One of the world’s most sought-after tenors will add some serious lung power to this year’s Winter Festival.
American star Daniel Rodriguez – known as “the singing policeman” – will belt out everything from opera to pop at new festival venue the American Express Ice Box on June 30.
The former New York cop shot to fame after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
His stirring rendition of God Bless America, which he sang at memorial events after the tragedy, struck an emotional chord with a nation in mourning.
Since then Rodriguez, 46, has sung at the White House and is a favourite of top US chat show hosts such as Oprah Winfrey, David Letterman and Larry King.
The man with the golden voice took time out from a 107-date tour of the States to tell Mountain Scene his trip to Queenstown will be a real family affair.
His opera-singing wife Marla Kavanaugh hails from Dunedin – and she and her twin sister Marissa will perform alongside Rodriguez at his Winter Festival show Pop to Pagliacci.
“I’ve been in New Zealand a few times before but unfortunately never made it to Queenstown,” he says.
“Marla has always told me she’s dying for me to see the place, so appearing at the festival will be a bit of a working vacation.”
The couple will also have 15-month-old Kiwi-born daughter Alexandra with them.
“My wife was determined our daughter would be born in NZ so I have some pretty strong ties with the country already.”
Rodriguez officially retired from the New York Police Department six years ago to concentrate on his singing career.
After 18 months training under opera giant Placido Domingo, he’s recorded a number of hit albums and has sung for three US presidents, as well as being in demand for concerts all over the globe.
Despite quitting the cops in 2004, he says he’s simply had to live with being constantly tagged “the singing policeman”.
“I joined the police to pay the bills as I have two other children from my first marriage,” he says. “I’m very proud of my time in the job and although I’m retired, I still carry a gun and will still try to stop and help if I see anyone in trouble.
“But because of the cop connection, some people seem to think that I only started singing around the time of the 9/11 disaster – but I’ve actually been performing since I was 11.
“You don’t just wake up one morning, yawn and discover that you sound like Pavarotti – I’ve been working very hard at this for a very long time.
“I’m not some kinda Susan Boyle-type of character, either. I didn’t enter a talent show and become famous.”
Despite worldwide success, Rodriguez says he’s happiest being a family man.
He first met wife Marla while touring NZ together in 2003 and they got together permanently two years after that.
“When I’m away from home and working on my own I often feel like some kind of show pony,” Rodriguez explains. “Everyone wants to speak to you because you are well-known or been on TV or whatever but there is something very false about all of that.
“I now have my eldest daughter Jai-Lisa out on the road with me, helping with my marketing, which helps keep my feet on the ground – and when my wife and kid turn up, that’s when everything becomes real for me.
“Then I’m no show pony or ‘singing policeman’ … I’m just dad. That’s when I can really be myself.”