Obituary: Ópera de Colombia’s Gloria Zea Dies At 83

By Francisco Salazar

Famed Colombian entrepreneur Gloria Zea has died at the age of 83.

The daughter of political figure Germán Zea Hernández, Zea was born in Medellin and became the first wife of famed painter Fernando Botero between 1955 and 1960. Throughout her career Zea became one of the biggest proponents of the arts in Colombia. She was able to to obtain the terrain for the Museo de Arte Moderno and helped obtain funding for the construction of the museum, which was designed by Rogelio Salmona.

She also helped in getting funds for the reconstruction of the historical Teatro Colón, which has seen many great opera singers perform in as well as el Camarín del Carmen, el Museo Nacional, el Museo de Arte Colonial de Bogotá and the National Library.

In 1976 she was named the director of the Ópera de Colombia and started hosting fire-side soirées with international opera singers, invited to Colombia to perform with her Ópera de Colombia. Among them included Juan Diego Florez, Gustavo Dudamel, Angela Brower Anna Netrebko and Sumi Jo. With the company, Zea personally oversaw every aspect of a production, from the choice in lead singers to stage design and lighting and was the reason for bringing historical productions of “Tristan und Isolde” and “Der Rosenkavalier.”

An admirer of Mozart, Wagner and Strauss, Zea is identified as a leader in redefining Colombia’s cultural landscape.

Among her frequent collaborators were stage director Alejandro Chacón, baritone Valeriano Lanchas, and Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Zea died on March 11, 2019 at the Fundación Cardioinfantil of Bogotá.