Mexican opera singer to perform on Saturday |

Mexican opera singer to perform on Saturday

Autumn Phillips

When Emerald City Opera director Keri Rusthoi called world-renowned baritone Oziel Garza-Ornelas to ask him to sing in Steamboat Springs, he agreed immediately. He understands the struggles of trying to get an opera company off the ground because he is in the process of starting one in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico.

Monterrey is a city of 5 million people. Despite its size, Garza-Ornelas’ Opera de Nuevo Leon has a big task ahead.

Most Mexican singers have been exported. Mexico puts its money into soccer and soccer stadiums, he said, and Mexican opera singers have to leave the country to find work.

Garza-Ornelas’ opera company opened two weeks ago.

“We are a poor country with great opera singers,” he said. “They are in important opera houses all over the world. Now I want to see them singing at home.”

Garza-Ornelas plans to bring young talent from his own state of Nuevo Leon to Colorado and perhaps commission pieces by local artists.

“There isn’t a lot of money in it,” he said. “But maybe composers will write for our voices. Mexicans have such beautiful voices.”

Garza-Ornelas met Rusthoi in Albuquerque during a staging of “La Traviata,” when she was in school. This week’s concert will be the first time the two have sung together in years.

Garza-Ornelas is known as a true Verdian baritone. His voice is dark and rich and fills the room.

“Verdi wrote specifically for the baritone voice,” Garza-Ornelas said. “He elevated the baritone voice to its most challenging. His work requires a voice with a certain color and size that can carry in a certain way. I think that’s what I bring to the plate.”

Garza-Ornelas will be giving an hour-long recital with pianist Debra Ayers and Rusthoi. His selections include several well-known pieces such as “But who may abide” from George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.” But the program also includes several interesting and more obscure pieces. He will be singing four songs written by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.

De Falla was writing at the beginning of the century and was part of the Nationalist School that encouraged the country to go back to its roots, not just in opera, but in all music.

“The songs I have (from de Falla) are folkish poetry full of maxims that could apply anywhere in the world,” Garza-Ornelas said. “And it’s always a pleasure to sing in Spanish.”

— To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail

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