In a few short weeks, members of the Zarzuela Project will take the stage and sing their hearts out at the El Pueblo Historic Monument, their voices echoing down historic Olvera Street. But how did this group come together in the first place? And what is the Zarzuela Project?
Members of the Zarzuela Project, with lead teaching artist and director Melodee Fernandez (center, in red), performing at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Babcock)
The Zarzuela Project was inspired by LA Opera General Director Plácido Domingo, whose parents were both famous zarzuela singers. Zarzuela — often referred to as Spanish operetta—is the beautiful and melodic form of musical theater popular throughout Spain and Latin America and known for its passion, fire and comedy. The Zarzuela Project is a collaboration with the Mariachi Conservatory and brings together performers of all ages and backgrounds for weekly rehearsals with LA Opera Teaching Artists where they learn and rehearse zarzuelas.
Lead Teaching Artist Melodee Fernandez enjoys sharing her love of opera with her students. She discovered zarzuela in college and went on to study it extensively, even forming her own performing zarzuela company. She has been with LA Opera’s Zarzuela Project since it began in 2012. During the weekly rehearsals she teaches the history of zarzuela and helps the students prepare for their concerts. The students are also taught acting techniques so they build up their confidence for the performances.
“Zarzuela is a catalyst for people to learn that they love opera, acting, dance or classical music,” Fernandez states.
Melodee Fernandez, lead teaching artist and director of the Zarzuela Project, leads vocal warm-ups during rehearsal at Bishop Mora Salesian High School in Boyle Heights. (Photo Credit: Erin Alford)
But while she loves the music of zarzuela, she is most touched by the community the Zarzuela Project has created.
“We often get people/students who are going through a transitional period in their lives – death, divorce, loss of job,” Fernandez stated. “I love that we can be a safe and fun place for them to forget their troubles and get through these tough times.”
Many of the members have also been with the project since the beginning and it has become a second family.
Fernandez continued: “We have become friends and enjoy learning and performing together and it shows.”
Upcoming Zarzuela Project Performances:
Sunday, May 20, 1:00pm & 3:00pm
Free Concert of Zarzuela and Mariachi
Plaza Kiosko at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument
Home of Olvera Street
125 Paseo de la Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012
For more information about The Zarzuela Project, click here.
LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.