Lyric Fest had a chance to catch up with our guest artists, Carla Dirlikov, Diego Silva and Luis Ledesma to talk a bit about Spanish song…
How does it feel to bring Spanish music to non-Spanish communities and what appeals to you in the repertoire?
Diego: I have found that Spanish and Mexican music is not generally well known and so I feel it is part of our responsibility as a Latin America persons to share this music. In Mexico, we have wonderful composers. The Mexican soul has brought forth a very specific kind of music, very melancholic. Texts deal with love and disappointment. This is a strong part of our culture, it’s stuck under our skin, it inspires our art. I find you can even hear it in our voices, there is always a cry in the sound.
Carla: It’s an honor to bring this repertoire to a non-Spanish community, and in particular to my home base of Philadelphia! I don’t often get to sing here, so I am thrilled to have the chance to perform some of my favorite songs for this community. I have found that audiences always seem to love Spanish repertoire and respond enthusiastically to it, something that speaks to the merits of this music. In Mexico music has a place in the culture and in the everyday lives of most latin people, much the way that our pop music does here at home. It always puts a smile on my face to hear many of the classics sung by taxi drivers, waiters and of course my entire family when I am back in Mexico!
Luis: It is a pleasure for me to sing in my own language and present a part of my culture to other audiences. I love to share the dances of Latin America, too, the tangos, boleros, flamenco.
And, as a Mexican artist, how connected or not connected do you feel to Spain. In the world arena do you feel “Spanish” or “Mexican”.
Diego: I feel like all Latin-Americans feel the mix of cultures that make them who they are. We may try to forget where we come from, but it is always there… even the color of my skin shows me to be a true mix of cultures, I am of Spanish and native Mexican blood. As an opera singer, I feel Mexican. This is easy, because Mexican tenors especially have been well known, and so the way is cleared. In fact, Mexico is a big exporter of voices. We might not have what it takes to completely educate and finish a voice, but we produce wonderful voices. And as singers we have a unique approach to music, I feel it touches us in a different way and so we have a unique form of expression.
Carla: I have always felt a huge connection to Spain. In fact, the first time that I ever visited Spain, I had such a strong sensation of being “home”. I think it may have something to do with the fact that my father is European (Bulgarian) and my mom is Mexican, and Spain is a natural melange of both of those cultures. I really can’t describe it well, but there is a “duende” attitude that comes out in Spanish music and culture, and something within me comes alive! In particular, I feel a spiritual connection with the role of Carmen, which I have had the privilege of singing in several productions over the last two years, all over the world. I spent a great deal of time preparing this character and in doing so analyzing the “soul” of Spain. It fascinates me! At the end of the day, though I am Mexican my blood, I feel a sense of belonging when I am in Spain.
Luis: Well, we speak the same language with a few differences – and we really cannot deny we are part of Spain. But in the world arena, I am 100% Mexican! I love Spain, but I am Mexican. Being Mexican, I have half Indian and half Spanish blood. When I am in Spain, for example, I am very aware that I look different – my nose, my skin color. But my father always commented on my beard, and how Spanish it was to have that. If I had more Indian blood, I’d have only four hairs! They have no hair.
How do you feel Mexican music differs from Spanish music, can you talk about the differences that people will hear on the concert?
Diego: Spanish music has more bravura, more flamenco. It is very rhythmic and shows the influence of the Moors. Mexican music has a more simple and honest form of expressing an emotion. There are steady melodies and beautiful lines. For this reason it is easy to tell when you are dealing with a Mexican composer vs a Spanish composer.
Luis: To me there are big difference. The music of Spain has different harmonies and rhythms from the ones of Latin America. Latin American music is more syncopated. Famous tango rhythm is completely Latin American, but also in a specific bolero form, much more romantic than that of Ravel.
In general the music of the later Spanish composers is not as musically complex as the music of the contemporaneous Latin American composers. I believe this is because many of the Latin America composers traveled widely and were educated in the United States and in Europe, so their music was layered with these influences. Piazzola, for example, was in Harlem in the 20’s, in the heart of jazz and his music reflects a mixture of Spain, Latin America and the Harlem jazz rhythms of the that period.
How would you characterize the heart and soul of Spanish Song?
Luis: Soul, heart, blood and history. In Spanish Song you will hear all this and along with, the influence of the Arabic world, you will hear a sorrow that is always present. Repression of our culture has brought us so much pain that in Mexican music and Spanish music, too, the pain and sorrow is present in the sound of the voice itself.
Carla: To answer this I would refer to Federico Garcia Lorca’s writings on duende, which are extensive and beautifully written. (Duende, though hard to describe, has to do with the physical/emotional responses that music evokes in the listener.) Indeed the soul of Spanish song has something black; something raw; something that is within each of us at the core of our essence as humans, and as animals. It is not always beautiful or romantic, but it is captivating and passionate and needs to be expressed. We often associate this as something sexual and of the flesh, and I will leave that to the listener to decide. The heart of Spanish song is essential to expressing the human condition in that it is intense and visceral. Ultimately it is the raw emotion of this music which captivates me as an artist. I am constantly seeking truth in music and art, and I feel that at its core the heart and soul of Spanish song is just that—brave, vulnerable and true!