
From My Latin Heart runs to April 21. An LGBT-geared OUT at InSeries performance, including post-show discussion, is Sunday, April 15, at 3 p.m. 'Source, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets are $30.' Call 202-204-7760 or visit inseries.org.