Sebastien de la Cruz sings with cast of El Pasado Nunca se Termina
© 2015 Todd Rosenberg Photography
I was thrilled when Vanessa Cerda Alonzo joined the Houston Grand Opera’s cast for the first mariachi opera, Pepe Martínez and Leonard Foglia’s Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, back in 2011. Over a decade earlier, at age 18, Vanessa had been chosen “Best Mariachi Vocalist” at the 1999 Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in San Antonio. Today, she’s performed with several of the nation’s most prestigious opera companies. As more and more opportunities like this open up, the future seems brighter than ever for winners of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza vocal competitions.
Seeing Vanessa in Cruzar la Cara de la Luna at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston in 2011 was beyond my wildest dreams. She was only billed as a cast member, but for me, Vanessa was the star of the show. UTPA’s award-winning Mariachi Aztlán was also commissioned to participate in several community performances of Cruzar back then, while Mariachi Vargas was hired as the main attraction for the big shows.
I was even more thrilled when Vanessa and Mariachi Aztlán were invited by the Chicago Lyric Opera company to be cast members of the most recent mariachi opera by the same authors, El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished). And joining them on stage this time is another one of our former Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Vocal Competition winners: San Antonio’s very own Sebastien de la Cruz. Sebastien competed in the Extravaganza for the first time in 2009, winning third place in the elementary school category that year. He placed first in 2010 and 2011, and then went on to compete in America’s Got Talent in 2012.
It’s quite amazing to see these opportunities open up for Mexican American youth in southern Texas. I never imagined I would see the Houston Grand Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and the San Diego Opera tap into south Texas talent. What does that say about the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza? About Texas? About Mariachi Vargas? What does this mean for the future?
Octavio Moreno, accompanied by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán,
in El Pasado Nunca se Termina
© 2015 Todd Rosenberg Photography
The members of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán deserve much of the credit for these success stories. For 20 years, they’ve judged the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza group and vocal competitions. Without a doubt, they’ve selected the greatest talent year after year, and they have an eye (and ear) like no other for identifying future luminaries. Although the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza is a national competition — not a Texas competition — Texas students continue to prove themselves the best in the U.S. in mariachi competitions across the nation. And the fact that the best comes from the Extravaganza makes me Texas proud, y’all!!!
There’s no doubt that more operas, films, live concerts, theater works, and other even greater opportunities are on the horizon for Extravaganza winners. What’s most important is that we, as a community, stay focused and keep our attention on our top three priorities: education, education, and education. Like I always say, “When you combine youth, talent, passion, and higher education — the result is powerful!”
Please join me in Houston for the Houston Grand Opera’s premiere of El Pasado Nunca se Termina featuring Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, Vanessa Cerda Alonzo, and Sebastien de la Cruz. Concerts are scheduled for Wednesday, May 13 (7:30 p.m.), Saturday, May 16 (7:30 p.m.), and Sunday, May 17 (2:00 p.m.), at the Wortham Center’s Brown Theater in downtown Houston. I sure am looking forward to seeing this show, and to catching up with good friends like Octavio Moreno, who is also part of the cast. If you attend the Saturday evening performance, as I plan to, please be sure and say hello!
For ticket information, log on to Houston Grand Opera box office.