Above: Ed and Alicia Garcia Clark with tenor Arturo Chacón Cruz
Reminiscing with Co-Founder Alicia Garcia Clark
More than three decades ago, when LA Opera’s Founding General Director Peter Hemmings approached Alicia Garcia Clark and her husband Ed Clark to head a Hispanic audience development group for LA Opera, she demurred. His confidence, however, was well placed, for he could not have selected a more dedicated opera enthusiast.
“I first heard opera growing up in Veracruz,” Alicia recently recalled. Her father, whose favorite opera was Rigoletto, frequently listened to classical music records. Alicia listened as well, but since Veracruz did not have an opera company, she didn’t get any chances to see a live opera performance. That changed when she moved to Mexico City to attend Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico.
“I saw my first live opera, The Tales of Hoffmann, at Palacio de Bellas Artes,” Alicia noted, referring to Mexico’s grandest performance venue. She remembered the stained-glass stage curtain that she had read so much about. Built by Tiffany and inspired by the work of Gerardo Murillo, it’s the only stained-glass curtain in an opera house. Alicia became a regular attendee with her friends. “Since I was a student, our tickets were usually standing room in the back of the orchestra section.” After graduating in 1951 with a degree in chemical engineering, she worked in the cloth manufacturing industry. This meant international travel and more opportunities to see opera. Upon marrying Ed Clark in 1970, she moved to New York, where they attended Metropolitan Opera productions at Lincoln Center. When Ed’s employer, ARCO, transferred its headquarters to Los Angeles in 1972, Ed and Alicia moved as well.
It was in late 1991 that Peter Hemmings approached Ed and Alicia Clark. She was initially hesitant because as a relatively recent resident of Southern California she didn’t have extensive contacts. “I don’t know where he got my name,” she recalled. But after Hemmings’ persistence, she eventually agreed. Ed and Alicia started with the ten Hispanic couples they counted among their friends. A recital and dinner were held at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Jesus Ramirez. The attendees were asked to provide the names of friends who also liked opera. This yielded 122 names including attorney and future HLAO Chair Gilbert Moret and Dodgers broadcast legend Jaime Jarrín.
An audience plan was developed and in 1992, Hispanics for LA Opera (HLAO) was born. Events would include nights at the opera, video gatherings, recitals, the annual Domingo Awards and tardeadas. Alicia served as chair for many years and frequently wrote articles on the histories of opera in Spain and numerous Latin American countries for the HLAO newsletter. Ed served in numerous capacities as well. HLAO has continued to grow and thrive, with recent and upcoming events including community programs with LA Opera Connects, a Zoom conversation series with notable Hispanic artists in opera, and several HLAO Nights at the Opera.
Including final dress rehearsals, Alicia manages to see every LA Opera production at least twice. “I counted, and I have seen or heard 92 different operas,” she noted, looking forward to increasing that number with the 2022/23 LA Opera season.
Interview by Rene Gomez
Above: Ed and Alicia Garcia Clark, with soprano Liv Redpath