It tells you something about the low international profile of Spanish music that the pieces we most associate with the country... Bizet’s Carmen and Ravel’s Bolero... were composed by Frenchmen. Grover Wilkins and his Dallas-based Orchestra of New Spain are working to change that situation. - Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News

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DID YOU KNOW...
The orchestra gets its name from the present area of Texas and Mexico which was originally called New Spain by the Spanish explorers. We seek to present music from 'Old' Spain in the land of New Spain.


Pegasus Musical Society, a 501(c) 3 non profit corporation
dba Orchestra of New Spain
email info@orchestraofnewspain.org

10260 N. Central Expy., Ste. 276
Dallas, TX 75231-3440
tel 214-750-1492
fax 214-750-1492 (on demand)

 

   

CONCERT REVIEWS



Spanish Flair”

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.
 
 

“Villa y Corte the Music of Goya”

Performed 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,

 

Where 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.
 



“Period Adjustment”

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 all fronts.

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 Spain!

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 and well-timed 
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 success. 

 

   

"Music from the Casa de Alba"
 by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones, Sep 22, 2015

 

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 was remarkable.

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. Pure honey.  

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— 


 

“In Your 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."

 

“Orchestra 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"

 

"Ambitious 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 of Love

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.

 

 


 

"Lively, 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 support."

 
"Concert 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." 
 

Scott Cantrell, 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."

 

Scott Cantrell, 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."

 

Scott 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 Mozart." 

 

Charles Ward, November 17, 2003, Houston Chronicle

... 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?