We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


César Delgado and Amaya Arberas

We spent many years in South Florida so WE KNOW ALL ABOUT CUBA!  Take THAT, Sarah Palin!  In honor of the current highly-hoped-for Cuban glasnost, we celebrated Cuban culture from two angles yesterday--first the classical unamplified voices of two splendid young singers at the upper end of Manhattan, and later at a wild and frenzied concert/dance in the farthest reaches of Brooklyn.

Our first event took us to the grand Hispanic Society of America where the Cuban Cultural Center of New York presented "En un salón de La Habana", a recital of Cuban lyric songs.  The recital took place in the Salón Sorolla, lavishly decorated with colorful paintings by Joaquin Sorolla which formed a perfect backdrop for the artists and would be worth a return trip just to see.

However the music and its performance were so compelling that we scarcely noticed the paintings until intermission.  We have written several times before about the engaging soprano Amaya Arberas who hails from San Sebastián in Spain and represented the Iberian member of the duo.  Her vocal partner was Mexican tenor César Delgado who represented Spain in the Nuevo Mundo.  Ever since our first hearing of Rolando Villazón we have been impressed by the quality of tenors turned out by our neighbor to the south.

Our readers know by now how fond we are of Spanish songs and how much we enjoy duets; so imagine how sobre la luna we were when Ms. Arberas and Mr. Delgado joined their voices in heavenly harmony several times in the course of the recital.  Arguably the best known of the composers represented on the program, Ernesto Lecuona was responsible for "Como arrullo de palmas" and, even better, "¡Ay, quién pudiera morirse!" from his zarzuela Rosa la China.

Two more duets enchanted us: "Duetino de Isabel y Leonardo" from Gonzalo Roigo's Cecilia Valdés and "Te odio/Me odias" by Félix B. Caignet and Ernestina Lecuona (Ernesto's older sister), the latter duet being notable for NOT being loving.

Notably, nearly every other song on the program involved love.  One had no trouble understanding the lyrics with a minimal knowledge of Spanish --los besos, la vida, mi amor, tu boca, mi corazon, l'alma, tus ojos.  Also notable is the alternation between a lyric section and a rhythmic section.

Accompaniment was provided by the Florida Chamber Orchestra Duo.  Musical Director Ana Ruth Bermúdez arranged the songs such that the lyrical sections were played by herself on the cello (and magnificently played!), echoing the vocal line.  The rhythm was mostly provided by the excellent piano of Ileana Cortizo Boza who also had the opportunity to perform several solos.

We have nothing but admiration for the two singers.  Not only did they sing duets with perfect harmony and connection but their solos were marked by expressive phrasing, passionate intensity and just the right amount of vibrato.  The audience particularly loved Ms. Arberas' performance of Lecuona's "Pregón de Flores" and Mr. Delgado's performance of José M. Varona's "Es el amor la mitad de la vida".

All of the music on the program was composed during the late 19th c. and early 20th c.

The latter part of the evening presented us with contemporary and highly amplified Cuban dance rhythms, performed by the famous Cuban vocalist José "Pepito" Gómez who has recently immigrated to the United States.  It was easy to see why he created such a sensation not only in his homeland but on world tours.  His highly energetic rhythms and effective brass section galvanized the crowd and the dance floor was rapidly filled.  You might possibly have glimpsed us trying to dance the timba in our clumsy snow boots!

The concert was part of a series called "World to Brooklyn" presented by the well known World Music Institute.  This series is designed to present music from other countries in a totally immersive fashion including dance lessons, socializing, imbibing and of course listening to music.  Upcoming concerts will feature Colombia and Haiti.

We wish we could have concluded our Cuban "day into night" with a "medianoche" but, sadly, our favorite Cuban restaurant on 8th Avenue was closed, destroyed by Chelsea's gentrification and the concomitant higher rents.  Still, we do think we had sufficient Cuban culture for one day.

© meche kroop

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