Tag Archives: Anna Tonna

“Belleza de las Américas” for NYC: a concert for voice and guitar on Friday, February 20 at El Taller Latino in Manhattan


I’ve been working on a guitar and voice concert by composers from the Americas for the past several years.  The project began when I was approached by an American guitarist living in Madrid — Keith Rodriguez.  We put together a presentation for a benefit concert for a non-profit group  (CESAL) that raised funds for Haiti.  I found songs by the Haitian composer Frantz Casseus which became part of the program.  The program also included negro spirituals arranged by Rodney Stucky, American colonial-era songs arranged by Carlos Barbosa-Lima, as well as songs that I had developed many years before by Puerto Rican composer Ernesto Cordero, Brazilian composer Heitor Villa Lobos and others.  This concert eventually became known as “Belleza de las Américas”, a Pan-American program of composers from both the North and Latin Americas.


Francisco and I at Centro Cultural Civico Dominicano in Manhattan a couple of years ago, doing Dominican songs.

Yet this project really had its origin in the early 2000s, when I began to present concerts with Colombian guitarist Francisco Roldán here in NYC.  Our first venture together was a concert in the former CAMI Hall, in which we mixed European and Latin American songs for voice and guitar.  We continued to concertize together for more than five years doing projects, including a concert dedicated to Isaac Albéniz for the Puffin Foundation in NJ, as well as a wonderful project that highlighted the compositions of Dominican composer Rafael “Bullumba” Landestoy with our pianist friend Alexander Wu.

After several years, we are reuniting to do a concert at NYC’s El Taller Latino Americano on February 20th, 2015 and our reunion comes about in a curious way:  this past year I have been devoted to a recording project that friends and family know about, “España alla Rossini”.  The disc relates the dance and musical culture of mid 19th century Spain with the chamber music of songs of Gioacchino Rossini. I recorded the disc in Segovia (Spain) this past year, and it’s set to come out in April of 2015.  I ran a crowd funding campaign on Hatchfund to help pay for the expenses.  One of my benefactors is John Kordel Juliano, a lover of Spanish culture; his generous contribution came with a gift of thanks from me:  a live concert for voice and guitar on the date and place of his choice.


Me singing España alla Rossini at the Museo del Romanticismo in Madrid (Spain) last summer.

The prize/concert is a NYC version of Belleza de las Américas.  Calling upon my old friendship with Francisco, we have devised a repertoire that includes most things in the version of this concert that I do in Spain with my friend Keith Rodriguez:


Anna Tonna, mezzo soprano and Francisco Roldán, guitar

Friday February 20, 2015 at 7 PM at

El Taller Latino Americano

The first four songs of Seis poemas arcaicos by Manuel Ponce, arranged for voice and guitar by Gregg Nestor that uses the Cancionero de Palacio:  Mas quiero morir; Zagaleja del Casar; De las sierra; Sol, sol, gi, gi.

Four songs by Ernesto Cordero: Madrugada, Hija del viejo Pancho, Zenobia and Viaje Definivo

Dos canciones by Cuban composer  Leo Brouwer on Lorca texts

Where is fancy bred by Elliot Carter

Modinha by Heitor Villa Lobos

Excerpts from Five Negro Spirituals, arranged for voice and guitar by Rodney Stucky: Little David Play On Your Harp; Give me Jesus; Deep River

A ti… , song by Colombia’s Jaime León, arranged for voice and guitar by Francisco Roldán

Verano porteño as a guitar solo, by Astor Piazzolla

Come join us for “Belleza de las Américas”

at El Taller Latino Americano, located at 225 W. 99th Street Manhattan

Friday, February 20, 7 PM

Free admission


“La viuda náufrago” one of Rossini’s “Spanish” songs, with text by Ventura de la Vega


When I first started my search of songs by G. Rossini that where themed either by text, rhythms or dedications to Spain, I found in my Belwin Mills Edition a song called “La veuve andalouse, chanson espagnole”.  Although recorded recently by the Italian mezzo and Rossini virtuoso Ana Bonitanibus in the French, my friend the Mexican mezzo Carla López Speziale had recorded the version in Castilian of this piece back in 2004 in her album Soirée Musicale:  Canciones de Rossini with pianist Sergio Vázquez (JBCC 098).  In 2012, this song was firmly in my program Rossini and Spain, which I did in Malta in 2012.


Emilio and I at the Museo del Romanticismo of Madrid, where we first performed the recital and project “Rossini and Spain”.

Lacking the edition with the Spanish text, at first I took the words directly from the libretto of Carla’s album Soirée Musicale and superimposed it on my French edition.  While I was in Madrid in June of 2012 and before going to Malta for the concert, I went to the Royal Conservatory of Madrid were my colleague and pianist Emilio González Sanz teaches.  In the conservatory they had an antique edition of La veuve andalouse, which I was unable to photocopy because of its fragile condition.  This antique edition had this songs as No. 2 of a set of two, entitled  Deux Nouvelles compositions.  Although the French version, with text by Emilien Paccini, has the title as La veuve andalouse, the Spanish title is slightly different, La viuda de náufrago or “Widow of the drowned man”.


This edition is among the many things the library at the Royal Conservatory in Madrid  has pertaining to Rossini, including original letters in his own hand writing and two small original compositions. One of the hidden anecdotes of history is that Rossini was asked by Mstro. Piermarini, one of many Italian musical personalities in Spain that worked for various noble families as well as in the Royal Palace (he was one of the voice teachers to the royal house in Spain), via the Spanish Queen Maria Cristina, to inaugurate the newly formed Royal Conservatory of Madrid.


Edition of “La veuve andalouse” and various letters written by Rossini from the library archive at the Royal Conservatory in Madrid.

I was advised by Carla to obtain a copy of an antique edition from Glendower Jones at Classical Vocal Reprints, but it was not until I got in touch with Mr. Reto Müller, the director of the Rossini Gessellschaft in Switzerland that I obtained a modern performing edition of the song with the text in Castilian.  The texts in Spanish of both songs of Deux Nouvelles Compositions are by the romantic era Spanish playwright  Ventura de la Vega, one of the tutors to the Queen as well as one of the directors of the Spanish national theater of the time, “El Teatro Español”


Ventura de la Vega (1807-1865))

Here is the text both in Spanish and in my own English translation:

¿Qué has hecho, dime, horrible mar,

de aquella prenda de mi amor?

¿Cómo pudiste arrebatar

mi bien amado en tu furor?

Su frágil barquilla

partió de esta orilla…

¡Ah! Dónde va su quilla?

¡Nunca ya volverá!

Gran Dios, de mi amargura

calma el cruel rigor;

de tanta desventura

cesa el fatal rigor;

Mas! O Dios. Tú que sabes,

¿pero no me engañé?

!Ah! tu, mar funesta,

¿será locura dudar?

Esta desesperación

me ha de matar.

La feliz barquilla,

nunca más tu quilla

¡ah, del amada orilla

la arena hallará!

¡Ah! niño desdichado!

Ah, huérfano has quedado,

fruto del amor y el dolor.

Ah, del paterno beso,

ah, dulce embeleso,

tu infantil mejilla ya no gozará.

¡Ah, todo acabó, todo murió!

Infeliz barquilla…

¿Qué has hecho…

The Andalusian Widow (Spanish Song) English Translation

What have you done, tell me, horrible sea,

with that sweet love of mine?

How could you have snatched away

my beloved with all your furor?

His fragile little boat

set sail from this shore;

where now goes its keel?

Never more will it return!

Great God, relieve the harshness

of this cruel bitterness of mine;

cease the fatal severity

of so much misfortune.

But, O God, you that know,

am I wrong in what I think?

Ah, fatal sea that you are.

Is it madness to doubt

this feeling of despair

that will be the end of me?

That happy little boat,

ah, never more will your keel

touch upon the sand

of this beloved shore!

Ah, my unfortunate child,

fruit of love and pain,

an orphan you have become.

Ah, never more, my little delight,

will your baby cheek enjoy

that sweet paternal kiss,

Ah, all is done…all is dead!

Unhappy little boat…

What have you done, tell me, horrible sea…

Apparently the Italian diva (but born in Madrid!) Adelina Patti must of sang this as a “party piece”, as a third edition I acquired by Oliver Ditson has printed on the fronstpiece  “as sung by Adelina Patti”.  The song dedication reads as follows:  “A mi amigo y colega F. F. de Valldemosa, distinguido compositor, profesor del Real Conservatorio de Madrid y colega de la Academia Francesa”.  An engraving and brief description of this figure is in the internet; he was a composer and voice teacher from the island of Mallorca; in the Petrucci Library there is a bolero for two tenors and piano of his that can be downloaded.  La viuda del náufrago is filled with Spanish connections and history that links Rossini to Spain…


Adelina Patti (1843-1919)

The song is virtuosic and difficult; it is set up as dramatic “scena” for a mezzo with great high notes and coloratura.  The piano part has difficult rapid scale and triad dissonant passages that use almost the whole range of the piano, with dissonances and quick changing character that mirror the grieving widow. Over 6 minutes long, its a test of endurance and range for both the pianist and singer.  Its also a show stopper and great piece.  Joining my friend Carla’s recording, Ms. Bonitanibus as well as Marilyn Horne (RCA) and Vivica Geneux (EPCASO) recordings of the text by Ventura de la Vega of “A Granada”, my version with pianist Emilio González Sanz is featured in my upcoming disc España alla Rossini which is slated to come out with iTinerant Classics this coming April of 2015.


It all began in Malta, with a concert called “Rossini and Spain”…



The sound disc España alla Rossini began as a cool recital idea that I had:  in 2012 I had the enormous fortune of being invited to sing at the presidential palace of the Republic of Malta, a gracious invitation extended to me by the then president of this country (and the country of my grand parents) His Excellency George Abela and his wife Mrs. Margaret Abela.  It was a dream come true to visit Malta, and more so  to do it under such an auspicious occasion…I wanted very much to do a special program, one with personal meaning that would speak to me and in turn create a special atmosphere at the event.  I began a small investigation of the repertoire for this concert, which united two of my loves: the music of Gioacchino Rossini and the musical culture of Spain.


Emilio and I rehearsing at the San Anton Palace in Valetta in June of 2012.

My pianist in Spain, Jorge Robaina was not available. I then reached out to a wonderful pianist, a professor of chamber music at the Royal Music Conservatory in Madrid by the name of Emilio González Sanz.  On Facebook and email we put together a program, which we rehearsed for a weeks time in Madrid before flying out to Valletta, the capital of Malta.  We did the program as trial at the Museo del Romanticismo de Madrid  before leaving, under the title “Rossini and Spain” with brief notes:

Maltese-American mezzo soprano ANNA TONNA and Spanish pianist EMILIO SANZ GONZÁLEZ debut their new musical venture: a program of songs and piano solos that narrate Rossini’s fascination with the country of Spain. Rossini’s personal relationships with opera’s most prominent family of the 19th century, The Garcías (Manuel García, Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot-García), Rossini’s marriage to the Spanish diva Isabella Colbran, as well as his close friendships with the notable Spanish personalities such as the Dukes of Alba planted the seeds for his love of the rhythms and songs of Spain, with his usage of the Tirana, bolero and the Seguidilla in his numerous musical compositions.

Rossini was not unique in his love of all things Spanish: the Grand Tour helped to popularize Spain and increase her mystique among travelers and tourists of the early 19th century. Numerous books such as George Burrough’s The Bible in Spain and Gustav Dore’s engravings, together with the numerous Spanish musicians and dancers such as the Garcias that were performing in Europe’s capitals helped to popularize late 18th century Spanish dance and song known as Escuela Bolera.

Gioachino Rossini en 1820

Enter Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

“La regata veneziana”, Nocturne for solo piano Transcription by Franz Liszt

“Facut portem” from the Stabat mater

Isabella Colbran, Rossini’s Spanish muse

“Giusto ciel!” from the opera Maometto II

“Assisa a piè d’un salice” from the opera Otello

“Una voce poco fa” from the opera Il barbiere di Siviglia

Visions of Spain

Granada, Opus 47, No. 1 Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

“Canzonetta spagnuola”

“À Grenade” from the album Melodies françaises



Among the public was the ambassador of Spain, the newly appointed American Ambassador as well as numerous persons from the Maltese cultural life. I also had the pleasure of meeting for the first time family members that I continue to this day to be in touch with, as well as having the immense honor of the president hosting a family dinner at the presidential palace in mine and Emilio’s honor.

The concert was pronounced a success by several reviewers and most importantly by the listeners.

Review from the Malta Times of “Rossini and Spain”

 After the concert, we received flowers, a book and small commemorative plaque that I keep to this day on my piano. How surprised my humble grandparents would be if they had only known that so many years later this all would come to pass…

I wanted to further honor Malta in this recital, and as an encore Emilio and I performed a cantilena aria by the Maltese early 19th century composer Nicoló Isouard from his opera Paul et Virginie.


Emilio and I receiving gifts and congratulations from First Lady Mrs. Margaret Abela at the St. Anton Palace in June of 2012.

I knew I wanted to make sound disc one day of this project. Upon meeting Ruben L. Someso, the managing director of The Recording Consort, I embarked on the adventure of a new and more in depth investigation of a sound disc that I would eventually call España alla Rossini


 To contribute to the making of España alla Rossini, please check out my video and platform on Hatchfund:



Recuerdo soñado XX…memories of “Belleza de las Americas” concert for voice and guitar with Aeterna Musica

Recuerdo soñado XX…memories of “Belleza de las Americas” concert for voice and guitar  with Aeterna Musica
 Recuerdo soñado XXDomingo 19 de mayo de 2013
Concierto extraordinario • La Belleza de las Américas
Anna Tonna (mezzosoprano) • Keith Rodríguez (guitarra)
Obras de Manuel Ponce, Heitor Villalobos, Agustín Barrios Mangoré, Ernesto Cordero, Frantz Casseus y canciones tradicionales de Estados Unidos.
Espacio Ronda
Recently my friend Francisco “Paco” Quirce who is one of the persons that leads Aeterna Musica posted this beautiful souvenir from a concert I did with them, with American guitarist (living in Marid) Keith Rodriguez.
Keith, who trained as a classical guitarist  with the Romeros in California, lives in Madrid with his family and is a high school music teacher and chorale director. He first reached out to me to start a collaboration to do a recital for a fundraising event to help the earthquake victims in Haiti in Madrid in 2010 for an organization called CESAL.  This link has a photo and sound clip of us performing a traditional colonial era song from the Americas,  “Wayfaring strange”:


Belleza de las americas poster
Keith and I performed this gorgeous program a couple of times now.  Although I Iive in the States, when I go to Spain we continue to collaborate.  Since that first concert with CESAL, we were presented by Aeterna Musica, Museo de las Americas and as part of another fundraising event for the non profit charitable organization Centro Solidaridad.
Aeterna Music is a non profit organization, and they do a  wonderful  and tireless labor; led by a group of musicians, aesthetes and university professors, they provide a space for musicians, poets and multi-disciplinary performers to perform.  They have a loyal concert going public, provide a beautiful program, and they both record and tape all the performances, which take in Espacio Ronda in Madrid.  They can be followed on their Aeterna Musica Facebook Page.
I have beautiful memories of this afternoon, performing songs for voice and guitar by composers of Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, and the United States.  This concert was the European premiere of the guitar/voice version of the Seis canciones arcaicas by the Mexican composer Manuel Ponce, arranged by American guitarist Gregg Nestor.  This wonderful cycle are masterpieces in my opinion, and I have performed them in the piano/voice version. The guitar/voice version has been recorded the soprano Anna Bartos and Mr. Nestor, and is available on Amazon and iTunes.
I am especially fond of the Haitian composer Frantz Casseus, he has beautiful solo guitar music that can be heard on youtube.  The song I sang “Girl from the woods” is beautifully interpreted by the soprano Rachel Flynn and is on youtube as well. Its a haunting melody, and a well known folk tune in Haiti, which has been artfully arranged by Casseus.

Keith and myself at Espacio Ronda


(In Spanish)

Notas de programa

Abarcando los campos de la música popular, folclórica y clásica, Manuel Ponce compuso Seis poemas arcaicos en 1939 originalmente para voz y piano, utilizando el codex madrileño de los Reyes Católicos, el celebrado “Cancionero de Palacio”. Esta tarde este cíclo debuta en Europa en transcripción para voz y guitarra, elaborada por el guitarrista estadounidense Gregg Nestor. Continuando con la representacion en Norte America el programa incluye canciones tradicionales de la época colonial de los Estados Unidos y de la tradición afro-americana esclavo del celebrado género denominado spiritual.

Escucharemos la pieza modinha, termino para una canción sentimental, usualmente contando una historia de amor en los siglos XIX procedente de Brazil y Portugal; el Mstro. Villa- Lobos arregló esta simple melodia en el 1926, durante sus años parisinos.

El compositor Puertoriqueno Ernesto Cordero, titulado en el Real Conservatorio Superior de Madrid, exhibe en sus canciones un nationalismo nostálgico e intrañable; ambos Madrugada y La hija del viejo Pancho llevan letra del poeta folclórico Llorens Torrens, ambas canciones que exaltan la vida de pueblo. Cadencia se acerca a la canción “canta autor”, sumamente personal, pero con aires en el preludio de romanza medieval española. La breve composición titulado Zenobia, elaborado sobre un poema de Juan Ramón Jimenez, lleva el titulo de la esposa del poeta, aunque el poema originalmente lleva el titulo de “Para quererte, al destino” procedente del libro de poemas “Estío” (1915), y lleva una dedicación a la soprano Victoria de los Angeles.

Para solo guitarra el concierto incluye piezas por el consagrado Maestro Barrios Mangoré de Paraguay, autor de piezas consideradas obras maestras por los grandes guitaristas del mundo. La catedral, inspirado en momentos en J.S. Bach es considerado el magnum opus del autor.

Incluimos el poco conocido compositor haitiano Franz Casséus, un autor que aspiraba a las metas estéticas de Villa- Lobos, emplea material folclórico para elevar la música de su pais. Las dos canciones incluidas en este programa fueron progamados en un concierto benéfico que se llevo a cabo en el 2012 a cargo de CESAL para Haití despues del terremoto por nuestros dos artistas.

Belleza de las Americas Anna Tonna, mezzo soprano Keith Rodriguez, guitarra
Seis poemas arcaicos por Manuel Ponce México
transcipción para voz y guitarra por Gregg Nestor (1883-1948)Más quiero morir (Juan de Encina)
Zagaleja del Casar (Autor anónimo)
De las sierras (Pedro Juan Aldomar)
Sol, sol, gi, gi (Alonso de Plaja)
Desciende el valle (Autor anónimo)
Tres morillas (Diego Fernandez y autor anónimo)
Three American Folksongs Tradicional Estados Unidos
transcripción para canto y guitarra por Carlos Barbosa-Lima
Wayfaring Stranger
Red Rosey Bush Modinha por  Heitor Villa-Lobos Brazil


La Catedral por Agustín por Barrios Mangoré Paraguay (1885-1944)
Andante Religioso
Keith Rodriguez

 Madrugada  de Ernesto Cordero Puerto Rico (n. 1946)
La Hija del viejo Pancho
Haitianesques por Frantz Casséus Haití
No. 1 Cé grand matin (1915-1993)
No. 2 Fi’ nan bois

 Una limosna por el amor de Dios Agustín Barrios Mangoré
Keith Rodriguez

De Five Spirituals Tradicional Estados Unidos
transcripción para voz y guitarra por Rodney Stucky
Give me Jesus
Deep River
Little David Play On Your Harp

June and July travels in Spain with “España alla Rossini”

June and July travels in Spain with “España alla Rossini”

Dear friends, enclosed is a link to a blog article by HiSTéRiCaS Grabaciones of the concert España alla Rossini. The  discographic project produced by The Recording Consort and distributed by iTinerant Classics had its debut as a live concert this summer at Gamma Heart Festival, The Museo de Romanticismo de Madrid, and in its complete form at the Festival de Segovia in Spain on July 21, 2014 at the Patio de Armas in the Alcazar of Segovia.  


The concert is for pianist, mezzo soprano, Spanish dance artist with a historic piano, Broadwood & Sons (circa 1831).  The costumed concert repertoire is comprised of songs and duets by Gioacchino Rossini that relatex his love for the musical culture of Spain as well as his relationships with royalty and personalities of the day such as Queens Maria Cristina and Isabel ii, as well as the Duchess of Alba and Berwick and his patron Francisco Aguado.

Anna Tonna, mezzo soprano

Emilio González Sanz, piano

Cristina Gómez Tornamira, dancer

Miguel Borrallo, tenor

Article and photos of España alla Rossini at the Festival de Segovia:

España alla Rossini at the Festival de Segovia on july 21, 2014. article and photos


Music in the Times of Joaquin Sorolla: Towards a New Spain (1856-1936)


Music in the Times of Joaquin Sorolla:  Towards a New Spain (1856-1936)

Music in the Time of Joaquín Sorolla: Towards a new Spain (1856-1936)

interpreted by
Anna Tonna, mezzo soprano
Eva León, violinist
Emilio González Sanz, pianist
Francisco Fuertes, reciter

This concert of chamber music and songs by late 19th – and early 20th-century Spanish composers evokes the musical and intellectual world of the Spanish impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923).

Thursday, May 29, 2014, 7:00PM
The Hispanic Society of America
Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets
Admission Free. RSVP: friends@hispanicsociety.org/ 212- 926 22 34 Ext. 250

NEW YORK, NY, May 2, 2014 – The Hispanic Society of America presents a chamber music concert for piano, violin, mezzo-soprano and actor that showcases the little known musical culture of the so-called Spanish Silver Age, which is a musical equivalent to the world of the Spanish impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923). The concert is part of the HSA music series which this season, celebrates five centuries of music from Spain. Music in the Time of Joaquín Sorolla: Towards a new Spain (1856-1923) is the third and last concert of this season, and highlights music by Spanish composers from the late 19th century up to the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

The painter Sorolla was an integral figure of a group of Spanish progressive thinkers and educators, the so called Institucionistas, which founded a series of schools in Spain with the goal of bringing the country to the forefront of European culture towards the end of the 19th century. The role that music played in education was key to Institucionista thought; weekly afternoon musical soirees were celebrated at the Instituto Libre de Enseñanza, and were attended by Joaquín Sorolla on a regular basis.

The first half of Music in the Time of Joaquín Sorolla: Towards a new Spain (1856-1936) seeks to recreate the musical-literary character of theses gatherings, with pieces for piano and violin by Sarasate, Monasterio and songs by Gabriel Rodríguez and Rogelio Villar, all composers and persons active in the Institucionista movement in Spain. A testament to Sorolla’s involvement with this progressive movement are the paintings that are to be found in the library of the Hispanic Society of prominent figures in the Institucionista movement, such as Manuel Bartolomé Cossío, Benito Pérez Galdós and the Nobel laureate poet Juan Ramón Jiménez. The intimate ties between the founder of the Hispanic Society Archer Huntington and the Institucionistas is evidenced by letters and avid correspondence between them. The second part of the program highlights the composers that were recipients of the scholarships of the Junta de Ampliación de Estudios that the Institucionistas awarded to young Spanish scholars and artists to study abroad: María Rodrigo, Julián Bautista, Gustavo Pittaluga and Eduardo Toldrá.

The program includes several U.S. premieres, and highlights the talents of Spanish pianist Emilio González Sanz, professor of chamber music at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid, and Spanish violinist Eva León. Both are recording artists well-versed in the fields of 19th – and 20th – century Spanish music. They are joined by American mezzo-soprano Anna Tonna, a former Fulbright Scholar to Spain and a specialist in vocal music by Spanish composers as well as by award-winning actor Francisco Fuertes.

Repertoire (subject to change) includes:

Adiós a la Alhambra for violin and piano Jesús de Monasterio (1836-1903)
*Excerpts from Colección de Melodías Gabriel Rodríguez (1829-1901)
*Madrigal and Elegía de Otoño for voice and piano Rogelio Villar (1875-1937)
Aires gitanos for violin and piano Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908)
La Habanera for solo piano Ernesto Halffter (1905-1989)
*Villancico de las madres for voice and piano Julián Bautista (1901-1961)
Romance de Solita for voice and piano Gustavo Pittaluga (1876-1956)
*Ayes…Tres canciones for voice and piano María Rodrigo (1888-1967)
Sonetos for violin and piano Eduardo Toldrá (1895-1962)

*US premieres

The Hispanic Society of America

The Museum and Library of The Hispanic Society of America reflect the vision of Archer Milton Huntington to establish an institution dedicated to the celebration of Hispanic culture. Beginning in 1904, he began to construct a series of buildings on Audubon Terrace and to assemble a collection of books and works of art which are today unparalleled in scope and quality outside the Iberian Peninsula. The collection includes more than 800 paintings and 6,000 works on paper, offering a comprehensive survey of Spanish art through masterpieces by El Greco, Goya, Morales, Murillo, Ribera, Velázquez, Zuloaga, Zurbarán, Fortuny and Sorolla. The Museum’s 1,000 works of sculpture contain significant examples from the first millennium B.C. to the 20th century. There are also magnificent examples of ceramic, glass, furniture, textiles, ironwork, jewelry and photographs. The Library offers resources to scholars interested in the culture of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America through its collection of more than 250,000 books and periodicals, which include more than 15,000 volumes printed before 1701 and approximately 200,000 manuscripts from the 12th century to the present.

The Hispanic Society Concert Series was inaugurated in 2010 as a free program to promote the music of Spanish and Hispanic composers. The Concert Series has delighted listeners with the finest recitals, chamber groups, and groundbreaking modern music ensembles. Many of the century’s greatest artists have performed in our programs. The program augments the viewing experience by providing an auditory context within which the collection can be appreciated.

This year’s Concert series is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Spain Culture New York—Consulate General of Spain.

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.


“Canzone Scordate, an Anthology of Early Songs and Arias” by Arne Dørumsgaard


Announcing my new project, a study and recording from the collection “Canzone Scordate” by Norwegian composer Arne Dørumsgaard

The above is a blog entry by Terje Dørumsgaard, announcing investigation to study at the

Norwegian Institute of Recorded Sound in Stavanger, Norway

This past September I was hard at work, writing for a grant given by the American Scandinavian Foundation, in order to travel to Norway to study the collection “Canzone  Scordate, an anthology of Early Songs and Arias” by the intriguing figure, the Norwegian composer, singer, audio collector, poetry translator and political dissident

Arne Dørumsgaard

The greatest singers recitalist and concert singers of the second half of the 20th century had personal contact with him and sang his beautiful arrangements of early songs, taken from folk traditions of all parts of the world.  Names such as Kirsten Flagstadt, Teresa Berganza, Gerard Souzay, Irma Kolassi and Federica Von Stade are among this group, some making a pilgrimage to his home in Italy, to interact with this fascinating and multifaceted artist.

The first of 22 volumes of his “Forgotten Songs” is curiously enough, a volume dedicated to early songs of Spain. It is dedicated to the great Catalan soprano, Conxita Badia.  This is the volume that incited my interest in this figure, here is the volume of content:

De la vida de este mundo

Que bien me lo veo

A tal perdida tan triste (Encina)

Con amores, la mi madre (Anchieta)

A la caza, sus, a caza (Gabriel)

De antequera sale el moro (Morales)

Triste estaba el Rey David (Mudarra)

Quien amores ten (Milan)

Pampano verde (de la Torre)

Por unos puertos arriba (Ribera)

Volume 1 out of the collection "Canzone Scordate" (Forgotten Songs) by Arne Dorumsgaard

Volume 1 out of the collection “Canzone Scordate” by Arne Dørumsgaard

A. Dørumsgaard’s son, Terje Dørumsgaard keeps a blog that recounts his father’s many accomplishments and interests:

Blog and website about the Norwegian composer Arne Dørumsgaard

With this age of vocal specialization, as well as early music performance specialty groups and performance practices, songs found in Canzone Scordate are now more and more only performed by singers and instrumentalists that specialize in this music…it is a sad state, as these songs, with their lovely melodies and sensitive arrangements, are a boon for any singer/piano duo that want to include them in song recital programs.  The songs in the collection include Italian early and late baroque, early German, French and Scandinavian songs. Twenty two volumes in total, there are many other songs that did not make the collection and are at the Norwegian Institute of Sound, from North and Latin America.

Arne was a song archaeologist of sorts…a song, that we sing to ourselves, for others or at family gatherings. Or a song, which many composers now a days could never hope to gain any remuneration for…there is no reason to write one at all, except if its out of love…this musical genre, perhaps the most personal one of all, is the object of Arne’s  collection. The only way not to forget a song, is of course to sing it…and to have someone listen and receive it.

Among the many youtube clips, the one by Zehava Gal is one of the performances I admire most, she sings “Pampano verde” by Spanish Renaissance composer Francisco de la Torre, arranged by A. Dørumsgaard from volume I of Canzone Scordate.

The Norwegian Institute of Recorded Sound is based on the personal collection of Arne Dørumsgaard’s lifelong collection of recorded sound,  amassing one of the largest private collections in the world.  The Institute is open to the public, scholars and artists that wish to visit and study the archive.

For anyone wanting to explore these songs, they can be bought via my favorite place to acquire music, Classical Vocal Reprints.  The collection is edited by Recital Publications in Huntsville Texas, they were first published in 1987, although these songs were made available to some of the above mentioned singers in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  The edition is in the beautiful and evocative script from composer’s pen.

Before I put my nose to the grindstone with Canzone Scordate, I’m working now on a new disc and investigation that explores the relationship between Rossini and Spain, more on that in my next couple of blog entries!

Song cycle “Perfume” (2013) by Darwin Aquino, b. 1979


Composer, conductor and violinist Darwin Aquino

Several years ago, I met Darwin Aquino by phone…out of the blue my pianist friend Daniel Daroca decided to call him, without any previous introduction.  We had found his blog on the internet, and saw that he was the director of a youth orchestra in Dominican Republic, along the lines of “el sistema” from Venezuela.  Gleaning over the blog, we also saw that he was also composer and violinist.  Several years later, we met in person when he was celebrated in a composer showcase concert produced by the Association of Dominican Classical Artists in New York City.  We spoke briefly about him writing me a piece, using texts by a Dominican female poet that I would need to research and elect.  At the time I had struck a friendship with Dominican York poet Marisol Espaillat. I told Marisol I needed help identifying a female Dominican poet that I could look into for texts for this new composition for voice and piano.  We met at Caliope (since closed), a Dominican bookstore in Washington Heights, where I made several purchases, but I did not take my research further at that time.

Pianist, composer and director of North South Consonance Max Lifchitz  knew of my friendship with Darwin.  Upon receiving a special grant from the University of Albany to do a special concert, master class and talks regarding inclusion of minorities in classical music, he suggested I collaborate with Darwin in creating a new piece we could premiere on October 27th, the season opening concert for North South Consonance in Manhattan.  The concert would then be repeated at the Performing Arts Center in Albany (NY) on October 29, 2013.  With a firm date and project on hand, I had to get serious about finding texts for this new song cycle.


Poster announcing “Latin American Song: A Panoramic View” on October 29, 2013 at the Performing Arts Center at SUNY Albany

I came across the poem “Mi vaso verde” by Altagracia Saviñón (1886-1942) via my friend, the painter and theater designer José Miura.  He mentioned that Saviñón  is considered the first “symbolist” poet of Dominican Republic.  Chronologically coinciding with the time period of the French Symbolists,  hers is a melancholic story: a poet of great promise, composing her best most well-known poem at age 17, at an early age exhibited signs of mental illness and lived most of her adult life in an insane asylum, victim of an apparent schizophrenia. Her whole reputation and place in the canon of Dominican literature is based on this poem, which translates into “My green vase”.  José wrote the poem in a beautiful card in his own hand writing, which I still conserve.  I sent the poem to Darwin, and he was immediately enchanted by the text.  Still needing a second poem, I posed my question to painter and writer Fernando Ureña Rib, who suggested the moving poem by Dominican female poet who’s nome de plume was “Carmen Natalia”.   Carmen Natalia Bonilla Martinez (1916-1976), in contrast to Saviñón, realized a full life, in which she became a writer of great distinction in prose, poetry and theater, and became both an early feminist and political dissenter to the then dictator of Dominican Republic Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.  Carmen Natalia emigrated to Puerto Rico, and she was promptly “erased” from the literary canons of her country.  After the death of said dictator she returned to Santo Domingo, and presently  has been recognized as one of the great Dominican poets.  Fernando suggested I use  “Poema de la eternidad cansada”, in which the symbol of an old dress is used to bring out the hypocrisy of societal hypocrisy, and  the themes of imposed societal and cultural roles upon women.

Carmen Natalia Martnez Bonilla

Poet Carmen Natalia Martinez Bonilla

With Darwin’s interest in historical subjects and themes in his composition, both of these poems provided the source of inspiration he needed.  The result is a brief cycle entitled “Perfume”, comprised of three songs: I  Las Flores  II Eternidad Cansada  III Mi vaso verde.

The composer choose to interpose these two poems, making a synthesis that is dynamic, in which one text leads into the other seamlessly.  The first song is built on an almost naïve happy melody that repeats in a joviality and lightness that changes almost abruptly into the miniature “Eternidad Cansada”, which is only four bars long.  Marked Libre, con angustia on repetitive notes, the song  follows immediately without a break into the hypnotic and final “Mi vaso verde”.  This last song, the most haunting of the cycle, has a repeated leitmotif  of two falling notes C# and A natural, echoed throughout as well as directions for the mezzo-soprano to strike two water filled glasses on stage, that play these actual pitches.  Recitative like, with indications for certain passages to be done without vibrato, in some instances in Sprechstimme, the last two pages have a dramatic climax, the first to a high b flat, and the second and final into a repeated ostinato that in my imagination, emulates the laughter of the maddened Altagracia  Saviñón.

Although the songs have a modern aesthetic, they never approach atonality; they are almost expressionist and explore the possible harmonic and vocal effects that help bring out these texts in the most dramatic way possible.

I plan on explaining briefly what the songs are about, a very brief history of both poets and about Darwin’s hopes for this new creation:

“From these lines from which emanate these three songs, are reflexions about life and death. Interpreted without interreption, the cycle begins with “Flowers”; this text represents “existence” (perfume) of the flower that is bound by water (life) contained in “My green vase”, the dramatic song which concludes the cycle.   The second song, “Eternal Tiredness” symbolizes death and unites the title of the poems by Martinez Bonilla and Saviñón”.