Music

The Opera Atelier’s ‘Spain, My Love ~ Cuba, My Love’ Evokes a Sense of the Past

Written By Jonel Juste
September 25, 2023 at 7:07 PM

Singers Silvia Ludueña and Carlos Silva perform the duet “Torero quiero ser” from “El Gato Montés” during Spain, My Love in 2021, a production by The Opera Atelier production.  On Saturday, Sept. 30, the opera group performs “Spain, My Love ~ Cuba, My Love” at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. (Photo courtesy of Javier Fontanella)

The Opera Atelier, in honor of National Hispanic American Heritage Month, which runs through Oct. 15,  is adding its voice to the local and nationwide celebration. They’ve teamed up with Voices of Miami for “Spain, My Love ~ Cuba, My Love” at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The program will showcase Spanish-themed operas, highlighting the cultural heritage of Spain in addition to Cuban music.

Daniel Daroca, the music director of The Opera Atelier, says that the title of the evening evokes a sense of the past.

“It immediately transports us to the realm of nostalgia, as it poetically evokes our exile from Spain, followed by our departure from Cuba (here, Cuba symbolizes any of the sister republics of Latin America). For Latin Americans, Spain serves as an anchor, tethering us to the roots of the Arcadia from which we sprang,” says Daroca.

Opera singer Greisel Domínguez of Voices of Miami performing “O mio Fernando” from La Favorita (Donizetti) during “Spain, My Love,” in 2021, a production by The Opera Atelier. (Photo courtesy of Javier Fontanella)

The program includes selections from operas such as “Il Trovatore,” “Don Carlo,” “Ernani,” and “Carmen,” as well as selections from zarzuela, often referred to as the Spanish equivalent of operetta.

“. . . . Selections that are representative of specific themes.” says Daroca. “In ‘Tu che le vanitá’ from Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo,’ Elisabetta decries the futility of life, a central theme in Spanish literature, and comments on her involuntary exile. The aria also indirectly reveals the exploitation of women, traded as pawns in political marriages. There is much richness in the text, translated later by the composer into exalted music,” he explains.

Soloists include Jorge Arcila, Yetzabel Arias, Marinel Cruz, Greisel Domínguez, Eglise Gutiérrez, Carlos Jimeno, Erzhan Kulibaev, Silvia Ludueña, and Carlos Silva, accompanied by pianists Eva Garrucho and Daroca.

Daniel Daroca, the music director of The Opera Atelier. (Photo courtesy of Xiomara Ponce)

The evening will also pay homage to Cuban musicians who have left their mark on the world stage, introducing rhythms like rumba, bolero, guaracha, mambo, son cubano, and salsa. Throughout the program, classical melodies by composers such as Ernest Lecuona, who composed over 600 works, and the also-prolific Jorge Anckermann, will be featured.

Greisel Dominguez, opera singer and choir director of Voices of Miami, says that the Miami chorus, which has been part of the community since 2014, has frequently collaborated with The Opera Atelier.

“Mostly all opera and zarzuela presentations require a choral ensemble to bring out the true flavor and grandeur of the program,” she says. Currently, Voices of Miami is working on a world premiere of the zarzuela “La ruta de Don Quijote” with the Florida International University Music Department and Maestro Gustavo Sanchez from Spain.

According to Dominguez, the group is “spreading its wings” with more collaborations such as the one with FIU and performances with groups like The Opera Atelier. “Sometimes this type of music can be thought of as old fashioned, but we work to erase this frame of mind. We  . . . do this by increasing people’s knowledge and desire of opera, zarzuela and classical music in all its forms.”

Giselle Elgarresta singing the third act from Verdi’s La Traviata from Great Opera Moments in 2014, a production by The Opera Atelier. (Photo courtesy of Javier Fontanella)

The Opera Atelier, founded in 2011 and incorporated in Florida in 2012, is dedicated to revitalizing opera and promoting aesthetic education, says Daroca. “(We) strive to go beyond the trappings, the empty gestures, and the common places that sometimes mire the art form. Instead, TOA seeks to engage the audience in universal and contemporary themes.”

Its “Culture for the Mind and the Heart,” underscores the group’s commitment to education by staging diverse works, including classics and experimental pieces like “Miami Transfer or “La Voix humaine” by Poulenc.” They also create original operas for children and performed by children, such as “The Not So Little Prince” and “Frau Haydn in Trouble.”

A series presented in collaboration with the Miami-Dade Public Library, according to Daroca, was dedicated to creative women. Entitled “No Room of Her Own,” after Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” Daroca says that “the activities brought to the fore the prejudices and difficulties women encountered solely because of their gender.”

Daroca invites audiences not familiar with opera to get an introduction with “Spain, My Love ~ Cuba, My Love,” saying that the program will be an enticing entry point into the art form.

“Opera, at its core, is sung drama, and this production combines rich variety and theatrical elements. Brilliant zarzuela selections provide a fiery contrast while the music of Cuba will submerge the audience in moments of nostalgia.”

WHAT: “Spain, My Love ~ Cuba, My Love”

WHERE: Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30

COST:  $20-$45

INFORMATION: 786-560-6845 or The Opera Atelier

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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