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Interpreters Not Required for Sinfonica

Music O.C. Philharmonic Society sees orchestra as lure in any language.

April 07, 1999|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Musical America, the international directory of the performing arts, lists 13 orchestras based in Mexico. Mexico City has seven of them.

The Opera de Bellas Artes in Mexico City has been the site of triumphant appearances by international opera stars--sometimes before they sang in the United States--for almost 65 years.

Does any of that surprise you?

"There's so much ignorance about what goes on [in Mexico]," said Dean Corey, executive director of the Orange County Philharmonic Society. "I was amazed. The first time I saw Strauss' 'Electra' was in Mexico City. I was 17."

To help educate--as well as delight--audiences, the society is bringing the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico to the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Friday.

Music director Enrique Arturo Diemecke will conduct music by 20th century Mexican composers, including Carlos Chavez, Silvestre Revueltas, Arturo Marquez (now living in Los Angeles) and the conductor himself. Marquez will be at the concert.

That programming is deliberate and critical.

"It's a signal to our audience," Corey said.

As is scheduling the orchestra on "the same Great Orchestra series as the New York Philharmonic, the Royal Opera Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony, which is great."

"We're not going to bring in an orchestra from Mexico [and] treat it as a special program, sort of 'on the side of things.' That's not right. It has to be mainstreamed."

The Philharmonic Society has presented Latino music groups, including Cuarteto Latinoamericano and Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano (annually since 1993). But Corey said it was time for larger ensembles.

"We've been doing concerts here for 45 years," he said. "It's long overdue that we present Latino groups to this community, especially with the Hispanic population being so large."

The society began talking with the Orquesta Sinfonica Simon Bolivar of Caracas, Venezuela, more than five years ago. But their conductor, Eduardo Mata, was killed in a plane crash in 1995, and its U.S. tour was canceled.

"That was to be our first [Latino] orchestra," Corey said. "Hopefully, that orchestra will decide to tour again."

Other possibilities include the Orchestra of South America and the Guadalajara Orchestra, Corey said.

"Of course, there are other orchestras in Mexico. But the community needs to be at [Friday's] concert. If the community comes out and supports it, we'll be able to do more."

To that end, the society held a pre-concert fund-raiser for leaders of the Latino community and has been advertising in local Spanish-language media. The goal is to lure music lovers of any stripe.

"We need their support," he stressed. "This is not something we want to do for one time and then move on to something else, or to satisfy some grant requirement, God forbid. We're in there for the long haul. We could do more. If people come out for it, that would move the process along farther."

The society's youth programs reach many Latino children, Corey said. "They're easily a third of the audience, out of 280,000 children." The organization plows some concert earnings into a Hispanic Education Endowment Fund.

"Our goal is to raise $1 million or close to it for scholarship money for Hispanics to go to college. We're trying first to raise $25,000 to endow a scholarship for a Hispanic music student, preferably to become a music teacher. That's something we've been working on," Corey said.

"We hope to reach the halfway point for that with this concert this year. We raised $1,500 from the Fiesta Navida concert in 1997. We put in another $3,500. This year we expect to put in $5,000 of our money. Pacific Bell will put in $2,500 to match our $5,000."

For many non-Latinos, the music of Mexico is limited to mariachi, ranchera, salsa or rock en espanol.

"Mariachi is just one of the many musics of Mexico," Corey said. "It is a traditional music, which a lot of musicians, including Nati Cano, are fighting hard to keep in its traditional format. . . .

"But mariachi no more adequately represents the country than the idea that we listen exclusively in this country to nothing but Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller 90% of the time. . . . Mexico is at least as cosmopolitan as the United States, as far as classical music is concerned.

"In fact, there is a greater response throughout the populace in Mexico for the performing and the visual arts than in this country. It's part of people's life there because [the culture is] older. Non-Hispanics in this country don't have that concept at all. We feel [non-Hispanics] can learn a lot from their [Hispanic] fellow citizens."

* The Philharmonic Society will present the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico led by Enrique Arturo Diemecke on Friday at 8 p.m. at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $15-$55. (949) 553-2422. The program repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday at Royce Hall, UCLA. $11-$40. (310) 825-2101.

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