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.
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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.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble performed the world premiere of Yanga (a LA Phil commission) 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.
Hominum plays with a kind of synaesthesia, creating a metaphorical sound world between certain colours and matter states to social, political, and philosophical concerns central to the human condition.
This piece was recently performed by the New World Symphony in November 2019.
Téenek is the language spoken in the Huasteca region of Mexico, and means "local man," evoking belonging and a human's relationship with the world around them. Téenek - Ivenciones de territorio alludes to a future free of borders, where our differences and diversity are recognized as our strength, and otherness is a reminder of our mutual belonging to the world and each other.
The LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel performed this piece for their London tour in 2019.
“Gabriela is one of the most talented composers in the world. [...] She has an ability to bring colors, to bring rhythm [and] harmonies that connect with you. That is something beautiful, something unique.”
— Gustavo Dudamel,
“[...] this terrific new piece [Yanga] further advances the promise of a dynamic, vital fusion of Latin American and European music.”
— Richard S. Ginell,
“Ortiz has a slow, atmospheric and harmonically arresting introduction, though a brief one, before her rhythmically compelling evocation of Yanga, an operatic hero if there ever was one.”
— Mark Swed,
Premiered on October 10th, the opera, with a libretto written by Silvia Peláez and commissioned by the festival Vertice of UNAM, tells the story of Alcira Soust Scaffo, an Uruguayan poet, who locked herself in the male toilet of the Tower of Humanities at UNAM, during a military intervention to the university on September 18, 1968.
Outlaws. Love. Deceit. ONLY THE TRUTH (¡Únicamente La Verdad!) is based on a popular Mexican ballad, “Contrabando y Traicion” (Smuggling and Betrayal). This docu-opera, lifted from the headlines, follows Camelia la Tejana and her lover as they smuggle drugs across the border to Los Angeles. The payoff becomes a deadly showdown! Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz creates a pulsing score that fuses classical and Mexican influences.
ANA Y SU SOMBRA is a joyous hour-long exploration of the migrant experience. A young girl whose family has moved from Mexico to the United States, Ana doesn’t feel she belongs, she misses her home and her friends, and she longs to return. Her shadow, however, loves the adventure of a new place and wishes to remain in the States. They fight and decide to go their separate ways. During their journeys, they learn the meaning of home and of voyaging, and they find a peace in their new life together. Sung in Spanish, this operatic storybook experience is perfect for the whole family.
The tradition of the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico is the source of inspiration for the creation of Altar de Muertos, for string quartet, whose ideas could reflect the internal search between the real and the magic, a duality always present in Mexican culture, from the past to the present.
Kronos Quartet Commission premiered in April 1997
The main challenge when writing Puzzle-Tocas was on how to develop a coherent musical discourse departing from the use of themes that Gabriela Ortiz had already used in some of her previous, much more heterogenic and contrasting, works.
Mexico City Wind Quintet Commission premiered in October 1999.
The work is divided in six small pieces, three of them: Andean Prelude, Song of the Little Angel and Amen are inspired and closely related in a very personal way to the life of Violeta, whereas the remaining ones, Austral Geometry, Genesic Rhythm and Danza Esdrújula are studies that utilize certain technical aspects of polyrhythms already used in other works of Ortiz.
Cuarteto Latinoamericano Commission premiered in November 2002.