BTAR Zuly Inirio Talks About Three Latinx Composers You Probably Didn’t Know
Latinx people make up 18.5% of the overall population of in the United States and there are many Latinx classical musicians on the stage and in the pit. Today, I am highlighting three Latinx composers who are contributing to new American operas that tell the stories of Latinx people and their diverse cultures.
Tania León, born in Havana, Cuba, is highly regarded as a composer, conductor, educator, and advisor to arts organizations. In 2021, her orchestral work Stride (2020), commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Recent commissions include works for New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Symphony Orchestra, Grossman Ensemble, and International Contemporary Ensemble. Appearances as guest conductor include Philharmonic Orchestra of Marseille, Gewandhausorchester, Orquesta Sinfonica de Guanajuato, and Orquesta Sinfónica de Cuba. Her works include the opera Scourge of Hyacinths (1999) and vocal works Pueblo Mulato (1987), Ivo Ivo (2000), and Atwood Songs (2007).
Daniel Catán was a Mexican composer known particularly for his operas and his contribution of the Spanish language to the international repertory.
With a compositional style described as lush, romantic, and lyrical, Catán’s second opera, Rappaccini’s Daughter, became the first Mexican opera in the United States to be produced by a professional opera company. Upon receiving international recognition, Catán’s next opera, Florencia en el Amazonas (Florencia in the Amazon), became the first opera in Spanish to be commissioned by an opera company in the United States.
The characters in Florencia are inspired by the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, but the story is not drawn directly from any of his works. Florencia was co-commissioned by Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and Seattle Opera and premiered in Houston on October 25, 1996.
José “Pepe” Martínez was a Mexican composer, arranger, and violinist. Remembered as one of the greats of the contemporary mariachi music scene, he served as long-term Music Director of the Mexican folk ensemble, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.
One of his last compositions, Cruzar la cara de la luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon), was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera in 2010 to commemorate the Mexican War of Independence in 1810 and the Mexican Revolution in 1910. This commission was also part of an initiative to break down barriers in the arts. Martínez worked with Leonard Foglia, an American director, librettist, and novelist, to complete the project. This opera is the first piece of its kind as it combines authentic mariachi, opera, and theater. Unlike most operas, the orchestra is on the stage with the performers and is performed in both Spanish and English.
Tania León: https://youtu.be/Eee05KscL_M
Daniel Catán: https://youtu.be/kf1wYxyiEfI
José “Pepe” Martínez: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FU5pfTZ2srg