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Viva La Zarzuela,” master classes for singers, followed by a concert featuring
world-class zarzuela coach Borja Mariño, are planned for Dec. 16, 17 and 18 at
the Wertheim Performing Arts Center at Florida International University in


The event will be a collaboration between West Palm Beach-based Opera
Fusion, a fledgling artist-driven company that plans performances by local
artists at venues around South Florida, and the Florida International
University School of Music.


Mariño will hear and coach up to 30 singers performing zarzuela repertoire
during the master classes on Dec. 16 and 17, and will accompany the finalists
who will perform in a zarzuela concert on Dec. 18.  The concert will be a tribute to Pily de la
Rosa, a founder of Sociedad Pro-Arte Grateli in Miami.


All three days of events are open to the public. Times and ticket
prices are 2-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. for the Dec. 16 and 17 master classes, with
$10 admission, and 8 p.m. for the Dec. 18 concert, with $38 admission.


Mariño is coming to South Florida at the request of Opera Fusion
president Dr. Xavier Garcia, a baritone and West Palm Beach veterinarian who
has studied zarzuela under him in Madrid. “Mariño is one of the best in the
world in this repertoire,” Garcia said. “He’s worked with the top performers in
the world.”


At the Dec. 18 zarzuela concert at FIU, de la Rosa of Miami will be
honored as a co-founder, in 1971, and the current president of the nonprofit
Sociedad Pro-Arte Grateli in Miami.  “She
is being honored for her many years of work to keep the art form of zarzuela
alive in the United States,” Garcia said.


Another dignitary at the Dec. 18 concert will be Cándido Creis
Estrada, the consul general of Spain, who is based in Miami.  He will present de la Rosa, who is now 89,
with her award.


Spanish-born Mariño is a vocal coach, composer, musicologist and
pianist who has accompanied luminaries of the international opera scene.  He is currently on the faculty of the Escuela
Superior de Canto in Madrid.  For the
master class singers and FIU staff, “what a privilege to work with someone who’s
of that caliber,” said Vindhya Khare, FIU area coordinator for vocal studies.


During the master classes on Dec. 16 and 17, pianist Jesus Garcia
Ruspoli will accompany
the zarzuela singers.  Ruspoli is well known to Miami audiences with his over thirty years of
performing in the area.


Zarzuela, which has existed since the 17th century, spread
from Spain to many of its colonies, and many Hispanic countries – notably Cuba –
developed their own traditions. It is an accessible, colorful, fun and
expressive type of music, said Khare, describing it as “operetta meets the
golden age of Broadway.  There’s a lot of
drama, love triangles.”


Khare and Robert Dundas, director of the FIU music department, are working
with Opera Fusion to coordinate the three days of zarzuela events.  Profits will be split between the opera
company and scholarships for FIU music students, said Birgit Fioravante,
executive director of Opera Fusion. 
Singers who want to participate in the master classes with Mariño are
filling out applications that go to Khare, she said.


The night’s honoree, Cuban-born de la Rosa, holds a master’s degree in
dramatic arts from the University of Havana. 
She taught acting and dance, served as English-to-Spanish dubbing
director for many Hollywood films at Sound Lab in Miami, hosted and produced
television and radio shows, co-founded nonprofits that brought Cuban and Latin
folklore to the stage, and managed both the artistic and administrative aspects
of Sociedad Pro-Arte Grateli, shepherding it into a first-class theatrical


With their baby daughter, De La Rosa and her husband, Demetrio Menéndez,
came to Florida as exiles from Cuba in 1960, and founded Sociedad Pro-Arte
Grateli in 1971 along with singer Marta Perez, known as La Diva Cubana, and
Miguel de Grandy II, an actor now living in Spain.  Perez died in 2009, and Menéndez died
recently this year.


Each of the four founders put in $100, said actress Ana Margo, de la
Rosa’s daughter, and Grateli grew into an organization that at one point held
performances every month at the Miami Dade County Auditorium.  “They really had, at the beginning of their
exile here, the cream of the crop” of actors and conductors from Cuba and
Spain, she said. Today, the nonprofit still mounts three to four shows each
year, and her mother “really is now the one pillar holding up the fort.”


Grateli is dedicated to promoting Hispanic
American culture through the theatrical arts. 
Its shows include presentations of Hispanic and American origin
including zarzuelas, operettas, musical comedies, musical festivals and
dramatic presentations.




Opera Fusion Inc., a nonprofit artist-driven
company, is based in West Palm Beach and will mount shows throughout South
Florida.  It is beginning its second season.  In its first season, Opera Fusion
successfully put on two musical revues, “The Sopranos: An Opera You Can’
t Refuse” and “Duelling Divas,” as well as two operas, “Bluebeard’s Castle” and “Cosi Fan Tutte/Die
” in a
summer “bootcamp” workshop.


Opera Fusion aims to invite and encourage new
audiences to experience opera and other classical singing by presenting its
performances at intimate and nontraditional venues.


Opera Fusion leadership: Birgit Fioravante is
executive director, Dean Peterson is artistic director, Robyn Lamp is
company manager and Dr. Sally Brown is director of education.  The board
of directors comprises West Palm Beach veterinarian and baritone Dr. Xavier
Garcia, president; Lake Worth Playhouse board president Michael McKeich,
treasurer; attorney Joseph R. Fields Jr., secretary; and members Renee
Greenberg, Peter Ludescher, Elizabeth Giles, Emily Pantelides and Richard Gaff.


For more about Opera Fusion and its leadership,




Tickets can be purchased
through the Box Office at FIU’
s Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts
Center, 10910 S.W. 17
th St.,
Miami.  Call the box office at (305)
348-0496 or visit to purchase tickets.


The Three


* Master Class with Borja Mariño on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, from 2-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. at FIU’s Wertheim Performing Arts
Center, 10910 S.W. 17
th St.,
Miami.  Tickets: $10.


* Master Class with Borja Mariño on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, from 2-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m., at FIU’s Wertheim Performing Arts
Center, 10910 S.W. 17
th St., Miami.
Tickets: $10.


* Finalists’
Performance: Tribute to Pily de la Rosa
on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, at 8
p.m., at FIU’
s Wertheim Performing Arts Center, 10910 S.W. 17th St., Miami. Tickets: $38.