Opera Orlando Presents NOCHE DE ZARZUELA

Opera Orlando Presents NOCHE DE ZARZUELA

For centuries, Americans have learned to "melt" together, creating a culture all our own. Yet our diversity is always worth celebrating; indeed, it is one of our strongest assets.

A meeting between United Arts of Central Florida, Opera Orlando, and Central Florida Vocal Arts resulted in a project to celebrate a treasured Spanish artistic legacy-zarzuela. It is an art form akin to operetta from France, Germany, and England but, unlike these other European

expressions, zarzuela projects a distinct nationalistic flavor. Zarzuela's music is infectious, and can evoke pride and connection for those of Hispanic heritage. An opportunity was uncovered in that initial meeting to bring this experience to high school students in the region.

So was born the Noche de Zarzuela (Night of Zarzuela). Central Florida Vocal Arts would work in the trenches with the music faculty and choral students of Osceola high schools for a full semester, and Opera Orlando would use its resources to mount an all-star musical celebration of this beloved Spanish operatic art form. The culminating concert is scheduled for Sunday, March 4, 7 p.m., at the Osceola Center for the Performing Arts, 3141 N. Orange Blossom Trail, Kissimmee.

"We were able to reach out to Osceola County young artists through the educational component of the Noche de Zarzuela project and expose them to the the art of zarzuela," explained Theresa L. Smith-Levin, chief executive director of Central Florida Vocal Arts. "Our ultimate goal is to include these young performers in the classical vocal-arts narrative through the Spanish-language vocal repertoire."

the concert is a quartet of professional singers, all with Hispanic heritage: sopranos Arleen Ramirez and Maria Laetitia Hernandez, tenor Javier Abreu, and baritone Jean Carlos Rodriguez. Also performing are two student soloists from Osceola high schools; a Coro de Zarzuela composed of choristers from Opera Orlando, Central Florida Vocal Arts, and Osceola high-school students; the Alterity Chamber Orchestra; and conductor Julian Bond. -MORE-

"The project has been a transformative experience for high-school choral students in Osceola County," claimed Debbie Fahmie, fine- and performing-arts resource specialist for Osceola District Schools. "Choral students and teachers studied a cultural genre that is not often explored at the high-school level, and, with a large Latin American population in Osceola County, it is wonderful that our students are able to connect with their roots."

The concert itself is designed to be a visual and musical spectacular. It will feature authentic costumes of the art form and include a strong theatrical quality.

"This has been a great project," said Gabriel Preisser, executive and artistic director of Opera Orlando. "Everyone we asked wanted to be part of the concert. Javier Abreu, already due in Orlando to be our prince in Cinderella late in March, leapt at the chance to contribute to Central Florida's Hispanic awareness. Maria Laetitia Hernandez is from Puerto Rico and also a local legend in the art form. Arleen Ramirez is one of the pillars for opera in Central Florida, and Jean Carlos serves as one of the standard-bearers for zarzuela in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. We're also excited to collaborate with Orlando-based conductor Julian Bond for the first time as well as the Alterity Orchestra."

The newly launched Alterity Chamber Orchestra strives to build a more thoughtful, open, and diverse society through contemporary classical music. They are the first ensemble-in-residence of the Timucua Arts Foundation. Alterity presents musical compositions for chamber orchestra and smaller ensembles, focusing on the work of living composers.

Noche de Zarzuela has been made possible by a generous grant from Duke Energy and the support of United Arts of Central Florida. Univision Orlando and 98.1 Salsa y Mas
are media sponsors for the event.

Tickets: $15 and $25 (public); $5 (students) available at http://opac.tix.com/. Additional info at www.OperaOrlando.org

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