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Hispanic Heritage night at the opera

Annabella Mireles
Vocalist Natalia Bermudez, guitarist Mario Otero, and trumpeter Ricardo Ayub perform “Continuar”.

As the curtains rise on the stage of the Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall, a harmonious celebration unfolds in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, where the rich tapestry of Hispanic culture takes center stage, weaving together music, tradition and artistry.  

The recital hall was decked out in colorful papel picado and beautiful Spanish opera songs filled the air as UTEP Opera department celebrated Hispanic Heritage with a concert Sept. 28.   

“It’s important to host shows like this one because we’re here on the border,” said the Director of Opera, Cherry Duke. “This show gives us a chance to celebrate how awesome these songs are, and it offers the students an opportunity for representation. A lot of the students associate these songs with their grandparents’ music, and they get the chance to elevate these songs here.”  

Duke began the show by welcoming attendees of the concert and introducing the first performer, soprano, Odalis Aguirre. Aguirre started off the show by singing “Granada” written by Agustín Lara in 1932.   

An array of performances by UTEP students followed as they sang classics that included “Dime Que Sí,” “Seguidillas Religiosas,” “Noche Hermosa” and “No Puede Ser.” One of the highlight performances was by UTEP grad student, mezzo-soprano, Priscilla Gandara who sang “Que Te Importa Que No Venga” from Los Claveles written by Jose Serrano. She wowed the audience with her operatic voice and her Mexican attire.   

When interviewed, Gandara recalls the importance of performing in shows like this one and why people should attend opera shows.   

“It’s important to host events like this especially in a community like ours that’s mostly Mexican American,” Gandara said. “Also, opera in general is important to the music world. Anyone who says opera is boring obviously hasn’t been to an opera show. It’s nothing but excitement and grandeur.”  

The concert was separated into four parts which included Romanzas de Zarzuelas, Celebracion de Compositoras, Canciones de Maria Grever, and Compositoras de UTEP.  

The songs in the second section included “Lo T’Amero (Te Amaré)” by Angela Peralta sung by Brian Downen and “Noche de Ronda” written by Maria Teresa Lara. It was performed by opera director Duke, who was accompanied by Christoper Garcia. Most of the performances were accompanied by Esequiel Meza Jr. who played the piano.   

The songs performed during the Canciones de Maria Grever portion included “Alma Mia” sung by Esmeralda Hernandez, Rebeca Salmeron sung “Te Quiero, Dijiste,” “Despedida,” sung by Fernanda Mendoza, Lericia Armas sung “Brisas,” Priscilla Gandara sung “Di, ¿Que Has Dejado En Mi Ser” with Abner Astudillo ending the section by singing “Jurame.”   

Special guests like celloist Michael Way played a haunting rendition of “SEVEN-Song of Isolation.” He wowed the audience with his expert playing of pizzicato and legato. The horse hairs of his bow danced on top of the C, G, D, and A strings.  

Other special guests included tenor Brian Downen, guitar player Christopher Garcia and vocalist Natalia Bermudez Samano who was just recently signed on as an artist and songwriter with Universal Musica Publishing in Mexico.   

Samano performed alongside Mario Otero on guitar and Ricardo Ayub on trumpet. The three of them performed the song “Continuar”  written by Samano.   

The night ended with “Besame Mucho” written by Consuelo Velazquez. The version of the song performed was arranged by UTEP commercial music student, Abeni Janae Merriwether.   

“I was asked to do a quick arrangement of ‘Besame Mucho’ two weeks before the semester started,” Merriwether said. “I had a joyous feeling hearing my own music being performed tonight. It was really great hearing everyone’s voices singing it and it being accompanied by the cello and piano.”  

“Besame Mucho” was performed by all the students who performed that night with the help of the audience. Cherry Duke conducted everyone in the auditorium.   

“We took some of the students’ existing repertoire and gave them the opportunity to perform them here,” Duke said. “We especially put emphasis on Hispanic female composers. Everyone did a great job even though we didn’t have as much time as we would’ve liked to put this together. Everyone brought their A-game and put on a fantastic night of music.  

To learn more about other performances and events being hosted by the opera department visit  

Alyson Rodriguez is a contributor and may be reached at [email protected]; @alyson_rod1127 on X. 

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About the Contributors
Alyson Rodriguez
Alyson Rodriguez, Contributor/Writer

Alyson Rodriguez is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso, currently majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in leadership studies. She is a contributor at The Prospector. She joined The Prospector in the Fall of 2020 as a contributor for the Arts and Culture section and has now written articles for the sports and news section and has done podcast segments as well. After discovering her passion for journalism through The Prospector, Alyson has gone to intern at El Paso Matters, NPR Next Generation Texas Newsroom and the Texas Standard. 

Annabella Mireles
Annabella Mireles, Photo Editor
Annabella Mireles is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in digital media production and minoring in film. She is the photo editor at the Prospector newspaper and Minero magazine as well as owning her own photography business. She plans on pursuing photography full time.
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