When most people think about opera, they picture old men in powdered wigs singing glorious arias. While it is true that opera did originate in Europe, it has spread to each of the continents and taken on a new cultural twist. For example, opera in Latin America is melded with national identity, especially in Mexico.
When the Renaissance hit, the Conquistadors were just making their way into Central America. As time passed and more and more Spainards settled in what is today Mexico, they brought their European operas with them. Because of this, many of the first operas written by composers of Latin descent are written in Italian or French rather than Spanish. Because of the prominence of European art during this time period, it took a long time for operas written specifically for Mexican audiences to appear, with the first one arguably being Cenobio Paniagua’s Catalina de Guisa. Much of the music to early Mexican operas has been lost, so it is difficult to gauge the exact purpose that they were written for.
Mexico remained colonized until 1821, and after that, the nation faced many issues that delayed its development. Because of this, not much government funding was poured into the arts, and few operas were performed in a widespread manner, resulting in a loss of fame for their composers. For a while, the only popular kind of opera in Mexico was Italian. However, as time passed and Mexico became a more established nation, composers of Mexican opera gained more recognition for their works.
Here are a few notable composers, and their most popular operas:
La mulata de Córdoba by José Pablo Moncayo - This opera focuses on a Mexican myth of a magical woman, and it premiered in 1948.
Cómo aprendió Nanita a hacer flan by José Enrique González Medina - This opera is a reflection on how technology affects family life, and it premiered in 2017.
Although early Mexican opera was often lost or unpopular, many efforts have been made to recover and perform the works. Furthermore, the genre is still developing today, and the music is often performed not just in Mexico, but across the world. It’s rising popularity will hopefully contribute to a newfound appreciation of music that is often unthought of.
La Mulata de Córdoba. Bienvenidos al Fuerte de San Juan de Ulúa. (n.d.). https://www.sanjuandeulua.inah.gob.mx/leyendas-de-la-fortaleza/la-mulata-de-cordoba.
List of MEXICAN OPERAS. Wikiwand. (n.d.). https://www.wikiwand.com/en/List_of_Mexican_operas#/google_vignette.
Post, M. D. (2018, October 21). History of opera in Mexico. The Mazatlan Post. https://themazatlanpost.com/2018/10/21/history-of-opera-in-mexico/.