México‒Canada Exchange Concert Wows San Miguel Audience

MEXICO CANADA

By Shari Alexander

Dignitaries, ex-pats, and sanmiguelenses crowded the Miguel Malo Auditorium at the Bellas Artes on January 13 for perhaps the most exciting concert ever presented by Opera San Miguel. The Fourth Annual México‒Canada Co-OPERA-tive Concert was thrilling and emotional, an afternoon of superb music-making. The result of a cultural exchange partnership with Les Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques in Montreal, the concert brought together singers from Canada and México to perform together in San Miguel de Allende.

“At Opera San Miguel, we believe in building bridges, not walls,” OSM’s artistic director John Bills told the sold-out audience. “To paraphrase Mark Twain, interacting with people from other countries ‘is fatal…to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.’”

Opera San Miguel is the only opera organization in México that has ever been invited to participate in the Montreal program. Each year Maestro Bills travels to Montreal for the JAL convocation, part audition-part contest, where he sits on a panel of opera directors from around the world and chooses one or more Canadian singers to come to San Miguel to sing alongside recent winners of Concurso San Miguel. In turn, JAL director Alain Nonat joins the Concurso jury and each year awards an opportunity for a Mexican finalist to join the auditions in Montreal to compete for professional engagements and the annual prize given to the best non-Canadian singer. Entrants from Opera San Miguel have twice won this top prize, and been engaged for opera performances and concerts in the Netherlands, Canada, France, Slovenia, and China.

Remarkably, the four singers for this year’s concert in San Miguel had only 48 hours to rehearse and present this demanding concert, which featured arias, duets, a trio, and a quartet by composers as disparate as Handel, Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti, Bizet, Offenbach, Richard Strauss, and Verdi. “It is a testament to the training, discipline, and sheer talent of these young artists that they were able to present such a brilliant performance,” Bills said. “Four singers, separated by thousands of miles of geography, all speaking the same language … music … joining their voices and musical instincts into one cohesive whole. This is the power of music to bring cultures together.”

As an honored guest, in the audience was San Miguel resident and former Canadian Ambassador to México David Winfield. Welcome remarks were delivered by the Canadian Consul in Guadalajara, Stephâne Charbonneau.

This year’s singers were Canadian soprano Andrea Núñez and mezzo-soprano Emma Char, sharing the stage with Concurso San Miguel winners César Delgado, tenor, and Carlos López, baritone. OSM resident pianist, Mario Alberto Hernández, was featured in two virtuoso opera paraphrases for piano. The ecstatic audience was thrilled with the performances, often brought to tears by the emotion of the music, particularly the men’s duet from The Pearl Fishers, the radiant “Presentation of the Rose” from Der Rosenkavalier, and the ultimate opera quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto. “My challenge for next year?” asks Bills. “How do I top this!”

 

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