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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Compositora: Songs by Latin American Women

We love the sound of Spanish with its pure vowels and were glad to hear that Maestro Steven Blier was programming a New York Festival of Song evening of songs by Latin American women. All the music was fine but we never got to hear a single canción from a zarzuela, the Latin American equivalent of operetta. It suddenly dawned on us that perhaps there are no zarzuelas written by women. Let's put that on our wish list, if we are not a century too late!

We did get to hear some fine artists including two excellent singers recently graduated from the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellowship program, a world class guitarist, a guitarist making his New York recital debut, as well as two excellent percussionists. We even witnessed pianist Michael Barrett playing a gourd shaped Latin American percussion instrument that we cannot name. 

These women composers led interesting lives, overcoming barriers both political and social to achieve fame. They were born all over Central and South America but many of them received their musical education in diverse countries. The program notes were fascinating.  

Some of the music was of a serious nature, utilizing the poetry of Garcia Lorca, for example. But the music we most enjoyed comprised settings of simple romantic poetry that rhymed and scanned. We loved the tuneful "La Casita" by Dolores Castegnaro, who wrote both words and music; soprano Maria Valdés turned the simple ditty into an operatic aria. Ms. Valdés has a fine instrument and a most expressive way of telling a story.

Baritone Efrain Solis used his mellow voice and impassioned delivery in Maria Grever's "Júrame", one of the few songs that we have heard before. Ms. Grever also wrote both lyrics and music.  Similarly, Ernestina Lecuona (sister of the famous Ernesto Lecuona) wrote both lyrics and music to the wonderful "Sólo a ti te quiero"; for this piece, Mr. Solis was accompanied by the renowned Pancho Navarro, whose guitar playing showed evidence of serious study of many genres.

We always enjoy duets and particularly enjoyed the harmonies of "Como la cigarra" in which the composer Maria Elena Walsh, also writing both text and music, describes the life of a survivor. We are noticing a pattern here of favoring composers who wrote their own lyrics. Hmmm.

Percussion for the evening was provided by Leonardo Granados and Jeremy Smith. Guitarist Brendan Cowan made a most auspicious debut on the stage of Merkin Hall, accompanying Mr. Solis'performance of the beautiful song "Enquanto a noite durar"
by Brazilian composer Clarice Assad who was present for the performance.

We were delighted with the encore--Maria Grever's "Tipitipitin".

(c) meche kroop 

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