A class act


A little while ago a friend called because he had an extra ticket for the opera at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Would I like to come? I’m embarrassed to admit that I know nothing about opera and this was only the fourth time I’d been in my life. But I was game, and so had the good fortune of seeing Bellini’s I puritani with Javier Camarena singing the part of Arturo.

Camarena, a 40-year-old tenor from Xalapa, Veracruz, has become a huge star. He is the third singer in the entire history of the Metropolitan Opera in New York to have been cheered enough to perform an encore, and only the second to have performed multiple encores. As I am an ignoramus about the opera, I cannot say anything authoritative about his singing. But it was clear to even me that, no matter how talented the rest of the ensemble, Camarena was in an entirely different league.

I puritani is set in the 1640s during the Civil Wars in England between the Roundheads and the Royalists. The plot is numbingly convoluted but mostly centers on the love between Arturo and Elvira, who are separated after he heroically escorts the widow of the murdered king of England out of the country. Elvira’s and Arturo’s arias — about love, loss, exile — are terrifically moving. In the aria where Arturo returns to England, at one point, Camarena kneeled, kissed his fingers and touched the ground.

The Mexican audience, nearly always generous, cheered wildly over Camarena. Like all opera stars, he leads a peripatetic existence — just this season he has been to Zurich, London, San Sebastian and New York, among other places. But at the end of the day he is Mexican. As the crowds yelled “Bravo,” he got to his knees, kissed his fingers and touched the ground. Mexico doesn’t have very much to be proud of these days. Javier Camarena is on that very short list.




3 thoughts on “A class act

  1. Mexico Cooks - June 8, 2016

    Lovely and moving report, David. It made me cry. Camarena is tops, and you’re right up there with him.

  2. Deb - June 8, 2016


    There is a group of folk who have season opera tickets to the MET in HD live broadcasts at the Auditiorio Nacional every year. I was one of these folks. If you are interested in joining them, I can provide their contacts. 🙂
    Also, there is another group of Internations people who also buy opera tickets individually for each performance as the performance arise. Ditto here on contact info.

  3. Jennifer Pierno - June 8, 2016

    Sounds wonderful; wish I could have seen it. One Mexican opera singer I have enjoyed – Fernando de la Mora.

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