The Orchestra of New Spain
delivers another terrific program of Baroque opera with the 18th century
zarzuela Iphigenia en Tracia.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones, February 19, 2016
(Click to full review)
Grover Wilkins is on to something. His foray into the production of Baroque opera fills an obvious vacancy in the artistic life of North Texas...On Saturday, in
the Dallas City Performance Hall, Orchestra of New Spain gave a terrific
performance of a rarity: Iphigenia en Tracia, José de Nebra's
1747 zarzuela, in a modern premiere…a superb production.
The star of the production is stage
director Gustavo Tambascio. Mexican mezzo-soprani Carla Lopez Speziale and
Eugenia Ramirez portrayed the male characters. Speziale gave Orestes some royal
dignity, even when in disguise. Ramirez was also believable as Prince Polidoro,
although she was a bit undersized. Both women showcased beautiful voices.
Dallas-based Fredericka Popova continued to impress, showing growth with every
performance. Her Iphigenia commanded the stage. Leslie Hochman turned in a fine
performance as Dircea. Nick Miller brought royal substance to the role of
Toante, King of Tracia.
Spanish dancer and
choreographer Jaime Puente did a marvelous job in both areas. Nicolas Boni’s
lovingly painted verdant seashore set and Antonio Bartolo’s extravagant
costumes combined to make this ONS’s most lavish production yet.
Corte the Music of Goya”
March 22, 2015 at Siglo de Oro Festival, El Paso.
by Benjamin Gunter "Theater with a Mission" Bulletin of the Comediantes, 68.1 Fall 2016
Maestro Wilkins prepared us
for Chamizal’s first encounter with the tonadilla
by a brief introduction to the
genre… Tonadillas, were popular
musical theater sketches, designed for presentation in a corral where every member of the public had a place, featuring actors
who were famous for their box-office appeal, playing personae well-known to
their fans, in star vehicles which relied on the kind of sure-fire plot devices
that still sell well in telenovelas.
Singing, dancing, and acting – the triple-threat skill set still necessary for
stardom in musical theater – were so central to the genre’s conception that its
librettists remained anonymous.
Villa y Corte had great
value, both for scholars and for people who just like a good show. With period
instruments, period costumes, and a period set, it authoritatively demonstrated
how 18th-century Spanish theater songs, dances, and orchestras
sounded and looked. It inspired its audience to re-think the role of singing,
dancing, and instrumental music – elements easily overlooked when we study
plays on the page –in making classical Spanish theater engaging on the stage.
The singing was consistently well produced and (a rare treat for musical
theater) always well balanced with the orchestra. The orchestra was admirably
dramatic, adding a fine rendition of the Andante
sostenuto from Boccherini’s La casa
del diavolo to the program, proof that 18th-century Spanish
composers could write dramatic conflict into their music. The dancing was
dynamic and expert,
other tonadillas won respectful
attention…La competencia held its
audience spellbound. Here, the marriage of situational discord with musical
concord was instantly accessible and totally captivating. The capacity crowd
roared with laughter, listened with rapture, and rocketed to its feet when this
closing sketch concluded. It was an ovation well earned by an evening superbly
equipped to delight, instruct, and inspire.
Review: Dia de la Raza by Robin Coffelt, Theater Jones, Oct 16, 2014
…..The three female singers in
particular were all delightful, especially soprano Anna Popova, an area
regular, who has a consistently full, rich, projecting voice. Some of the
individual musicians in the small orchestra also did their jobs effectively:
Veronika Vassileva brought animation and leadership to the concertmaster role,
while cellist Eric Smith, bassist Gudrun Raschen, and harpsichordist Rene
Schmidt excelled in providing a solid continuo.
The musical selections, on the other
hand, were interesting and well-chosen. The uncovering of forgotten music is
this orchestra’s forte. The tonadilla “Los Cómicos de
México” effectively showcased baritone Patrick Gnage, tenor Michael Alonzo, and
mezzo soprano Elda Paralto. Paralto has a delicious tone, and Gnage and Alonzo,
while not projecting quite as well as their female counterparts (often, I am
told, an issue for mid- and low-range voices and instruments in this hall),
provided solid voices and appropriate levity in their roles.
The Orchestra of New Spain
kicks off its new season with an excellent house concert of Baroque work.
by Robin Coffelt, Theater Jones, Oct 2, 2016
(Click to see full review)
House concerts such as the one
delivered by the Orchestra of New Spain Sunday evening are not only about the
quality of the music. They’re about the deliciousness of the food and wine, the
opulence of the hosting home, the charm of the other guests, and the plentitude
of the other amenities such as valet parking. The Orchestra of New Spain’s most recent house concert excelled on
The Orchestra of New Spain’s primary
strength is presenting Metroplex listeners with music they would likely not
hear otherwise. The Quartet Galant’s performance was no exception: it featured
music from the Spanish music from the court of Aranjuez in the late 18th and early 19th centuries... Less well-known than Boccherini were
the other two composers on the program, the violinist Gaetano Brunetti and the
so-called “Spanish Mozart,” Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga.
The four musicians performed
with energy and verve.
The quartet, with their tight
ensemble and remarkable tone on their period instruments, did the work justice,
and gave listeners a wonderful opportunity to familiarize themselves with this
seldom-heard music… Sunday’s concert was among the best of the lot.
New Spain? No
The Orchestra of
New Spain goes 1920s British for an evening of poetry and music by Edith
Stillwell and William Walton…
by Robin Coffelt, Theater Jones, Mar 30, 2014
(click for full review)
….Wait, what? Yes, with modern
instruments—including a saxophone, no less—and replete with audience members in
1920s-themed garb, this was not the Orchestra of New Spain's usual oeuvre… ONS
performed the piece again Oct. 18 at the McNay Museum in San Antonio in
conjunction with its exhibit of later works of Joan Miró, so there was method
in the considerable madness.
Written for six instruments and
reciter, the work is less a narrated piece in the conventional sense than one
that uses the speaker as a sort of percussion instrument, with the text of
Sitwell's poems in a jazzy counterpoint to Walton's quirky music. WRR radio
personality Nancy Brunson and baritone Edward Crafts provided lively, energetic
readings. The six members of the ensemble are all capable
players who brought verve and whimsy to the proceedings.
Orchestra of New Spain's foray into
modernism was an interesting experiment that with some minor tweaking and some
expansion into full concert length could be worthy of further exploration. This
is a piece that is seldom performed and takes a particular set of personalities
as much as musical gifts to pull it off. In that regard, the evening was a
from the Casa de Alba"
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones, Sep 22,
All of the members of the orchestra did a fine
job, even the horns, and all played with excellent intonation and facility.
Brad Bennight was a genius at the harpsichord. his work was both creative and
offered an effectual grounding for the entire orchestra. His solo turn, on a
piece by Scarlatti, demonstrated why he is so effective. Bennight’s performance
Tenor Nicholas Garza showed us his considerable
abilities as an alto. Soprano Anna Frederika Popova’s voice continues to grow
and add depth and resonance. Mezzo-soprano Jendi Tarde brings a background in
the theater to her performances helps her bring her characterizations to life.
Tenor Andrew Dittman gave in impressive performance in his aria, displaying a
gorgeous and creamy tenor voice. ……
Wilkins does a fine job as conductor…easily negotiated
the many tempo changes and changes of pace so that the overall ensemble of the
performance was spot on.
Wilkins recovered music manuscripts from this era
by searching through the archives of the Liria Palace, which came to the House
of Alba in the 19th Century.
“Gone a Courtin”
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones, Feb 14, 2015
…Orchestra of New Spain thrills with
five Spanish tonadillas, or comic operettas.
it is quite another to recreate the
way things were staged, acted and costumed. This is admirably accomplished in
the current weekend of concerts, entitled Villa y Corte. Gustavo Tambascio, a highly respected director specializing in
historical stagecraft, brings an unfailing sense of humor to all the accuracy. Costumer Antonio Bartolo creates some outlandishly extravagant dresses …and choreographer Jamie Puente’s work with two solo dancers, who act as a Greek
chorus, also extends to the graceful movements of the singers.
ONS regulars Jendi Tarde, Patrick
Gnage, and Anna Frederika Popova all get star turns. Mexican mezzo-soprano
Eugenia Ramirez….makes a welcome return. The surprise is the tenor Sergio
Cepeda in his first appearance with ONS He has a wonderful lyric tenor voice.
Ramirez impressed on her last visit
and underlined that judgment in this production. It is also a treat to hear
Popova’s “real” voice, without the Baroque restriction (and) lets her
considerable comedic talents out to play. Jendi Tarde and Patrick Gnage also
add to the general send-up of operatic convention.
The orchestra played the great range
of music with fine ensemble and generally excellent intonation—
Corte” by Robin Coffelt, Theater Jones, Mar 30, 2014
….musical skits, which are a
fun genre unfamiliar to most contemporary audiences.
Anna Fredericka Popova and
Jendi Tarde shone on the
first such skit as two rival sisters who attempt to out-sing one another. Their
well-matched sopranos were effective, although balance was an issue
The Orchestra of New Spain
was most successful Saturday evening
when it was playing to its niche—seldom-heard Spanish Baroque. Music
Director Grover Wilkins researched the
tonadillas in Madrid, and that dedication and passion is evident in the
performances. Bringing Dallas audiences works that are simply not heard
elsewhere is a gift that this orchestra can provide, and that should continue
to be its focus."
of New Spain’s Flamenco concert heats up Dallas City Performance Hall”
by Manuek Mendoza, DMN, Feb 16, 2014
…The pair’s passionate
interplay was among the concert’s highlights, tapping the soul of southern
Spain’s centuries-old flamenco culture. (Cristo) Cortes’ raspy, rough-hewn cries captured flamenco’s raw style born
of oppression, (Antonio) Arrebola,
his body cocked upright, brought the pride and swagger. It opened with the orchestra’s sensitive rendering of Falla’s
1917 pantomime ballet El Corregidor y la Molinera…Music director Grover Wilkins conducted a chamber version
…. In the staccato style of gypsy tunes, the music chirped, galloped and
raced…..The show’s second section featured dance ensembles animated by Canciones Antiguas, Lorca’s
recreation of old Andalusian folk songs, a root source for flamenco.
The bravura peaked in the final, a tablao that opened with extended
picking and tapping by San Francisco based guitarist Ricardo Diaz"
production bodes well for Orchestra of New Spain’s Future"
by Wayne Lee
Gay, D Magazine, Feb 18, 2013
"The Orchestra of New Spain and
music director Grover Wilkins won a permanent place of honor on the local music
scene .. a masterful and constantly
delightful production of eighteenth-century Spanish composer Sebastián Durón’s
zarzuela Las Nuevas armas de amor
The production,…..was both simple and
authentic, with extraordinary attention to reviving the acting styles,
costumes, and sets Mezzo-soprano Carla
López Speziale in the title role of Cupid was first among many spectacular
artists in the cast, which also featured remarkable performances by soprano
Irasema Terrazas as Diana and soprano Anna Fredericka Popova as Jupiter.
Stage director Gustavo Tambascio
succeeded in bringing the stylized to life in a way that was never dull or
pedantic, while Wilkins conducted an engaging reading by the small but tightly
concise orchestra and chorus."
“All Aquiver” Cupid's New Weapons
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones Feb 15, 2013
(Click to see full review)
….once you stepped back mentally and
looked at the stunningly beautiful tableau vivant that stage director
Gustavo Tambascio created….. you immediately understood what is meant by
the "Baroque style of acting."
Mexican mezzo Carla López
Speziale, as Cupid, brought us all nearly to tears in the aria when the god
mourned the loss of his arrows. The role of Diana, a female god ….was
beautifully sung by Irasema Terrazas.
It is beautifully sung by
artists who specialize in Baroque performance practices, directed and brought
to the stage by experts in recreating the experience as it was seen by the
Spanish court, accompanied by an orchestra ...on
original instruments and conducted by one of the nation's leading experts on (Spanish) Baroque music.
baroque sounds from Orchestra of New Spain", DMN Oct 14, 2012
…..A la Jacara, Jacarilla by
the Spanish-born Mexican composer Juan de Padilla, celebrated the Nativity in
syncopated dance rhythms. Led by
artistic director Grover Wilkins, the music was performed with skill and élan. From the eight singers came fine solos from sopranos Anna
Popov and Rebecca Wilson, alto Laura Warriner and tenor Nicholas Garza"
DMN Oct 18, 2010
“a mass…..by Francisco
Courcelle..was the evening’s most sophisticated music, balancing bold choral
passages with antiphony and counterpoint. Wilkins led enthusiastic and
stylish performances. The eight singers sang boldly, brightly and well in
ensemble. Sopranos Laura Warriner and Anna Popov were standout soloists.
In Courcelle, the valveless horns were managed with impressive security. ……
chamber-organ continue provided perfectly balanced imaginative and unobtrusive
blends Old, New World", DMN, Tue Dec 8, 2009
…this was the most polished
concert I can remember from Wilkins’ flexible group of singers and
instrumentalists …… the playing, even of the
notoriously cranky valveless baroque trumpets and horns was secure, as well as
spirited and stylish.
Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post
February 12, 2008
"Grover Wilkins conducted two
vocal soloists and the Orchestra of New Spain...bringing to life a luminous
sampling of 18th-century Spanish court and theater music. ...Both singers
captured the emotional radiance and buoyant energy streaming through the
sacred fare, awash in muted mysticism."
Dallas Morning News January 21, 2008
"While some of our most
eminent musical presenters... seem ever warier of trotting out any but the most
well-worn warhorses, the Orchestra of New Spain keeps surprising us. ...
Stylishly played, with minimal vibrato, the 18th-century-style
instruments were revelatory."
Dallas Morning News, Feb 12, 2007
"Glorious 18th-century Spanish
sacred music rang through ... Composed for the Spanish court, this was music of grandeur, drama, excitement and poignancy."
Cantrell, Dallas Morning News, April 19, 2005"But the gloriously
dramatic Mass in D by Francisco Courcelle turns out to be a genuine
masterpiece, worthy of a place alongside the great masses of Bach, Haydn and
Charles Ward, November 17, 2003,
... impressive for its
imagination and, especially, its rhythmic vitality...The 20-member [orchestra]
of period instruments added a nice, spicy authenticity. The chorus sang
with obvious affection for the music."
Olin Chism, November
14, 2003, Dallas Morning News
"The Orchestra of New
Spain warmed up for a brief tour to Houston and New Orleans... The program of
little-known music from 18th-century Spain left a vivid impression. Grover Wilkins, who chose the program,
has a keen ear for what works. The most impressive was Courcelle. ... mass, at
times moving, at times joyous, and consistently beautiful...
reminiscent of Haydn. This was high-quality music that inspired the obvious
question: Why isn’t it better known?