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Gabriela Ortiz

Yanga: From Prince to Slave to a Fighter for Freedom

An opera by Gabriela Ortiz with libretto written by Santiago Martín Bermúdez

Yanga tells the story Gaspar Yanga, an African prince who was forcibly removed from his homeland in the 1500s, taken to Mexico, and forced into slavery. He led a revolt and founded the first independent settlement in the Americas, San Lorenzo de los Negros, thereby becoming the first Black ruler in the Americas.






8 soloist singers, small choir, baroque orchestra, four percussionist, and three folk musicians



Date of composition:




An orchestra piece on Yanga has been premiered by The Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel in October 2019 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the orchestra, and as a companion piece to Beethoven's 9th symphony.



Yanga is inspired by the story of Gaspar Yanga, an African prince who was shipped to Mexico as a slave in 1570, but managed to escape. He subsequently led a band of escaped slaves to raid the authorities' caravans and eventually helped found the first free town from slavery in North America. He thus qualifies as a historic freedom fighter, which dovetails right into the all-embracing message to mankind in Beethoven’s choral finale. - Richard S. Ginell, Entertainment, San Francisco, Tuesday, October , 2019



Gabriela Ortiz is one of the most vibrant musicians emerging on the international scene. Her musical language achieves an extraordinary and expressive synthesis of tradition and the avant-garde, combining high art, folk music, and jazz in novel, refined, and personal ways. 

¡Unicamente la Verdad!, Ortiz's video opera created in collaboration with video artist Ruben Ortiz Torres, has received critical acclaim in Bloomington, Indiana; the Mexico City Festival and Long Beach, California. Recent orchestral commissions include Hominum for the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, Yanga for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Antropolis for the Louisiana Symphony Orchestra. Her recent opera, Luciérnaga (Firefly), for solo soprano, premiered in 2018 at the Vertice festival. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra recorded and performed her work Hominum in Fall of 2018. 

In fall of 2019, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, and the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble performed the world premiere of Yanga; The New World Symphony presented Hominum; and the LA Phil presented the UK premiere of Téenek - Ivenciones de territorio in their London tour. Upcoming commissions include collaborations with the Orchestre symphonique de Bretagne and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Gabriela Ortiz est parmi les musiciennes les plus dynamiques et les plus inspirantes à émerger sur la scène internationale. Son langage musical, qui fait appel d’une manière neuve, souvent raffinée et toujours personnelle, aussi bien au grand art et à la musique populaire qu’au jazz, réalise une extraordinaire synthèse, fort expressive, de la tradition et de l’avant-garde. 

¡Unicamente la Verdad!, son vidéo-opéra, a été créé en collaboration avec le vidéaste Ruben Ortiz Torres et a été joué à Bloomington, Indiana, au Mexico City Festival et à Long Beach en Californie. Ses récentes commissions pour orchestre incluent Hominum pour l'Orchestre Symphonique National de Mexico, Yanga pour le Los Angeles Philharmonic et Antropolis pour le Louisiana Symphony Orchestra. Son plus récent opéra, Luciérnaga (Luciole), pour soprano solo, a été présenté en primeur mondiale au Vertice festival en 2018. 

Le Royal Scottish National Orchestra a enregistré et joué son oeuvre Hominum à l'automne 2018. En automne 2019, le LA Phil, Gustavo Dudamel, et l’ensemble de percussion Tambuco ont présenté en primeur mondiale l’oeuvre Yanga; le New World Symphony a présenté Hominum; et le LA Phil a présenté Téenek - Ivenciones de territorio lors de leur tournée à Londres. Ses prochaines commandes incluent des collaborations avec l’Orchestre symphonique de Bretagne et le Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.


Santiago Martín Bermúdez was born in Madrid in 1947. He collaborates in specialised music, theatre and literature magazines. He was one of the people in charge of launching the classical music magazine, "Scherzo", and the theatre magazine "Las Puertas del Drama". He has written plays such as "Carmencita revisited", "Nosotros que nos quisimos tanto", "Penas de amor prohibido" and "No faltéis esta noche", amongst others. He has also published story books: "Aquellas noches perdidas" and "El destino es un viajero esquivo", and the essay "Stravinski". He collaborates with several newspapers in Madrid, writing about music, theatre and literature. He won the National Drama Literature Award for "Las gradas de San Felipe y empeño de la lealtad", which was edited by the Association of Theatre Authors and the Department of Culture of the Madrid Region.

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