Five Colombian sopranos excelling in international lyric theater

Colombian soprano, Catalina Cuervo, Singer, Talent, Art

Photo: Philip Groshong.

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Since the 17th century, with the birth of opera in Florence, Italy, the top protagonists in music were no longer […]

Since the 17th century, with the birth of opera in Florence, Italy, the top protagonists in music were no longer the great instrumentalists and composers, the role was given to the singers who portrayed the characters of the works of Monteverdi, Purcell and Mozart in court.

Lyric singers, as the interpreters are known, make their impact through universal stories that have great dramatic heft. The transcendence of these figures has been so great that many of them, in addition to being on stage, making records, doing tours and recitals, have become cultural legends like María Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, and Plácido Domingo.

Colombia has produced world-class talent in lyric singing. We would like to introduce you to five women who have traveled around the world, successfully performing in operas and zarzuelas.

Catalina Cuervo

She is currently the leading role in the opera Frida with the Michigan Opera Theater Company of the Detroit Opera House in Detroit, United States. She is a singer, Arabic dancer and model, and is recognized worldwide for performing in the most productions of the Piazzola work, “María de Buenos Aires”, including with the companies Florida Grand Opera, Cincinnati Opera and Syracuse Opera.

She represented Colombia in the international “Neue Stimmen” competition in Germany and was a finalist. She also won the Chicago Division for the “Classical Singer Magazine” Competition and was a finalist in New York for the same contest.

Zoraida Salazar

You can’t overlook one of the most important Colombian sopranos in the country’s history: Zoraida Salazar. She is a Cali native and her career of over 30 years has included countless shows throughout the world. In 1981, she won the Luciano Pavarotti Competition, just a couple of years after graduating from the Antonio María Valencia Conservatory in Cali and moving to Milan, Italy.

She performed at the Teatro Colón in Bogota, the Opera Theatre of Rome, the National Theatre of Japan, and the Metropolitan in New York; just a few of the cities that she visited in the peak of her career portraying characters of great works including The Marriage of Figaro, Rigoletto, Don Giovanni and Carmen. One of the first artists to make Colombia’s name known on stage.

Juanita Lascarro

Colombian soprano trained at the Cologne Conservatory, Germany. As a regular member since 2002 at the Frankfurt Opera, one of the largest theaters in Europe (1400 people), she has portrayed notable opera characters including Emma from Fierrabrás by Schubert, the Countess in The Marriage of Fígaro by Mozart, and Poppea by Monteverdi.

Recognized for the numerous times she has portrayed the lead role in the opera Dafne by Strauss, Lascarro chose the German musical tradition when she began her training. Her mother, Marina Tafur, was also a lyric singer and was possibly the inspiration she needed to break free and begin her successful soprano career.

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Alexandra Zabala

This Colombian took classes from the late Luciano Pavarotti when she was a finalist in a singing competition. Born in Bogota, she began her career as a soprano in the hands of Carmiña Gallo, one of the great teachers of lyric singing in the country, at the Conservatory of the Universidad Nacional.

With discipline and lots of training, Zabala has performed in world-renowned opera productions including Rigoletto by Verdi and La Bohème by Puccini, and has performed in countries such as Germany, Spain, Italy, China and Chile. One of the most important achievements in the career of this Colombian singer was the “Vissi d’arte” concert with Fiorenza Cedolins and the great Andrea Bocelli at the Pisa Opera Theater.

Gloria Londoño

This opera, zarzuela and oratory soloist has brought her voice to the stage in locations as varied as Morrocco and Portugal, with stops in Japan, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and the United States. She began singing at the Conservatorio de Bellas Artes in Medellin and then traveled to Dresden, Germany, to perfect her technique. She also studied in the United States, where she developed the Cultural Group for the Arts supported by Stamford Cultural Development, as the head of the singing department; and in the Reina Sofía National Music School in Spain, under the mentorship of Italian soprano Magda Oliveros, among others.

Gloria Londoño was a finalist in the Luciano Pavarotti International Singing Competition, representing Colombia, and she was part of the Soloists of the 21st Century tour for Radio Clásica of the Spanish National Radio. This Colombian soprano is also recognized for her Zarzuela interpretations. Although she lives in Spain, she has performed with the National Symphonic Orchestras of Colombia and the Philharmonic Orchestras of Bogota and Medellin.

In Colombia we are known for our traditional, folkloric and popular music but we also have centers for academic music training that have produced great talent. Musicians, composers, orchestra directors and, in this case, singers, also carry the flag of our country to new heights.