‘Serenata Latina‘ is the new musical project by two exceptional artists, who have united to explore Latin America’s rich repertoire of song in a very intimate way.
French harp virtuoso Xavier de Maistre and legendary Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón are to be found in perfect harmony on their new album – and will be performing live in the months to come.
They also performed excerpts from the project at the Lausitz Festival situated in the romantic garden paradise of Muskauer Park, straddling the German-Polish border.
Rolando wants to spread the word about music from his part of the world:
“The music of Latin America is not only ‘La Cucaracha’!
“Our music is profound and wonderful.”
Xavier agrees – and points out that his instrument is more prominent in Latin American music than many may realise:
“The harp plays an important role in popular music, whether in Chile, in Argentina or in Venezuela.”
The programme of music they have selected embraces traditional folk songs and also art songs, the latter originally composed for voice and piano by iconic composers such as Alberto Ginastera.
And despite the greater prominence of the harp in Latin American music than some may imagine, Xavier says the pair also enjoyed reimagining originally piano-based pieces:
“The aim was to find melodies where the harp would sound perhaps even better than the piano.”
Rolando says it’s an advantage for him to sing in his native Spanish:
“It’s wonderful to be able to sing in my mother tongue.
“There is extra musicality. There’s a different and greater interaction with the language, with the lyrics, and the colours are more vivid.”
“You can feel that, in particular with the popular Mexican melodies.
“As soon as we started, I had goosebumps.”
One of the Mexican melodies the duo has interpreted is La Llorona, a folk song – and a concept with deep roots in Latin American folklore. The song combines the legend of a woman’s ghost, walking by waterfront areas and weeping for her drowned children – and other, newer lyrical elements such as the narrator mourning a deceased spouse – or perhaps feeling trapped by her.
Ronaldo says the many layers to – and interpretations of – the piece give it a strange, hallucinatory quality:
“I love “La llorona”, this dark story, this slightly surreal story.
“It’s a song that embodies this whole essence of Mexico: that has this presence of death, love and mystery.”
Xavier is delighted with the breadth of the material they’ve included:
“This music touches you. It’s true that sometimes it’s very playful and it spontaneously makes you want to dance.
“And then at other times, there are songs that bring tears to your eyes.”
Rolando says the music they are performing helps the listener to understand the soul of Latin America and what makes it function, despite the traumas that Central and South America may sometimes have experienced:
“Latin America is suffering, but continues to dance, continues to laugh, continues to seek la joie de vivre!”
The tour continues throughout next year.
Their new album collecting all the pieces from the project has been released on the Deutsche Grammaphon label.