When the first opera theater in the Americas was built in 1776, in Havana, the Cuban capital became a true musical center.
“The Coliseo” or “El Principal” as it was called, released the “Didone abandonata” with libretto by Metastasio and music by unknown author marked the beginning of a musical effervescence for this gender spread to several cities like Cienfuegos, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba, and attracting renowned artists and companies from Spain and Italy. The first Cuban opera was “America and Apollo,” released in 1807.
The first to write opera were foreigners living in Cuba as Stefano Cristiani, José Serrano, Giovanni Luigi Arditi and Bottesini; these last ones became also composers and conductors later on. They also wrote for the “Tacon” theater. The first one, “Gulnara” or “Le Corsaire” with libretto by Rafael María de Mendive (the master of José Martí) is still preserved, but the second one “Columbus in Cuba” with libretto by Ramon de Palma, unfortunately not. Both were written in 1848.
These conductors had good communication and friendship with other contemporary composers, including Verdi, the great Italian master; and this allowed Havana’s operas to be released only a few months after being released in Italy. “L’italiana in Algeri y Semiramide”, from Rossini; “Lucia di Lammermoor” from Donizetti; “Norma e Puritani”, from Bellini were released in Havana, before any other place in America. The twentieth century marked the boom of Cuban opera.
The trigger was the Spanish José Mauri, greater gender creator in Cuba. With nationalistic themes and more modern structures, he left for many years his composition “La esclava” (The slave) written in 1918, within the Cuban repertoire. Highlights in recent years written by Hubert de Blanck, “Patria”, “Actea and Icaona” Amadeo Roldan and Alejandro Garcia Caturla “Manita en el suelo” (Hand on the ground), although unused’s Ernesto Lecuona, who left unfinished his opera “El sombrero de yarey” (The hat from yarey).
And while traditional opera based on different types of singing: recitative, arioso and aria, it is also sung in duets, trios and quartets, and even can appear combined with choir. Today there are more and more free forms. What is clear is that opera is a work made in order to be represented and that is why it is related to various genres of music theater such as the Spanish Zarzuela, the German Singspiel, the Viennese Operetta, Opéra-comique French and English and American Musical.
In Cuba, today, a taste for this genre has been displaced by other more contemporary, but we can still find people that love it. The National Lyric Theater of Cuba is the headquarter not only for the interpretation of the opera, but also operetta, zarzuela, music concert, symphonic and vocal music. Also, and trying to rescue the genre, in 2005 the School of the National Lyric Theater of Cuba was founded, where piano and singing is taught. Currently, there are also the National Lyric Theater of Ernesto Lecuona in Pinar del Rio and the Rodrigo Pratts in Holguin, both of national and international prestige.
And although traditional opera is based on different modalities of singing: recitative, aria and aria, duos, trios and quartets are also sung, and may even appear combined with choir. Today there are increasingly free forms. What is clear is that the opera is a work done with the purpose to be represented and that is why it is related to various genres of musical theater such as the Spanish zarzuela, the German Singspiel, the Viennese Opera, the Opéra-comique French and English and American Musical.
In Cuba, today, the taste for this genre has been displaced by other more contemporary, but not escape those who enjoy it. The National Lyric Theater of Cuba is the venue, not only for the interpretation of the opera, but also operetta, zarzuela, concert music, as well as vocal symphonic music.
In turn, and trying to rescue the genre, was founded in 2005 the School of the National Lyric Theater of Cuba, where piano and singing. At present, there are also the Lirico Theater of Pinar del Río Ernesto Lecuona and the one of Holguín Rodrigo Pratts of recognized national and international prestige.