Tag Archives: Americas Society

Doña Rosita la soltera, a work for mezzo and wind quintet by composer Roberto Sierra



Federico García Lorca, actress Margarita Xirgu and theater director Cipriano Rivas at the premiere of “Doña Rosita the Spinster or the Language of Flowers”, at the premiere in 1935 in Teatro Principal in Barcelona.  Composer Roberto Sierra excerpted texts from this play for his chamber music piece “Doña Rosita” for mezzo and wind quintet (1985).

I first programmed the chamber music piece for mezzo and wind quintet Doña Rosita (1985)  with Sylvan Winds for a concert at the Hispanic Society of America in New York City in 2012.  The piece was commissioned and dedicated to the late Puerto Rican mezzo Puli Toro.  A recording has been left to us featuring the Bronx Arts Ensemble and Puli in a disc edited by New World Records.  Its on Spotify for anyone to hear.

I never met Puli Toro.  I was in New York City as a student in the 90’s at the Mannes College of Music, and during my early forays into the music of Spain and Latin America we coincided at a Nico Castel master class at Weil Recital Hall in Manhattan. She made questions to Castel in a booming authoritative voice. I was too shy to present myself, but knew she was a voice teacher with a long trajectory that included New York City Opera as well as numerous  other companies and festivals.  Little did I know that many years later I would be singing much of the Puerto Rican art song repertoire that she so lovingly championed, mostly mid XX century composers, most of them professors at the music conservatory in Puerto Rico such as Héctor Campos Parsi, and Luis Antonio Ramirez as well as Ernesto Cordero.  Not many records by Puli are now available digitally; I have two, one of them of is of songs for voice and guitar by Ernesto Cordero with guitarist Lawrence DeCasales (which is how I first discovered her), and the other of the Doña Rosita by Sierra. I liked her soulful singing, her crystal clear diction and her delivery, forthright, sincere, but never maudlin. Like many lyric mezzos, including myself, her curiosity and intellectual bent took her down the path of chamber music and contemporary composers.  The flexibility of a lyric mezzo, who has to show a strong middle register as well as a top lends it itself strongly to doing a variety of styles, as we can easily mimic a second soprano and sing in that range…and because the lyric mezzo must sing music from all the music periods: classical, virtuoso Rossini coloratura as well as the heavier longer lines of a Carmen, this voice type is pretty much ready to handle whatever comes along.


Doña Rosita is a fun piece.  Somewhat daunting and difficult, the solo line is treated as another instrument in the ensemble.  While the quintet paints a surrealist landscape in which the voice, set up very much like a star actress that interprets the marvelous Lorca text of the piece, the vocal line interacts in a dynamic way with the melodic lines of the instruments in the score (flute, oboe, clarinet, french horn, bassoon); the instrumental gestures are filled with witty quips that come out to announce a quick pick up or a new melody.  The piece alternates between two modes, a slow motion tempo that gives the opportunity for drama, and stretches of dance- like quick tempo sections. The text describes an odd and unlikely Lorcian parade in the middle of the night in Granada (Spain): three Spanish girls in full Spanish costume walking in a single file, with geese and doves trailing behind.  The poet speaks of possible lover trysts, sobbing fountains, bronze church bells that rustle softly in the wind. Humor mixed with wit, sarcasm and fantasy. Kind of like an Almodovar movie, packed in six minutes!  The only way I have felt comfortable with this difficult piece is to memorize large sections, especially the playful and unexpected rhythms.  With nothing in the ensemble to rely on, listening and learning cues from the instruments has been the only way to navigate the piece for me as a singer.  The tessitura is perfect for the lyric mezzo, it exploits and shows off everything that is good for my voice! Entertaining and theatrical, the piece calls for a lot of personality and imagination.


Poster for the Lorca play Doña Rosita La Soltera

The Quintet of the Americas premiered this piece with Puli in the 80’s, and have played it numerous times. I’m privy to the notes from years ago when they worked on this piece with her, tempos discussed at the time and ideas.

In the internet there are not many signs of Puli Toro. Some reviews and a very short obituary. No biography to speak of and only a scant discography is available.  For someone who gave so much to music, arts organizations, opera companies, festivals and music students (she was a professor at Montclair State University in NJ), its hard to believe that there is not more evidence of all her wonderful accomplishments and music premieres she was part of.  I for one will be thinking about her when I do this piece this coming week.


Composer Roberto Sierra

The concert is dedicated to the music of Roberto Sierra, with which the Quintet of the Americas has had a long association with, and will feature other pieces, some of which have been written for the Quintet throughout the years, such as Salsa para vientos, Soledad for solo horn as well as two world premieres.  There will be an opportunity to meet Mstro. Sierra, who will be in attendance at the event. The concert takes place on May 7 at 7 PM at the Americas Society, located at 680 Park Avenue in Manhattan. Tickets at $20.

For more information about the performance:



Quintet of the Americas celebrates the music of Roberto Sierra on May 7 at the Americas Society, NY

Link with information of the concert dedicated to the music of composer Roberto Sierra with Quintet of the Americas.  I get to sing the rarely performed work for mezzo soprano and wind quintet entitled “Doña Rosita la soltera”, with text by Spanish poet  Federico García Lorca.

The concert is May 7 at 7 PM at the Americas Society in Manhattan, located at 680 Park Avenue. Tickets at $20. The composer Roberto Sierra will be in attendance.


New York Debut of Musica Ficta – Columbus: Gateway to the New World at the Hispanic Society of America on Feb. 26, 2014

Musica Ficta_Panorama

Spanish early music group “Musica Ficta” in the Sorolla Room at the Hispanic Society fo America, NYC

The auspicious New York debut of the Spanish early music group Musica Ficta took place earlier this week in the Sorolla Room of the Hispanic Society of America in New York City.  The vocal ensemble, led by conductor and founder Raúl Mallavibarrena  is on a tour on this side in the Atlantic, and essayed a concert that centered in both sacred and profane vocal works entitled Columbus:  Gateway to the New World, essaying composers such as Juan de Araujo (b. Spain 1646. d. Bolivia, 1712), Francisco Guerrero (Spain, 1528-1599) and Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco (b. Spain 1644, d. Peru 1728).  When not singing A cappella, the group was accompanied by the Spanish baroque harpist, Manuel Vilas.  The concert was presented by GEMAS:  Early Music of the Americas, this particular concert was a collaboration with the Hispanic Society of America GEMAS  is a project of Americas Society and Gotham Early Music Scene devoted to early music of the Americas with Nell Snaidas and Sebastián Zubieta as co-artistic directors. Performing in what is certainly one of New York City’s most unique rooms,  within the incomparable frame of Sorolla’s “A Vision of Spain”, the evening was a multi sensory experience.

After a brief introduction by the co curator of the Hispanic Society Margaret McQuade and music director of the Americas Society Sebastian Zubieta, Maestro Raúl Mallavibarrena took the audience on a journey of Spanish baroque repertoire that was performed in the New World, both by composers of Spanish birth and of origins in Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

The program notes that “the concert features works from American archives and codices, from Puebla, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Sucre Bolivia and Bogota  Some are written in native languages, such as Nahuatl and Quecha”.

One of the highlights of the evening was precisely the sacred settings, several anonymous and one piece by  Gaspar Fernández (b. Portugal 1570, d. Mexico 1629) in the language of Nahautl, that both intrigued and charmed the audience at Hispanic Society.  The intricate polyphonic music, which is at the heart Spanish golden age musical culture shined brightly in the nuanced and expressive singing of the vocal ensemble, which at times was lead by the well modulated soprano of Rocío de Frutos.  The call and response sequences and interplay of polyphonic vocal  music, all of the highest order, can only lead one to guess all the treasures still to be discovered and savored…the evening was filled with “Spanish gold”, indeed.

Harpist Manuel Villas sensitive accompaniment as well as his interpretation of a piece for solo baroque harp by Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz (b. Spain 1626, d. Peru?) was a wonderful vehicle to display many moments of virtuosity.

Manuel Vilas

Spanish baroque harpist Manuel Vilas in the Sorolla Room at the Hispanic Society of America, NYC

Founded in 1992, Musica Ficta has presented in Spain’s most important festivals.  No strangers to the recording studio, the group currently records with disc label Enchiriadis, and have produced intriguing projects such as Músicas Viajeras, which explores the Christian, Sephardic and Muslim musical culture of the Iberian Peninsula, El Cancionero de Turin which explores music in the times of Miguel de Cervantes of Don Quijote fame. and a disc dedicated to that master of vocal polyphonic music, Tomás Luis de Victoria entitled Tenebrae Responsories.  The capable direction of Maestro Mallavibarrena was in evidence the entire evening.  I very much appreciated how the ensemble although tight knit, gave play to hear the individual voices and personal interpretations of the artists.  In the course of the evening each one had a small shinning moment.  Mstro. Mallavibarrena is to be congratulated on his vision, scholarship and artistry, as well as his efforts to bring his Musica Ficta to New York City.   The audience at the Hispanic Society of America and myself included sincerely hope they will return soon to our shores.

Ladies of Musica Ficta

The ladies of “Musica Ficta”: AnaCris Marco, Lore Agustí, Elena Sánchez Elordí and Rocío de Frutos, in the Sorolla Room, Hispanic Society of America, NYC