HISTORY FORUM Spring 2007:
"Angela Peralta, El Ruisenor Mexicano (The Mexican Nightingale)"
Professor Ronald Dolkart made a presentation for our spring History Forum on Friday, May 18, on Angela Peralta, an opera soprano, famous in her time, but now rarely encountered in our historical memory. She was also a unique female composer, and her piano pieces had an important influence on the development of Mexican popular music. As opera became a major source of entertainment in European society in this period, where the building of cathedrals gave way to the construction of opera houses, Manual Garcia, a Spanish tenor, brought European opera to Mexico. He was forced to leave Mexico amid post-colonial, anti-Spanish sentiment, but he left a fervor for opera there. Mexico city posed a bit of a challenge for opera singers, given the 7,500-ft. altitude.
During a period of stability after the mid-19th century, opera prospered in Mexico. Ardent aficionados, Mexicans tired of the same familiar operatic performances, craving innovation. Europeans encouraged this development, viewing opera as a positive, civilizing force in Latin America.
Angela Peralta was a young star in this development. Already forecast at age nine to have a great operatic career ahead of her, she debuted at fifteen in Il Trovatore, a performance deemed a great success. A wealthy sponsor sent her to study in Milan, where she debuted in Lucia at La Scala, the famous opera house of Milan. Afterwards she made a grand tour of Europe and traveled as far as Turkey.
Known as “the Mexican Nightingale” for her beautiful singing, Peralta also composed salon music, both for piano and voice. It was popular for young ladies of some wealth to study the piano, and so there was a growing market for salon music. Professor Dolkart’s interesting presentation of Angela Peralta, who died of yellow fever in 1883, concluded with CSUB piano instructor Yulia Kozlova performing a short piece by Peralta, who appears to have played an important role in Mexican cultural history by expressing Mexican themes in her music.