ASSOCIATED PRESS: Opera Hispanica aims to promote operas in Spanish

By ANA ELENA AZPURUA, The Associated Press: NEW YORK October 13, 2010 (AP)

Two sopranos, dressed in long black gowns, merged their voices with a tenor and a baritone under crystal chandeliers.

“Other opera companies, the traditional ones in New York, introduce everything in Italian, in French and in German, but Opera Hispanica is going to predominantly perform in Spanish,” said Daniel Frost Hernandez, founding executive director of the company.

Hernandez, a native of San Antonio who sang with regional opera companies and currently works at a marketing firm, said he launched Opera Hispanica because he noticed more Hispanic composers and opera singers, as well as productions in Spanish.

“Il Postino,” with Placido Domingo as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, is probably the most talked about opera in Spanish this season. Composed by Mexican Daniel Catan, the LA Opera is presenting it through Saturday.

Likewise, Houston Grand Opera is announcing the “the first mariachi opera,” titled “To Cross the Face of the Moon,” for a single performance on Nov. 13. A few days later, the New York Opera Society will perform “Las horas vacias” (“The Empty Hours”), by Ricardo Llorca, at Lincoln Center.

Operas in Spanish are not only being showcased in cities with established Hispanic populations such as New York, Los Angeles and Houston. In Milwaukee, the Florentine Company chose “Rio de sangre” (“River of Blood”) by Don Davis — who composed the score for “The Matrix” trilogy — for its first world premiere. It’s also the first time the 77-year-old company will present an opera in Spanish.

“We do have a sizable Spanish speaking population in Milwaukee, which a lot of people aren’t aware of,” William Florescu, general director of the Florentine Opera, said. “That was also a demographic within Milwaukee that I wanted to draw to the opera.”

Florescu said they first thought of producing “Florencia en el Amazonas” (“Florencia in the Amazon”), composed by Catan and which premiered in Houston in 1996. It is considered one of the most popular operas in Spanish. However, Florescu said, they wanted to do an opera not seen before and decided to do Davis’ work, a drama about a coup in a Latin American country.

Hernandez began working on Opera Hispanica more than a year ago. He got in touch with Mexican pianist Juan Pablo Horcasitas, who recently debuted at Carnegie Hall, and hired him as musical director. Later, he had coffee with Puerto Rican soprano Camille Ortiz and persuaded her to serve as Opera Hispanica’s artistic director. Ortiz and Horcasitas both graduated from the Manhattan School of Music.

“It was the answer to my prayers,” Ortiz said. She explained she had been trying for years to promote works in Spanish, adding that the repertoire is not often taught at American music schools.

Singers from Brazil and Cyprus as well as the U.S. will take part in the company’s first shows.

Still, said former opera star Martina Arroyo, the company needs “financial support plus the people coming and, when I say people, I don’t mean only Hispanic people coming.” Arroyo is a member of the organization’s Artistic Advisory Board.

“It’s beautiful music that is absolutely a part of our musical worldwide library and it should be heard,” she said.



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