By Pablo Zinger, Institute Musical Director
(Uruguayan-born pianist, conductor, composer and lecturer Pablo Zinger lives in New York City. He has been called “The King of Zarzuela” by Steven Blier in Opera News, and is considered one of the world’s leading specialists in Spanish and Latin American music, zarzuela and tango, as well as the music of Astor Piazzolla. He has performed throughout the world and has accompanied Paquito D’Rivera, Astor Piazzolla and Plácido Domingo).
In late 2009, I met two very promising Spanish singers: tenor Antón Armendariz, a specialist in opera and zarzuela character roles and incipient stage director, and the soprano Amaya Arberas.
Besides sharing the initials A.A., they both impressed me with their talent, dedication, ambition and personal charm. Antón is from Catalunya and Amaya from the Basque region, but Antón resides in Logroño, capital of La Rioja, famous for its splendid red wines, fine gastronomy and beautiful historical sights.
There, Antón, Amaya and several other Spanish singers have been performing interesting programs under the name RiojaLírica, including a fascinating chamber version of Barbieri’s El Barberillo de Lavapiés, which was led by veteran conductor José Luis Alonso, a man who has done invaluable work keeping zarzuela alive in La Rioja.
Soon my young friends invited me to Logroño, where I suggested that we put together a program exploring the connections and contrasts between Cuban and Spanish zarzuela, called “Un amor en dos músicas” (‘A Love in Two Musics’). I arrived to find myself affected by several disasters: first, a serious earthquake in Lorca, Murcia, and then the Spanish parliamentary elections, when our innocent little program became a subject of contention between local political parties…
In spite of that, the concert was a resounding success. It took place at the gorgeous Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, whose sanctuary boasts a live rooster in a glass cage! The large local audience had a great time with our semi-staged programme, which represented a very different take on a familiar genre.
I fell in love with La Rioja. The wines are as good as their reputation, and the food is out of this world; in the old part of Logroño there is a street where each little establishment specializes in one particular dish or food (ham, for example, in many forms).
The Rioja Zarzuela Institute, 2012
While enjoying one of these outings, I talked to Antón about the idea of doing a workshop for singers in this beautiful land, taking advantage of a considerable infrastructure of music schools, bands, beautiful halls and talented local musicians and teachers. We decided to embark on the first summer workshop to be dedicated exclusively to Spanish Zarzuela in Spain, under the name Instituto Riojano de la Zarzuela, which will take place July 14 to 28, 2012.
This will be a “hands on” zarzuela programme for singers – college and conservatory students as well as aspiring and accomplished professionals – based on a masterclass concept in the first week, and rehearsals for the final gala concert in the second week, with added lectures, concerts by noted guest artists, sightseeing, Spanish conversation courses for the non-Spanish speaking, individual coachings and general merriment!
The programme is open to both Spanish and international singers, who will be able to stay in the center of Logroño, within walking distance of all classes, rehearsals and special events, and enjoy the food, drink and night-life… of course, all in good moderation! The local hotels will provide affordable discount rates for the Instituto students.
The Selection Process
The activities, as well as the procedure for application and all pertinent information are described in detail in the Instituto website. Students will be divided in three categories: Active participants (soloists) Active Auditors (ensemble) and Auditors (non singing). The choice of category will be made on the basis of student, and merit, as evaluated by faculty – all students are expected to send mp3 files of their singing. Student tuition fees will vary according to category, and there may be partial scholarship help for the most qualified.
As the students arrive, they will participate in orientation activities, attend an opening concert by members of RiojaLírica, and have an opening class on Spanish diction with me (Pablo Zinger). Six days a week, the morning period will be dedicated to the Spanish conversation class for non-Spanish speakers, given by the distinguished local Professor, Dr. Javier García Turza, as well as individual coachings with me and local pianist Nuria Ollora.
In the first week, the afternoon sessions will consist of masterclasses with me, covering the material that will be performed in the Final Gala Concert and additional earlier concerts by selected students. Every Active student will get to sing, and, with the help of all of the students, I will cover musical preparation, diction, interpretation and style for all of the selections. I will be playing the piano during the masterclasses and the final concert, and the students will participate actively in the evaluation and constructive criticism of their peers.
In the second week I will be joined by the very talented Spanish opera and zarzuela director Jordi Godall, a man-of-the-theatre and resident of Barcelona, who will stage the final concert. The masterclasses will become production-style rehearsals for the Gala, which will consist exclusively of zarzuela material covering the modern history of the genre, from Barbieri to Moreno Torroba and Sorozábal, including solos that will feature the students’ talents, as well as exciting duets and larger ensembles. Our expectation is for the students to perform in this concert at the highest professional level.
Besides the Final Gala Concert, there will be several occasions for selected students to perform in additional events, one of which will take place in the beautiful Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, an important stop in the “Camino de Santiago”, the renowned Middle Ages pilgrimage route which remains popular with pilgrims from all over the world to this day , and Nájera in the amazing Santa Maria La Real.
Special Guest Events
The opening concert will count with the participation of tenor Antón Armendáriz, soprano Amaya Arberas, as well as the very talented young bass-baritone Pedro Quiralte, a native of Castellón with a very promising career.
We will have special events presented by not one but two sensational mezzos and dear friends of mine: Anna Tonna, of Dominican and Maltese origin, who will be singing and lecturing on her program of Music from the Spanish Silver Age, songs inspired by María de la O Lejárraga, of which she has done a recent CD with Spanish pianist Julio Robaina, and Argentine-American Désirée Halac, who will be singing two events with me: a recital dedicated to two giants of Hispanic music, Carlos Guastavino & Xavier Montsalvatge, in the year of the Centennial of their birth, and a Tango Cabaret including music of two of my greatest heroes, Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla.
Additional concerts and lectures will include mezzo Nerea Elorriaga, tenor Antón Armendáriz and pianist Nuria Ollora, and maestro José Luis Alonso in a multi-media lecture about The History of Zarzuela.
We are greatly looking forward to working with many talented international young artists (the “young at heart” are also encouraged to apply, we have no age limit, and welcome all qualified applicants of any age). If you love zarzuela as much as we do, or if you are a singer interested in immersing yourself in Spanish music, language and food, this is your chance, please visit our website, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org - or contact me through Facebook!