SASO presents highlights from the Oxaca Opera Festival

Tim Secomb

Twenty-five members of the Southern Arizona Symphony returned recently from Oaxaca, Mexico, where they performed in the Oaxaca Opera Festival.

The full SASO Orchestra will perform highlights of the festival on September 15 in a special Mexican Independence Day free concert with vocalists from the festival and Mariachi Sol Azteca, sponsored by the Mexican Consulate and Instituto Cultural Mexicano, both in Tucson, at the Fox Theater, 17 West Congress in Tucson.

The SASO musicians, together with several players from Oaxaca and one from Brazil, made up the Festival Orchestra and were joined by 100 singers in four performances. This year the festival included fully staged performances of two operas – Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro – plus two concerts of opera arias.

SASO Music Director Linus Lerner is artistic director and is an internationally known vocal coach and is a natural opera conductor with a deep understanding of the technique and art of singing as well as orchestra conducting. Lerner auditioned and coached the singers from Mexico, Italy and Brazil. All four concerts, with standing room only, were presented at no charge made possible through generous contributions from Tucson supporters Dorothy Vanek, Irving Olson and Tim Secomb. Oaxaca has been officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an important cultural center in Mexico. The area was the home of the prehistoric Olmec-Zapotec and Mixtec cultures.

An opera festival covers multiple areas: musicians and singers learning their parts, vocal coaches, accompanists, stage directors, coaches, lighting and scenery designers and publicity. Lerner provided amazing vision and leadership to make all this happen – and worked even harder than everyone else and because of this, the festival really does have a great future.