Hispanics for LA Opera and LA Opera celebrated the incredible talent of Latino artists and supporters of the arts in the community with the Plácido Domingo Awards earlier this month. The 185 guests lauded the four awardees at a seated dinner following the May 5th matinee performance of El Gato Montés, and celebrated Plácido Domingo’s special history with the music of Mexico and with Spanish zarzuela, a popular Spanish style of musical theater.
The Domingo Awards recognizes select individuals for their extraordinary talent, leadership and dedication to the Los Angeles arts community. This year’s recipients included Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, renowned Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz and Richard Mata and Esperanza Juarez, founders of The Mariachi Conservatory in Boyle Heights.
Chacón-Cruz, who starred in El Gato Montés alongside Domingo, has a long history with LA Opera. He made his mainstage debut as Rodolfo in 2007’s production of La Bohème, and has since appeared in La Traviata, Florencia en el Amazonas, and most recently in last season’s Rigoletto.
“This goes beyond all of my expectations and surpasses even my most farfetched dreams,” said Chacón-Cruz in a recent interview. “I admire Maestro Domingo so much and he has been such an incredible influence for me.”
He went on to say: “Receiving this award humbles me so much that it makes me want to pinch myself. I’m eternally grateful to the LA Opera for this priceless gift.”
As a champion for the arts in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis has generously supported a multitude of artistic ventures in Los Angeles, including LA Opera’s 2016 live simulcast of Verdi’s Macbeth in South Gate Park (also starring Domingo), located in Solis’ First District. Supervisor Solis has been a leader in establishing the Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative in Los Angeles County.
"I am grateful to be honored as the recipient of the 2019 Plácido Domingo Award because this recognition is given to someone who supports access to the arts for all,” Solis told LA Opera. “I have been passionate about the arts throughout my entire life. I deeply believe that everyone, regardless of where they live or grew up, should have a chance to fully experience the breadth and beauty of the arts. As a Supervisor for Los Angeles County, I will continue to champion the arts and access to the arts for all!"
The ceremony continued with the recognition of the founders of The Mariachi Conservatory (TMC). TMC is a community-based mariachi program aimed at teaching the art form of mariachi music to children and adults. Located in the Boyle Heights area, the program was founded by Richard Mata and Esperanza Juarez in 2007 as an afterschool music program with all classes offered free of charge. TMC's mission is to educate students of all ages interested in learning the art form of mariachi music.
In 2010, LA Opera teamed up with TMC to fulfill Plácido Domingo’s dream of establishing a zarzuela tradition in Los Angeles. Mata and Juarez generously threw open their doors to LA Opera artists for a weekly zarzuela class, and thus The Zarzuela Project was born.
“It’s thrilling to see zarzuela embraced as part of the tradition in East LA and beyond,” said Mata. “The community performers in The Zarzuela Project even partner with the Conservatory’s mariachi students to perform a unique fusion of zarzuela and mariachi, bringing together two important traditional musical genres.”
Mata and Juarez were recognized for their extraordinary gift to all Angelenos: uniting the traditions of zarzuela, mariachi and opera, and making them all available to anyone who yearns to connect with these magnificent cultural heritages.