COCC in Bend hosts opera concert

Duo unearths “hidden jewels” of Spanish vocal music

By David Jasper / The Bulletin

If you go

What: Hidden Jewels of the Spanish Vocal Repertoire

When: 7 tonight

Where: Central Oregon Community College, Pinckney Center for the Arts, 2600 N.W. College Way, Bend

Cost: $12, $6 for students

Contact: www.operabend.org or 541-350-9805

Duo Castro-Esquivel will serve up the sounds of Spain when they perform their Hidden Jewels of the Spanish Vocal Repertoire concert tonight in Bend (see “If you go”).

Presented by OperaBend and the Central Oregon Community College Fine Arts and Communication Deptartment, the concert features often overlooked songs, either written for contralto or transcribed for the sonorous voice of Karen Esquivel, Voice and Opera Workshop instructor at the University of Oregon.

The concert will include songs by Isaac Albeniz, Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla and Manuel Penella.

“Even though (this material) is part of the art-song repertoire, it isn’t performed all that often, especially with people who are native singers and great interpreters of that kind of music,” said OperaBend’s Nancy Engebretson. “So I’m very excited.”

Music and academics brought together the husband-wife duo of Esquivel and pianist Gustavo Castro, Esquivel told GO! Magazine. The two met in Costa Rica when Esquivel was there taking care of her father.

“I was hired by the University of Costa Rica to fill in for someone’s sabbatical leave, and my husband, Gustavo, was in charge of the collaborative pianists. I had to go find whoever was in charge of the pianists, and it was him, and that’s how we met. We ended up doing recitals together, and ended up getting married,” Esquivel said.

“I’m a contralto, so I’m at the bottom of the rung as far as voice types go, so it’s always fun trying to find repertoire for me,” she said.

Both members of the duo love opera, and Esquivel’s investigations into Spanish opera led her to discover “there were a bunch of operas by some of Spain’s best composers … just beginning to come out,” she said. “They have (been) lost.”

Some were simply ignored for reasons political and otherwise, while some weren’t even made known in their time.

“Manuel de Falla — one of the people (whose work) we’ll be singing, from one of the better known operas, ‘La Vida Breve’ — he won a competition with that in Spain. First prize was to have it performed in the theater. And they refused to perform it,” Esquivel said. “So after trying for a long time to get it done … he ended up going to France and having it done there.

“And that was very common for people to leave Spain and do more studies outside of Spain, which is really sad,” she continued. “But at least they got out … so a lot of works are in other languages, or have been translated into other languages.”

These days, “you can get scores, which you couldn’t before. So there’s been a rediscovery, really pushed by (tenor) Placido Domingo,” Esquivel said.

After their performance here, Esquivel and Castro plan to present the concert in Missouri, where Castro works as collaborative pianist at the University of Central Missouri.

Next up for OperaBend is Scenes Production of Musical Theatre and Opera, a program being offered at COCC during the spring term in collaboration with OperaBend. It starts March 31, and will culminate in a May 31 collaborative performance with the UO Opera Workshop.

— Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com