It was totally unnecessary to worry about about returning to el Teatro del Estado to hear La Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa after my inglorious exit last year, but I did. It was definitely inglorious. I had imagined all the people who customarily sat on the same side would still remember. We did have other excuses. There's been continuing gossip about hostility to the new conductor, Fernando Lozano, who supposedly gained his position because of his friendship with the wife of Mexico's president so that the musicians weren't playing all that well for him. And Jim and I are a bit pokey at night, slow to want to go out, slow to want to trek to Xalapa, all of eleven miles from our house, mainly because it's hard to see to drive the last bit in the dark.
But last night, gracias a Dios as they say here, in a spur of the moment kind of way, we did go. What a joyful and exuberant concert, a muy mexicana kind of evening, and even more, a very local kind of evening. The soloist Claraliz Mora, a lyric soprano with a coloratura's range, is from Xalapa. As you can see, she is gorgeous. And she sings beautifully, too. Absolutely no resemblance to the lard-padded sopranos I remember from my childhood.
The baritone-tenor, Armando Mora, who our friend Britta said was her father, is also from Xalapa.
Corny shot, I agree. But he is handsome and courtly. Courtly sounds like an old-fashioned world to USAers, but it is still very appropriate here. Many men have gestures that are elegant and gracious that they use without thinking. Mora has the greater range of a baritone tenor and hardly sang like a tenor at all.
The guest conductor,Alfredo Hernández Reyes is from even closer to home, hailing as he does from Coatepec.
The home crowd loved them. They all have impressive international resumes, including the two Mexican composers whose works were for me the best parts of the concert, the most impressive, the most filled with life.
The first composition was Huapangos by Sergio Cardenas who was born in Tamaulipas. He didn't compose it in Mexico, but in Germany. There is a smaller version for cellos. This grand version for full orchestra he dedicated to Tamaulipas and to its governor in 2007. It is, as he says, an homage to the music of huapangos, popular Mexican folk dances, and threads of familiar themes run through it. I wish I could make music like this.
The second piece, Danzón Numero 2 by Arturo Márquez. Although he is from Sonora, he has been especially taken with the music of Veracruz, the popular music. Danzón is performed in the Port of Veracruz weekly in the main public square, as well, I'm sure as elsewhere. It is a formal sort of dance, elegant and intricate and popular. We have seen it here in Xalapa.
Some stretches of Márquez's piece were a bit more, what shall I say, urban, jangly than those of Cardenas's piece, and then suddenly, one of these jangly pieces stopped and immediately the most beautiful, lush, sensuous passage began and it was as if all of us -- orchestra and audience -- had become an ocean, just for a minute, an ecstatic, floating whole.
When we went to the symphony in San Antonio, the tickets were expensive and the audience tended towards well-heeled and older. Sometimes people -- lots of them -- fell asleep during the concert. I sometimes imagined some of the patrons were surrounded by light clouds of delicate dust. In Xalapa, many members of the symphony are young, and many members of the audience are, too. Certainlly not all. But also there are all kinds of people from all walks of life. Students and old folks pay a grand total of 50 pesos a seat, maybe $4.85 in dollars so lots of people can afford it. You can get a non-discounted seat for 100 pesos. Every time I go to the symphony here, I think of the days in San Antonio when I interviewed old folks (people in the third age, like me) from Mexico who lived in San Antonio. They were not by any stretch rich, but many loved good music and popular music and folk music and it poured forth from their apartments. But they simply couldn't afford to go to the symphony.
Below, some pictures taken en aire libre of some women in the orchestra: