Hispanics at the Center Stage of Opera in St. Louis
Q&A with Phillip Lopez, of Opera Theater in St. Louis
As we approach the upcoming *Young Friends Night at the Opera with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Sunday June 18 (Tickets and more information here), we wanted to bring you a personal account from a young Hispanic artist who is already making long-lasting contributions to the local Opera.
Phillip Lopez, 24, is part of the The Gerdine Young Artists program of the Opera Theater in St. Louis.
“Opera Theatre of St. Louis is a leading company of contemporary opera and diverse selection from many other periods in the genre – although I am but a young artist in the program, I believe I can say that OTSL appreciates your support, and would look forward to welcoming you to enjoy any one of its programs throughout its festival season.
Lopez, whose family is from Jalisco, Mexico, hopes the young Hispanic community not only attends the upcoming performance of Titus, but falls in love with the world of Opera.
Q: Do you recall the first time you attended/listened to an Opera performance? What effect did it have on you?
PL: I first saw an opera when I was a Freshman in college, in 2013. I was already done performing my first series of Sacred Cantatas by J.S. Bach in a very emotional production, and I was given the amazing opportunity to see Puccini’s “La boheme” with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, with Anna Netrebko as the leading soprano, Mimi. I had heard only two arias from the show before, but I was immediately drawn to the beauty of the singing and stage design for the show. After I left the show, I didn’t know whether I would ever see an opera as good as that one ever again!
Q: When did you decide to embark in your career in the Opera? What made you take that decision?
PL: I was initially a Music Education major in college, mostly because of the idea of studying something with definite career prospects and strong possibility of placement in a career immediately after school. However, in my Freshman year, I understood my desire to study singing, and alongside performing in the Cantatas by Bach that I had mentioned, I was so drawn to the prospect of being able to sing beautiful music for the breadth of my career. I always reflect back on the beauty of music as to why I wanted to study opera and art song.
Q: What influences/contributions have Hispanics made to the world of Opera?
PL: This is quite a difficult question, because Hispanic contribution to opera is immense. Not only are there many famous and integral Hispanic opera singers, including Erwin Schrott, Juan Diego Florez, Oralia Dominguez, and Raquel Pierotti, but there have been many recent developments of the repertoire due to Hispanic influence. Notable are the contributions by Daniel Catan in “Florencia en el Amazonas”, Osvaldo Golijov in “Ainadamar”, Astor Piazzolla in “Maria de Buenos Aires”, and Jimmy Lopez in “Bel Canto.” Not only are there these famous instances of operas written and performed by Hispanics, but opera is a collaborative art – how Hispanic professionals have affected the art form by working in the field of opera around the world for the last 100 years would be unfathomable.
Q: What would you say to Hispanics who have not been exposed to the Opera as to why they should give it a try?
PL: Opera is an advanced art – it is the combination of music, text, movement, stage design, lighting, and atmosphere that contributes to our aesthetic experience of this very live theater phenomena. Opera is a sophisticated design that is growing in popularity, especially in the St. Louis area, due to its variety and ability to influence our perception of the world. And, while opera is often times misrepresented as a boring experience, in contrast, I see it as an opportunity to enjoy beautiful music alongside drama. The only way that people will ever be able to experience the benefits of opera, however, is actually going to see a performance! I ensure that the experience can be overwhelmingly beautiful and emotional – no matter the show.
Q: What role do you think the arts, music, and specifically the Opera should have in the Hispanic community?
PL: I am always drawn to the idea that the arts and humanities should be an immense part of any community. The Hispanic community already has the influence of popular and traditional music forms in its everyday existence – we hear Spanish-language music on the radio, we have Mariachi at many events in the United States, and we now have influence from other foreign cultures that are interested in Hispanic music as a commodity. While many of us already have a strong idea of what Hispanic music is and how it has affected our own lives, Hispanic Opera, and the many opera houses across the United States, have instilled a relationship between our communities and high-quality productions of complex music drama. Every community, in my opinion, should have the opportunity to learn about the benefits of listening and understanding the beauty of classical music, and how it influences our relationship to the world and ourselves. Opera is a 400 year old art form that has persisted because of its versatility and aesthetic diversity – and in this, I think our youngest to our eldest can benefit from learning more about its contribution to our world society.
*As part of OTSL’s Young Friends program, Opera Theatre is welcoming young professionals 45 and under from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to attend Sunday, June 18th’s production of Titus with special discounted tickets of $39.50, which include food, drinks and a meet and greet with the cast of this exciting production.
To purchase your tickets for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Night at Opera Theatre, visit (www.experienceopera.org) and use the code “HISPANICCOC” or call the box office at (314) 961-0644.