Life-Changing Music in Venezuela

For a long time I have been impressed with the  program, EL SISTEMA. This is a government sponsored program in Venezuela that has been in existence for some 30 years. It provides Venezuelan children (most of them in the program are poor or working class) with a music education. It gives them a chance to learn how to play a musical instrument, play in an ensemble or sing in chorus. There are even choruses for deaf children who make music with hand gestures. With dedication and gusto, these young musicians experience the beauty of music every day of their lives, and that is life changing.

In December of 2012 I attended a concert of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Gustavo Dudamel in Philadelphia. The ensemble played with such passion and commitment. I honestly had not experienced such an exciting performance of an instrumental group since I was a teenager and heard my first live concert at Lincoln Center in New York City. There were several encores for the Venezuela ensemble. I thought the audience was going to break out into a riot–there was so much energy in the hall, and genuine admiration and pride for this talented maestro and his orchestra expressed by standing ovations, applause and screaming.

There are two films available about this program. One is in Spanish and is called EL SISTEMA. The other is TOCAR Y LUCHAR and is multilingual.  I highly recommend the uplifting documentary, TOCAR Y LUCHAR, for those who want to see the children playing and hear commentary by such important musicians as Sir Simon Rattle and Plácido Domingo.


“Maja: The Forgotten Woman” — a must see!

“Maja” is Spanish for a woman from Madrid. Spanish artist Francisco Goya is famous for his paintings of “majas.” The most celebrated ones are “La maja desnuda” (the nude maja) and the “la maja vestida,” (the clothed maja) Goya also painted a full-body picture of the 13th Duchess of Alba, María Cayetana de Silva, with whom he was having an affair. Many assume that she posed for the maja paintings. Watch the video below for some samples of Goya’s paintings, and Granado’s musical selection La maja de Goya.

Enrique Granados, a Spanish pianist and composer,  is most famous for his work Goyescas, which is based on Goya’s paintings. However, he was not the only one to compose about la maja. Ricardo Villa (Canción de la maja for voice and piano) and José Padilla, with Oliveros and Castellvi, (La maja, el rey y el torero) also wrote songs about la maja. The character of  la maja is typical in Spanish zarzuelas (operettas) about Madrid. Listen to Padilla’s composition on youtube:

Anna Bartos, an experienced soprano, presents MAJA! THE FORGOTTEN WOMAN: A LOVER’S TALE. This is a one-woman musical not to be missed. It tackles the mystique surrounding Goya, his artwork, his loves, and the craziness occurring during that time.

Ms. Bartos describes it as “a love story about the life and work of the famous Spanish painter, Francisco Jose Goya y Lucientes, and his bittersweet romance with an unknown maja in 19th century Madrid. It is in English with many Spanish expressions, and illuminates the life and character of Goya and the picaresque lower middle class majos and majas he loved, painted and imitated. The drama also provides details about his dedication to depict human rights issues and atrocities against the common man, for which he paid the price of exile.”


This performance is a fundraiser for SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT. This is a collaborative, non-profit group, for singers, actors and instrumentalists.

Tax Deductible Contributions may be made at:

Don’t miss this innovative period piece:

  • Sunday, November 3, 2013. 4:00-6:00 pm
  • St. Michael’s Church: 225 W. 99th Street Manhattan

General admission: $20

Something to Sing About members, Seniors and Students JUST $10!


Anna Bartos, Soprano, is renowned for her bel canto operatic roles and her poignant and exciting interpretations of Spanish and Latin American music. She received a grant from the Spanish Consulate in New York City and the non-profit sponsorship of the New York Foundation for the Arts for her original one-woman musical drama, Maja! The Forgotten Woman: A Lovers’ Tale about Francisco Goya, with music by Enrique Granados. Her recordings include Cantares for Soprano and Guitar and You Must Remember This II with Gregg Nestor, and Mostly Spanish with The Ensemble ALMA,  which she founded in 1998, now known as Flor y Canto. Flor y Canto presents concerts of over four centuries of music, lecture-recitals and master classes of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American classical and folk music, as well as an international repertoire, for voice, piano, flute, guitar and other instruments. Ms. Bartos has been a featured artist at festivals, i.e., the Leningrad Musical Spring International Festival in Russia, The Performing Arts of Asia and Mexico Festivals at Lincoln Center and the Franco-Italian Festival at Carnegie Hall. She has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic,Leningrad Chamber Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfonica de Guadalajara, and the NYU Chamber Music Society at Merkin Concert Hall, among others. She has given numerous lecture-recitals in colleges and universities on Spanish and Latin American music, and was an Artist in Residence at Altos de Chavon in the Dominican Republic (a Gulf and Western Project). Ms. Bartos holds an M.A. in Vocal Performance from New York University, and maintains a private vocal studio in New York City.

___Solo Recital, Teatro Casa de la Paz
: MUSICA–EXCELLENT SINGER…”beautiful singing…mastery of vocal technique…
Her interpretations embraced a variety of styles with great success. She soared to unsuspected heights of emotion and expression in the lieder of Schubert and Ravel. Manuel M. Ponce and ‘Tata Nacho’ were magnificently interpreted!” –REVISTA TIEMPO (Mexico City)


The Making of “El Tesoro”

Two weeks ago I performed a new concert program “El tesoro: Songs from Spain and the Americas” in Freehold, NJ. The concert was sponsored by the Apassionata Arts Recital Series. What was compelling about the content was the combination of music from Spain, the U.S. and south of the border, and the inclusion of original compositions and lesser known repertoire. “El tesoro” which means “the treasure” is also the title of an original art song. I wrote the poem and contemporary composer, Waundell Saavedra, set it to music in 2006. Mr. Saavedra has written songs and also full operas that have been performed in New York City. It was special for me to include this piece.

Another original piece on the program is Gary Madison’s “Cubanos and Cigars.” This is a piece composed for piano that recently won a prize in the Fidelio Musica PIano Competition, based in Spain. Gary’s prowess as a solo pianist is highlighted in his rendition of his composition and Ernesto Lecuona‘s La Malaguena. 

Most of the Spanish art song in this concert (Turina, DeFalla, Rodrigo) is standard fare for singers who perform Spanish repertoire. The Latin American repertoire in Spanish as well as the zarzuela, are quite unknown to most concert goers in the United States. Alongside standard romanzas from zarzuela already in my repertoire, I debuted “Marinela” from “Canción del olvido”  and “María la O”  from the zarzuela of the same name by Ernesto Lecuona.  Although zarzuela productions were popular in New York City, El Paso, Texas and California in the 1980s and 1990s, the mounting of zarzuelas in the U.S. began to diminish in the 21st century. Maria la O is a Cuban zarzuela and works from Cuba tend to be inaccessible to many in the United States due to the estranged relationship between the two nations.

In conjunction with Latin American boleros and art songs by composers such as Ernesto Lecuona, Rafael Hernández (Puerto Rico) and Carlos Guastavino (Argentina), in the third section, I chose to include the Peruvian song Huiracocha which is rarely heard outside of Perú and unknown even to United States’ experts of art music in Spanish.  It was written by Peruvian-American composer, Clotilde Arias in 1941. Huiracocha was my favorite song to perform and was equally enjoyed by the audience.  It is a story and a prayer, a journey, all at once.  Invoking the god of the Inca, it travels across the Andes, and tells the history of a proud people.

Special thanks go to Andrés Andrade, Anna Tonna, Tim Richester, Luis Galvez, and Pablo Zinger, for advice, coaching and scores for El tesoro.  I look forward to presenting this concert again in New York City in 2014. (Details will be forthcoming).

Check out Apassionata Arts upcoming November concert in Freehold, NJ: