OLA approaches the Caribbean scene
Following an invitation from the Fundación Sinfonía, an institution that since 1986 has worked for the promotion and dissemination of symphonic music in the Dominican Republic, Ópera Latinoamérica attended the 50th anniversary of the Eduardo Brito National Theater. This occasion marks one of the first approaches of the Ibero-American network of theaters to the Caribbean area, where the programming of both own and local creations and rentals of major international productions are mixed.
Tour Santo Domingo, visit its iconic Eduardo Brito National Theater and be surprised by the influences on its architecture, which range from the Teatre Principal in Palma to the Metropolitan Opera House. Get to know a family that, through philanthropy, has promoted the development of the local art scene and, on the other hand, the operation of the General Directorate of Fine Arts (DGBA) of the Ministry of Culture, which has ten stable casts. For the first time in its history, Ópera Latinoamérica (OLA) entered the Dominican Republic and learned, first hand, the management of the most symbolic theaters on the island.
Invited by the Fundación Sinfonía, the executive director of OLA, Alejandra Martí, attended the celebration of the fifty-year history of the National Theater, an occasion in which Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was performed by the National Symphony Orchestra along with a choir of more than 100 voices formed especially for this occasion. “The Dominican Republic has a young musical and lyrical scene with great potential. Operas have been presented at the National Theater because it has the infrastructure for it and the country has a great diversity of artistic groups. In addition, it is very valuable that there is an entity like Sinfonía that, from the private world, has also contributed to the development of Dominican classical arts. They are entities that work collaboratively and that could perfectly expand their national and international networks to continue growing”, comments Alejandra Martí.
Founded in 1986 by Pedro Rodríguez Villacañas and Margarita Copello de Rodríguez, Fundación Sinfonía initially had the objective of rescuing the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic, a body that it directed until 2002, the year in which management was transferred to the new Ministry of Culture. . Currently, the foundation is directed by Margarita Miranda de Mitrov and is dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of learned music in the Dominican Republic, through various initiatives: the organization of concerts, festivals -among them, the Santo Domingo Music Festival- and mediation and musical appreciation activities, in addition to the creation of the Young Philharmonic of the Dominican Republic with the support of YOA-Orquesta de las Américas and the Batuta Foundation of Colombia.
The Teatro Nacional Eduardo Brito
At number 35 Avenida Máximo Gómez, in the Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo, stands the Teatro Nacional Eduardo Brito, a building that, at first glance, draws attention for its evocations of the architecture of the Metropolitan Opera House, with its arches and columns of modernist style. The similarity is not coincidental; In 1970, the then President of the Dominican Republic, Joaquín Balaguer, commissioned the architect Teófilo Carbonell to build a theater that would house the greatest artistic shows.
Carbonell took his notes and went out to visit the most emblematic coliseums in Europe and America, and completed his expectations with the best theaters in the United States. Thus, after three years of construction, the Santo Domingo National Theater was inaugurated in 1973, which was later, in 2006, renamed Eduardo Brito in honor of the emblematic Dominican baritone.
Dependent on the Dirección General de Bellas (DGBA) of the Ministry of Culture, the Teatro Nacional Eduardo Brito has three rooms and a bar that bears the name of Juan Lockward, singer, composer and bohemian known as «El Mago de la Media Voz». In its halls there are shows by stable bodies –also dependent on the DGBA– such as the National Lyric Company, the Dominican National Ballet, the Folkloric Ballet, the National Contemporary Dance Company and the National Theater Company, among others.
“In the last 2 years, the Dominican Republic has enjoyed performances of musicals such as Mariposas de Acero, about the life of the Mirabal Sisters, martyrs of the Trujillista tyranny, deserving of the best reviews, and Juana la Loca, locura o conspiración, with an adaptation brilliant play written by the renowned Manuel Rueda. A high quality production worldwide. In addition to constant theater, music and dance seasons where the best of the country’s performing arts are exhibited”, says Marianella Sallent, director of the DGBA.
“The National Theater has always been more than anything a venue to rent large productions and the general and artistic direction of the theater has always taken care to ensure that the programming has a level and is professional,” says Carlos Veitía, director of the space. This year, for example, the Festival Nacional de Ballet and a production of the play Juana la loca, by the Dominican author Manuel Rueda, were held.
Land of “talent, color and rhythm”
“Opera in the Dominican Republic has been intermittent,” says Carlos Veitía. “This past year we had the schedule to program Tosca, by Giacomo Puccini, but we couldn’t due to a series of factors and we had to reinvent ourselves”.
Fidel López, producer of the Ópera RD company, agrees with Veitía: “Opera has had a very slow process in the Dominican Republic. A few years ago, in 2014, the opera La Bohème was staged, a complete production that was in charge of Ópera RD. It was only in 2019 that we were able to do opera again with the same company, in this case, La Traviata, directed by José Antonio Molina with the participation of the National Symphony Orchestra”, comments the set designer.
“Despite being considered a small country, the Dominican Republic is, however, the origin of great world musicians at the height of Juan Luis Guerra or Michel Camilo, as well as in dance where its exponents have found representations in countries like Spain, Romania, the United States”, comments Marianella Sallent, to which she adds that “it is a land of a lot of talent, a lot of color, a lot of rhythm, the stage performances reach high levels of excellence”.
To find names of learned and lyrical music in the Dominican Republic, one must look, above all, to the 20th and 21st centuries. Key composers such as José de Jesús Ravelo (1876 – 1951) appeared in these periods, who wrote the oratorio La muerte de Cristo and other works that mixed religious orientation with modernist eclecticism. The names of Luis Mena (1895 – 1964) or Rafael Ignacio (1897 – 1984) also stand out, who included currents of folklorism and nationalism in their compositions for orchestra.
“I think it is very important for us to be able to link up with OLA because we need that kind of support and union to update ourselves, create public programs and make the music scene a little bigger, especially opera, in the Dominican Republic” , closes Fidel López.