Border Report: Reimagining a Choral Masterpiece for the San Diego-Tijuana Region


A new collaboration between a local art director at Bach Collegium San Diego and a Tijuana-based librettist, the project highlights not only opportunities for cross-border collaboration – but also classical music talent pools and projects in Tijuana.

The U.S.-Mexico border might seem like an easy setting for a revolutionary performance of “Messiah,” the 18th-century choir leader by George Frideric Handel. But for the founder and the artistic director Bach College San Diegothere is no better place to realize his vision: the oratorio song is renowned entirely in Spanish.

Ruben Valenzuela told me last week: “I think he will reason deeply with this region. We sat together last Wednesday on a bench in Point Loma, outside the All Souls Episcopal Church, where he works as music director. The church also serves as a base for the Bach Collegium, a group dedicated to historically informed performances of music from the Renaissance, Baroque and early classical eras.

Valenzuela has invited musicians across the United States to three performances of “El Messiah”This month – March 18 and 19 in San Diego County, and March 20 in Tijuana – will be billed as the world’s first. Although part of “Messiah,” originally written in English, was translated with song in spanishValenzuela said this marks the first time the two-hour piece will be presented in Spanish.

Valenzuela said: “This is a perfect opportunity to take on an iconic masterpiece, and literally adapt it to this community. The target community is the Spanish-speaking public on both sides of the border.

The result of nearly two years of collaboration between Valenzuela and a Tijuana-based librettist, the project highlights not only opportunities for cross-border collaboration – but also talent pools and classical music projects in Tijuana.

For Valenzuela, it is also a tribute to her own Mexican origins. He grew up in Los Angeles in a Spanish-speaking home, the eldest son of a musician who played in Mexican trio ensemble. Valenzuela, who has a doctorate in musicology from Claremont Graduate University, said her first exposure to the oratory was listening to excerpts in Spanish when she was a boy attending Central Spanish Seventh Day Adventist Church.

“I heard this and I thought,‘ Oh man, that’s incredible music, ’” he recalled.

The border often looks like a barrier that divides communities on each side. But in this case it served as a bridge. When Valenzuela started finding someone who could write a Spanish book, a Bach Collegium advisory board member connected to the Tijuana classical music community told him she knew just the right people: Mario Montenegro, a music scholar, creator of a vocal ensemble, and owner of a cafe in the Rio City Area.

I’ve known Montenegro for years – she is an eloquent voice in Tijuana’s classical music world, and a mentor to both accomplished and less experienced singers. For the past 10 years, he has worked as the artistic director of the seven members Ensemble Vocal Cecut in the federal Tijuana Cultural Center.

Montenegro is a law graduate with a master’s degree in architecture. But he has listened to opera since he was a child on a ranch in the Mexican state of Durango. He has published research, produced radio programs and taught classes on the subject. He recently was the librettist for a The Spanish version in Puccini’s opera “La Boheme.”

Weekly traffic in Tijuana ran out one afternoon last week when I met with Montenegro at his Media Naranja cafe to talk about his latest project. “These are living works, not museum pieces that must be closed and not touched,” Montenegro told me.

“This is offering Spanish speakers a piece of music that has them in mind,” he says. “It is an effort to take this universal ruler and offer it to him, both in San Diego and in Tijuana. And this can be a bridge – to communication, to culture, to art, to the beauty of music. “

After “Messiah” was first born in Dublin in 1742, Handel repeatedly modified his piece. Decades later, Mozart adapted woodwind and a German-language libretto based on the 16th-century Martin Luther Bible translation.

Putting Spanish words into Handel’s composition presented its own challenges.

“We obviously couldn’t make a literal translation due to syntax in different languages,” Valenzuela said. “We want the English spirit, but in Spanish. So we had all these discussions about how he (Montenegro) would approach Spanish.”

To make sure the lyrics sound good, Montenegro turned to Javier Carillo, a baritone and music director of the Cecut Vocal Ensemble, who suggested some small adjustments. “I am surprised because the changes we had to make were minimal, to emphasize certain accents, or to make it sound more idiomatic in Spanish,” Montenegro said.

The final rehearsal is coming a few days from now, when the choir and orchestra members come together to rehearse and perform the piece. “It simply came to our notice then ‘Comfort My People’ come out as’comfort my people ‘”Valenzuela tells you.

Valenzuela dreams of one day taking the performance “The Messiah” in cities across Mexico, even in Europe. But for now, she’s already warmed by the encouragement she’ll get near home – from her parents. “They’ve always supported what I do, but I think they have a hard time relating to it, because they don’t live in this world,” he said. “But now that it’s Spanish … they’re happy.”

Also in notes

  • Allegations of embezzlement against former Baja California officials: Baja California government, Marina del Pilar Avila, March 5 announces that it has filed charges of embezzlement against members of Jaime Bonilla’s former administration, accusing them of illegally authorized the construction of a large solar power plant in Mexicali. Bonilla announced the project last June as a public-private partnership. But last month Mexico’s Federal Energy Agency turn down the project. (The Day, Zeta, Black Journalism)
  • San Diegans moves to Tijuana: Growing number of San Diego residents prices from their city housing market is moving to Tijuana, KPBS News report. And it will affect residents of some middle-class neighborhoods in Tijuana who now see housing prices rising as well.

Border Report: Reimagining a Choral Masterpiece for the San Diego-Tijuana Region Source link Border Report: Reimagining a Choral Masterpiece for the San Diego-Tijuana Region

Related Articles

Back to top button