San Diego Opera’s Festival of Mexican Boleros in Logan Heights

Like other many other American opera companies, San Diego Opera is eager to expand its outreach beyond the typical well-heeled opera audience demographic. Thursday I went to the Logan Heights Library to experience the company’s Equal Voices Mothers Day Concert.

Ensemble Radical (l. to r.) Miguel Angel Zazueta, Israel Rodriguez, Lucia Gudiño & Mariana Flores (photo courtesy of San Diego Opera)

Presented on a day between the traditional Mexican Día de las Madres and American Mothers Day, this well-attended hour-long concert featured songs in Spanish sung by the Ensemble Radical, a quartet of opera singers led by tenor Miguel Angel Zazueta.  Andrea Puente-Catán, San Diego Opera’s Director of Hispanic Initiatives, hosted the concert and graciously provided bilingual introductions of the music.

Ensemble Radical marched on stage singing a clever four-part arrangement of the familiar “La Cucaracha,” but quickly segued into Álvaro Carillo’s romantic bolero “Sabor à mi,” embellished with ardent solos by soprano Mariana Flores and Zazueta. “Bésame mucho” has been popular since Consuelo Velasquez wrote it in 1940, and Ensemble Radical’s deft dynamic shadings greatly refreshed this standard. Other boleros given winning accounts by the quartet included Puerto Rican Rafael Hernández’s “Perfume de gardenias” and the gentle “Las Cuerrros.”

As a salute to mothers, the quartet was joined by three other young singers, Natalia Merlano, Mariela Mimbela, and Jonathan Nussman for a heartfelt interpretation of Juan Gabriel’s much loved “Amor Eterno.” On a more joyful note, this group evoked dancing at a village fiesta with another Gabriel song  “Noa Noa,” as well as the animated bolero in both Spanish and Zapotec “El Feo.”

Flores and Zarzueta made a compelling duet out of María Grever’s impassioned love song “Júrame,” They brought out the song’s dramatic flair, suggesting perhaps a torrid scene from a zarzuela, which is fitting considering that the Mexican composer Grever studied with Franz Lehar in her student years in Europe at the turn of the 20th century. Baritone Israel Rodriguez and Zazueta offered a more light-hearted duet “Coplas,” like “Júrame” ably accompanied by pianist Gema Garcia. With passionate declamation, mezzo-soprano Lucia Gudiño communicated deep conviction with her solo interpretation of “Amame.”

This program was presented by San Diego Opera with financing secured through San Diego City Council member  Vivian Moreno at the Logan Heights Library on Thursday, May 11, 2023.


  1. Martha on May 16, 2023 at 11:48 am

    Hermosa música hacen este Ensamble Radical.
    Bravo muchachos 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
    Gracias SD Ópera por promoverlos!!
    Nos vemos el 17 en San Ysidro

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