On June 7, the plaza of the Los Angeles Music Center was filled with the strains of Mariachi music as patrons arrived and sat down at the tables for a bite of supper before entering the theaters that surround the open space. Singers and instrumentalists came from the LA Opera Mariachi Project, Mariachi Voz de America, and the Mariachi Conservatory Ensemble Class. This being the twenty-first century, both men and women were represented in almost all categories. At 7:30 the program began inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with the Opera Orchestra playing the prelude to La Verbena de la Paloma (The Festival of Our Lady of the Dove) by Tomás Bretón. The conductor for this and most of the other selections on the program was Spaniard Jordi Bernacer. Later he brought the authentic sounds of Spain to the Intermezzo from Reveriano Soutullo and Juan Vert’s La Leyenda del beso (The Legend of the Kiss).
The tenor that the audience most wanted to hear, Plácido Domingo, opened the vocal program with “Junto al puente de la peña” (Next to the rock bridge) from La Canción del Olvido (The song of Oblivion) by José Serrano. He sounded rested and his voice soared majestically over the orchestra. He also sang selections from Soutullo and Vert’s La del soto del parral (The vineyard) and Maravilla (Wonder). With Uruguayan soprano Maria Antunez, Domingo sang the Pasodoble from Pablo Sorozábal’s La del manojo de rosas, (The Rose Bouquet) and “ En mi tierra extremeña” (In my land Extremadura) from Federico Morena Torroba’s Luisa Fernanda. A mezzo-soprano with a smooth, dulce de leche sound, Antunez sang the Carceleras from Ruperto Chapí’s Las hijas de Zebedeo (The daughters of Zebedee) as her solo for the evening.
Domingo invited Pepe Aguilar’s Mariachi el Zacatecano to participate in this program and together they sang José Alfredo Jimenez’s Ella, which was the only selection not translated in the surtitles. However, you don’t have to know the language to appreciate great music. It just stands on its own. Joshua Guerrero, a tenor with a substantial voice from the Domingo Thornton Young Artist Program, gave a melodious rendition of “De este apacible rincón de Madrid” (From this peaceful corner of Madrid), another aria from Luisa Fernanda. After the intermission, he sang “La roca fria del Calvario” (The cold rock of Calvary) from José Serrano’s La Dolorosa with a great deal of passion and fire. His is a voice we will want to hear soon again.
Former Domingo Thornton Program member, Met Auditions, and Operalia winner Janai Brugger sang another selection from La del manojo de rosas, “No corte más que una rosa” (Don’t cut more than one rose) with sterling silver tones. Hers is a truly beautiful soprano. She looked vivacious in her bright red silk gown when she rendered another solo, the rousing “De España vengo” (I come from Spain) from Pablo Luna’s El niño judio. (The Jewish boy) An expressive artist from whom we can expect a major career, she sang duets with both Domingo and Guerrero.
Domingo also brought two singers from Spain: coloratura soprano Auxiliadora Toledano and tenor Antonio Vázquez. Toledano sang the aria “Me llaman la primorosa” (They call me the exquisite) from El Barbero de Sevilla, a zarzuela by Gerónimo Giménez and Miguel Nieto. She had an authentic coloratura timbre, but unfortunately, no trill. Vásquez sang one of the best-known Zarzuela arias, “No puede ser” (It cannot be), from Sorozábal’s La Tabernera del Puerto (The port tavern keeper) with wonderfully authentic style but a smaller voice than we would have heard from Maestro Domingo, who conducted that single piece.
The applause at the end of the program rolled across the auditorium like thunder and you knew that this audience would not go home without encores. Brugger sang an aria from Gonzalo Roig’s zarzuela, Cecilia Valdez and Antunez sang the Romanza from Ernesto Lecuona’s Maria la O. The most interesting new singer that evening was Joshua Guerrero who finished his appearance with Mexican composer Maria Grever’s song, Jurame (Promise me). Domingo topped the evening off singing Consuelo Velázquez’s Béssame Mucho (Kiss me a lot) with the audience joining him, and a final song that always fits his voice perfectly, Agustín Lara’s Granada.