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Lady Zen Sings Nina Simone in Benefit Concert at Bellas Artes


By Fredric Dannen

Had the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia not denied admission to an eminently qualified 17-year-old girl in 1950 because she happened to be black, the world might have had a great classical pianist named Eunice Kathleen Waymon.

Instead, Waymon, needing to earn a living, found herself playing cocktail piano in a nightclub in Atlantic City. Told by the nightclub management that she had to sing as well as play, Waymon began vocalizing in her naturally expressive contralto register. Fearful that her devout Methodist parents would learn she was performing “the Devil’s music,” Waymon adopted the stage name we know her by today—Nina Simone.

Simone went from obscurity to fame almost overnight in 1958 when her cover of George Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy,” became a hit single. The album featuring that single, Little Girl Blue, also featured the Rodgers and Hart standard of the same name. It also featured “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” a hit single when re-released in 1987, and a version of “Love Me or Leave Me” with an extended keyboard solo in the manner of a Bach invention, a nod to Simone’s classical training.

Selections from that historic album and other songs recorded or written by Nina Simone will be presented in a concert entitled “Lady Zen Sings Nina Simone” at the Bellas Artes cultural center. She will give two performances only, on Wednesday, April 3, and Thursday, April 4, both at 7pm.

Lady Zen, whose real name is Alzenira Quezada, is San Miguel de Allende’s top-ranked vocalist, an opera-trained mezzo-soprano who early on turned her talents to jazz and blues, combining soulful singing with raw power and an irresistible stage presence. Her recent Bessie Smith, K.D. Lang, and Sade tribute concerts all sold out rapidly.

She will be accompanied on the theater’s nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano by Mark Hartman, a star in his own right. Hartman is a New York-based pianist, conductor, arranger, and composer with numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway credits and awards.

This concert is the latest installment of the acclaimed Steinway Series, a quasi-monthly piano-based concert series at Bellas Artes to benefit Libros para Todos, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing books to needy Mexican children and young adults, particularly those residing in rural communities, in an attempt to encourage them to read more. For more information, visit

Tickets for “Lady Zen Sings Nina Simone” are 400 pesos for rows A through F, 300 pesos for rows G through L, and 200 pesos for rows M through R. Reserved seats are on sale at Boleto City on the second floor of the Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123. Boleto City is open Monday–Saturday, 11am–5pm. Call (415) 152 6432 for more information. Purchase online e-tickets via



“Lady Zen Sings Nina Simone”

With Mark Hartman, piano

Wed–Thu, Apr 3–4, 7pm

Miguel Malo Auditorium

Bellas Artes

Hernández Macías 75

Reserved-seat tickets: 400, 300, and 200 pesos

Boleto City in the Mercado Sano



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