Colombian soprano Betty Garcés returns to the Teatro Colón as “Cecilia Valdés”, the Cuban heroine of Cirilo Villaverde’s anti-slavery novel set in Havana during the early 19th century. The Cuban writer’s work was later adapted as a zarzuela by another Cuban, composer Gonzalo Roig and the pioneer of lyric theatre on the Caribbean island.

Betty Garcés is considered Colombia’s most important female operatic voice, having emerged from humble origins in Buenaventura, the port city of the Pacific and home to one of this country’s largest Afro-Colombian populations. After moving to nearby Cali in the Valle del Cauca department to study music, Garcés was “discovered” for her extraordinary  musical versatilty which covers a wide range of genres: from Jazz, to German song and an extensive Mozart repertoire.

The iconic Colón theatre has put Roig’s zarzuela in the hands of the Colombian pianist and composer Alejandro Roca. Having worked on performances in the past with Garcés in the acoustically rich Teatro Colón , Garcés as “Valdés” promises to deliver yet another outstanding performance and set to a narrative of race relations in another tropical port – Havana.

During six performances, starting Friday September 29, Betty Garcés is joined on stage by a cast of singers and actors, and accompanied by the National Symphony of Colombia. The zarzuela marks another important production for this “Theatre of all Colombians”, and which next month celebrates its 125th anniversary with an evening of vocal virtuosity in the company of Colombian baritone Valeriano Lanchas and Korean soprano Sumi Jo.

“Cecilia Valdés” marks a departure from two major productions staged over the last 18-months at the theatre – Verdi tragedies Macbeth and Otello – both exceptional productions. Vibrant and with plenty of tropical bravado, “Cecilia Valdés” takes on a classic Cuban tale, punctuated musically by Latin rhythms and Caribbean chants. “This is such a refreshing opportunity for me to let go,” said Garcés before a dress rehearsal in the capital. Adding some male vocal power to this poignant zarzuela is Spanish tenor Alejandro del Cerro, who takes on “Leonardo”, the love-lorn son of a slave trader and Cecila’s suitor.

Colombia’s leading lady of opera has a voice matched by very few on the international circuit. For us the audience, the Colón’s latest musical undertaking offers a rare opportunity to hear Betty for 90-minutes and in a performance that unites the classical with a Cuban soul.

Performances on September 29 (premiere), October 1,4,5,7 and 9. Shows starts at 7:30pm. Doors open at 7pm. Tickets available at theatre’s box office or tuboleta.com

Tickets: $50,000 – $110,000.

Teatro Colón– Calle 10 No.5-32