An Afro-Colombian lyrical voice emerges from the violent Pacific that captivates the world

An Afro-Colombian lyrical voice emerges from the violent Pacific that captivates the world

▲ Betty Garcés, originally from Buenaventura, is an expert in lied, concerto, chamber music and opera; She has sung on prestigious stages, such as the Parco della Musica in Rome, the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Gulbenkian Hall in Lisbon, the Prince Mahidol Hall in Bangkok and the Church of Saint Eustache in Paris.Photo Afp

Afp

Newspaper La Jornada
Friday, August 5, 2022, p. 4

Bogota. She grew up in a poor port on the Colombian Pacific to the rhythm of drums, marimbas and the echo of violence. Although in Buenaventura she never heard an opera, today Betty Garcés seduces the world as one of the most important Afro sopranos in Latin America.

With a sweet smile and gentle conversation, the 39-year-old never dreamed of the success that led her to live in Germany since the winter of 2009 and sing on stages in more than 20 countries.

I never imagined that it would happen to me, because, unfortunately, the environment in which I grew up in Buenaventura did not give me many opportunities to dreamGarcés maintains in conversation with AFP at the Colón theater in Bogotá.

Framed in a lush jungle on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, its cradle, of some 315,000 inhabitants, is African (91 percent), crushed by poverty (41 percent), unemployment (18 percent) and drug violence. .

Their parents, a math teacher and an artist, motivated their daughters to migrate to the nearby city of Cali, even though they would only understand years later his reasons.

We are three sisters and each of us was sent to live in Cali when we were 14 years old to protect ourselves (…) The atmosphere was changing, it was becoming aggressive in Buenaventura, he recognizes the singer in black garments that contrast with the red of an indigenous necklace around her neck.

The artist first studied at the Cali conservatory, but her talent moved one of her professors, who insisted on managing a German scholarship.

Specialist in lied, concerto, chamber music and opera, his voice has reached prestigious stages, such as the Parco della Musica in Rome, the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Gulbenkian Hall in Lisbon, the Prince Mahidol Hall in Bangkok and the church of Saint Eustatius in Paris.

But reaching the top of lyrical singing has cost him more than one battle.

In this system there is a tendency to pigeonhole a lot; there are many molds (…) in that I am black, Latin or American, plus size, large frame, and I sound and look very different than what they expect.

From crying to singing

Cumbias, currulaos, lullabies, salsa and other African-influenced rhythms vibrate in every corner of Buenaventura, but professional teaching is scarce.

Garcés discovered her artistic sensitivity when she was very young thanks to her grandparents, one deaf and the other blind. She had difficulty communicating with the rest of her family, she suffered from bullying, so her grandparents’ house became a refuge.

His grandfather played the harmonica empirically and she remembers stretched out on the floor, put his ear to amplify the sound and I imagined I was in another world.

When his grandmother passed away he felt he lost the ground pole without suspecting that from tears and desolation would emerge a new language: music.

I was left alone (…) in the middle of that duel, of that difficult moment for a 10-year-old girl, losing her only reference of love in life is very strongremember.

But one day, in the midst of tears, I started to moan Y from that moan began to come out melodies without words. It was my soul looking for an outlet for so much pain and so many emotionsdetails excited.

It is the first moment where I have memory of a conscious song; from that moment I began to sing and did not stopgrant.

Garcés’ voice flies powerfully in the capital’s theater at the hands of Richard Strauss and the opera Ariadne on Naxos.

With a blonde wig and a shiny dress, the singer hypnotizes and entertains with a parody and critical piece about the world of theatre.

Betty is a dreamy Ariadne (…) splendid on a vocal and acting scalemaintains the director Joan Anton Rechi, from Andorra.

In this version, Rechi mixes a classic tragedy with a popular flamenco show and places it at a party in World War II.

When Garcés makes the final bow, the theater bursts into applause: The affection with which the Colombian public receives me (…) makes me want to pour myself out on stagehe affirms while his colleagues rehearse in the background with face masks.

Today he looks back and is surprised that Despite the difficulties, doors always open.. If your life counts in the hope that some young person will listen doubtful, because If I were still that girl I was, this story would give me the strength to try..

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