Mezzo-Soprano Carla Canales to Release Genre-Busting Debut Album, ‘Duende’

By Chris Ruel

Mexican-American mezzo-soprano Carla Canales will release her experimental debut album entitled “Duende” on October 9.

The album drop coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month and will be available on all major streaming platforms.

The album’s title and inspiration come from renowned Spanish poet Federico García Lorca’s interpretation of the word “duende” to signify the human struggle to find life’s meaning through art.

In an email to OperaWire, Canales stated that creating “Duende” was a very personal journey that started in 2018.

“I wanted to explore my identity as a Latina, as a woman, and as a singer. I wanted to consider bridging the gap between the kind of music I listen to and the music I was performing. But most of all, I wanted to dive deep into the darkest parts of my soul, the places where my fears live, and try in some way to search for my duende. This journey began much earlier, in 2010, while singing the title role in ‘Carmen’ at the Opera Royal de Wallonie, under the stage direction of Spanish director Emilio Sagi. He introduced me to the term, and ever since then I’ve been rather obsessed with both the concept of duende and with Federico García Lorca.”

Canales wrote of reevaluating what it means to be an opera singer, with one of the album’s goals being to show classical singers needn’t restrict their voices to the opera house or recital hall — this from a leading interpreter of Carmen, a role she has sung over 80 times at opera houses around the globe.

Five of “Duende’s” tracks are Spanish folksongs arranged for piano and voice by García Lorca. Also included are compositions of her own. These she refers to as “interludes” — pieces created from journal entries and other personal writing that she likens to recitativo, with the García Lorca’s folksongs akin to arias. All of it comes together to create a genre-busting experimental album following in the footsteps of such artists as Radiohead and Björk.

Canales, in her email, wrote that since all the music on “Duende” is sung in Spanish, it’s considered Latin Music and World Music. However, she stated that “the use of electronics and the experimental nature of the arrangements has led people to suggest the term “sub-pop” as a genre, or “trip hop.”

“Perhaps the artists who had the greatest influence on my work for this album were Björk (whose music had a profound impact on me as a teenager) and recently Rosalia.  I started working on ‘Duende’ before her album ‘El Mal Querer’ was released, and hearing her album really blew my mind, particularly for its creative approach to incorporating Flamenco and traditional elements,” wrote Canales.

The album’s first single, “Zorongo” is available now, as is a preview of the full album. Additional information regarding “Duende” is available on Canales’ website.

Along with her singing, Canales serves as an Arts Envoy for the U.S. State Department, a position she has held for 15 years. She is also the founder of the Canales Project, a non-profit devoted to exploring issues of identity and culture through music and conversation.


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