The Art Of Spanish Song – Laura Alonso Padin On Her Carnegie Hall Solo Debut & The Importance Of Zarzuela And Spanish Song

By Francisco Salazar

Carnegie Hall. Name a musician who doesn’t dream of performing there. It is the benchmark for greatness in the world of music with tons of myths revolving around succeeding there.

Soprano Laura Alonso Padin is set to cross that threshold when she makes her solo recital debut in Weill Hall.

“I have done work with the Dallas Symphony, an opera in Lincoln Center and have performed ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ in Illinois, but this is very special for me,” Padin said in a recent interview with OperaWire.

A Dream Come True

Making a solo debut is actually not as common as many might expect. A large portion of artists make their debuts on the historic stage in ensembles, many never getting a chance to perform on their own.

“I sang here before with other colleagues in a concert ‘Friends of Zarzuela’ for the first time. But singing a recital is different especially in this respected hall. This is one of the greatest.”

Since this is a chance of a lifetime, Padin is looking to make it a unique experience for her audience.

“It will be a concert with music of many well-known Spanish composers, but they are not the ones that audiences will immediately recognize. There are also Portuguese songs and some pieces from Gallegan composers and, of course, some Zarzuela. It might not be the most well-known repertoire, but it is easy to listen to.”

For the soprano, it was important to bring her culture and heritage to a special event, especially since it is music she also she knows very well.

“I am lucky because I know this repertoire very well and I have sung it for 22 years and I have done these songs hundreds of times.”

When choosing the repertoire Padin looks to one of her icons, Victoria de Los Ángeles, who championed a lot of Spanish songs and brought unknown works to the fore.

“This is the repertoire that Victoria de Los Ángeles sang and this is a reference that I like to use. She always sang a lot of these pieces in recitals. They are very elegant and audiences always like them.”

The Art of Zarzuela

Zarzuela is an essential part of Padin’s identity.

She grew up with the genre as her grandmother, great-grandmother and uncle sang it throughout their careers and even premiered some respected works. As she notes, “I have breathed Zarzuela since I was born and I think it is something that tells the history of Spain from stories of the North and the South and the texts that are sung are representative of who we are as a culture.

While the artform has been neglected in major theaters throughout the world, Padin notes that the romanzas or arias are beloved by the public. Her experience with German audiences has shown her there is an appreciation for the genre.

“I have been fortunate enough to be called by many of the leading German orchestras and I have performed programs solely of Zarzuela. And the audiences love it.”

That love has equally been shown by many singers like Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca, who Padin lauds for singing many romanzas and recording them.

But the artist she most admires for bringing Zarzuela to audiences around the world is Plácido Domingo.

“He is magnificent. He has the means to promote the artform and he loves it. He really gives support to it and giving it a platform like Operalia is so important.”

But Padin believes there is still a lot to be done to get Zarzuela to the greatest theaters.

“It is difficult. I think Zarzuela should adopt a little to modern culture. They need to promote it a little online to get to new audiences, especially the youth, which is always difficult to do.

“If I was German, my repertoire would include Schumann and Schubert and German repertoire. But because I am Spanish, I love to bring my country’s music. I think the public loves to hear Spanish song from a Spanish native. And a song like “La Tarantula,” I can give it the Andaluz accent. That is difficult to do and Spanish speakers are great for this.”

The Portuguese Language

Zarzuela is not the only thing Padin has mastered throughout the years and has turned into a great exponent of Portuguese song.

“Portugal is greatly unknown throughout the world. It is a wonderful country with so much culture and which the Galician people have close ties to. These Portuguese songs I perform are beloved and Victoria de Los Ángeles also sang them.”

For Padin, Portugal has some untapped riches which she believes are starting to grow and which should be embraced by Spain and the rest of the world.

“There are modern composers and there are great Portuguese singers. I think Portugal has great orchestras and they have made new halls and the Teatro San Carlo Lisboa works really well. It’s always full and they do very good operatic productions. I think Spain should embrace Portugal more often because it would be great for their culture. It is an excellent country.”

Ultimately what Padin hopes to bring to her audience is an emotional experience that will communicate to the audience. “When an audience member pays a ticket, they should see a singer completely involved in the role and their voice and the acting should convey it. I hope I can do that with everything I do on stage.”

The Holidays and Beyond

After Carnegie Hall, Padin continues her full slate of concerts in Spain and Mexico featuring operatic arias as well as Zarzuela and Spanish song. She also gets to teach.

But what she is extremely excited for this holiday season is getting to spend Christmas and New years in Spain.

“I am very excited to be home for the holidays. It has been years because I have been at the Essen theater for years and it prohibited me from going to Spain for Christmas. I was also in China at one point as well so it’s always tricky. It’s been a crazy year and sometimes I feel like I live in an airport.”

Following the time off, Padin returns to the opera stage for some new roles. “I will also be singing my first ‘Aida’ in China and ‘Madama Butterfly.’ I don’t know if they will be my first and my lasts but we will see.”

She will also be returning to a favorite, “La Traviata,” which represents three very different roles.

“I am lucky to be able to have a great teacher in Rome who works with me and who has helped me throughout my career.”


InterviewsStage Spotlight