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TLDR? Support Medellin’s lyrical artists and enjoy the opera season!
The opera’s one of the most striking and ancient theatrical compositions to have reached all corners of the world. When we talk about Colombia, though, it’s not the first thing that comes to mind.
Even though reggaetón may be the king of the music scene in Medellín, the opera has actually been popular here since the 40s.
While it’s not what you’d call mainstream, there’s definitely some savoir-faire in discovering Medellin’s opera world. If you’re interested in learning about opera in Medellin and how to attend events, keep reading: I’ll tell you everything!
The Italian opera company Bracale was one of the first to bring this theatrical genre to the country. They were several times in Colombia between 1922 and 1933, bringing musicians, singers, and directors of the time.
Bracale’s presentations in Medellin took place in three of the city’s main theaters, the Bolivar Theater, the Junín Theater, and the Spain Circus Theater.
It began to be considered social prestige to attend the opera. Its distinguished frequenters were thought of as well-dressed, good-mannered people. In this way, punctuality, high society, and tuxedos were the emblems of an opera night in the city.
In 1933, Bracale delivered its last show, which was held in Medellin. The company later went bankrupt, although many musicians stayed in the country and formed orchestras. In fact, many musicians who’d later become part of the city’s music scene were in the Bracale opera company.
In the 40s, the lyrical style of opera music began to attract the Colombian’s attention, and there began to be regular opera rehearsals in the country.
However, it wasn’t until 1976 that the first operating company was born under the leadership of Gloria Zea, seconded by Alberto Upegui and Hjalmar de Greiff.
Today the opera has grown significantly and hand in hand with the zarzuela, combining both stagings in specific seasons with very few leading companies such as Prolirica.
In 2018, the Medellin Metropolitan Opera was born. It consists of almost 130 local musicians, playwrights, and singers who were looking for a permanent space in the city’s cultural agenda.
The inauguration of this orchestra took place at the Pablo Tobon Uribe Theater, where opera pieces and well-known classics such as Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, and Bizet, among others, were performed.
After the closure of theaters like the Junin, many musicians and singers found it necessary to migrate to seek opportunities in this medium. Few opera artists remained in Medellin. That loss motivated the company to try and bring lyrical art back into the paisa’s lives.
Now that you know a bit about the history of opera in Medellín, let’s talk about some of the artists. Even though there aren’t that many artists left, those that are left are fantastic.
Catalina’s one of the five most outstanding Colombian Soprano women in the World Lyric Theater.
This paisa singer graduated with a Master’s Degree in Music and Opera from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She starred in the opera Frida with the Michigan Opera Theater company at the Opera House in Detroit, United States.
This woman is world-renowned for productions of Piazzola’s work “María de Buenos Aires” in companies such as Florida Grand Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and Syracuse Opera.
In fact, she was the representative of Colombia in the international competition “Neue Stimmen” in Germany, being among the finalists. She also won the Chicago Division for the “Classical Singer Magazine” Competition.
Gloria’s a solo opera, zarzuela, and oratorio singer who has reached international stages.
Her career at the Conservatory of Fine Arts in Medellin continued in Dresden, Germany, to perfect the technique.
She also studied in the United States, supporting the Cultural Group for the Arts at the hands of Stamford Cultural Development as head of the singing area.
From there, she went on to study at the Reina Sofía National School of Music, in Spain. There, she learned under the guidance of the Italian soprano Magda Oliveros.
Gloria Londoño was a finalist in the Luciano Pavarotti International Singing Contest, representing Colombia. And, she was part of the Soloists of the 21st Century cycle for Radio Clásica of the National Radio of Spain.
While I can’t promise you’ll get to see those exact artists at work, I can promise there are some good opera venues in Medellín. Here are a couple of places where you can see the opera in Medellín.
As mentioned above, the Medellin Metropolitan Opera comprises many musicians, singers, and artists. It performs most of its shows at CES University.
This company was born to maintain the tradition of lyrical singing, theater, and opera staging.
Prolirica’s a cultural and educational entity operating for almost 28 years with International Seasons of Zarzuela, Operetta, and Opera in Medellín. It’s an icon in the city and Antioquia for its influences on the lyrical scene.
They offer varied artistic experiences, such as choir and soloist concerts, opera, and zarzuela lyrical galas. They also have live musicals and virtual shows.
Likewise, the foundation has a seasonal program with stagings at:
The opera has had quite an influence on Medellin. On coming here, you’ll find several internationally recognized paisa artists and many musicians concerned with keeping the opera and zarzuela scene alive.
Attend one of these concerts with all the elegance that characterizes it and enjoy a night full of art and music in Medellin!
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