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Lyrical Gringa Takes Country’s Opera Scene by Storm

April 1, 2005

WHEN the new group Voces LíricasLatinoamericanas (Latin American LyricalVoices) presented 11 performances ofVerdi’s “La Traviata” in San José inFebruary and March, three sopranosshared the title role of Violetta: anArgentine, a Costa Rican, and NorthAmerican Holly Gash. How did a Gringafrom Fayetteville, Arkansas, come to join acompany composed entirely of Argentinesand Ticos?“I had sung with Raquel Ramírez, theCosta Rican mezzosoprano,and with LuisGirón, the Guatemalanbaritone, and they recommendedme to thedirectors of the company,”Gash explained. “Iwas completing aseries of performancesof Verdi’s “LuisaMiller” in Houston,Texas, and I agreed toundertake Violetta.”“I figured if I couldtackle Luisa Miller,”she added, laughing, “Icould sing anything.”Gash’s performancesearned ravereviews from the Texaspress. Luisa Miller israrely mounted, as the title role is extremelychallenging and requires considerablepower and flexibility. The MetropolitanOpera in New York presented it once in1929, when North American soprano RosaPonselle added it to her laurels, after whichit remained unperformed there for close tofour decades until Spanish superstarMontserrat Caballe decided to sing it.GASH’S Violetta here was her firstessay of “The Lady of the Camellias.”Members of the Italian community couldnot believe this; her total command of therole and her acting and singing prowessconvinced them she had sung the roledozens of times. The soprano was delightedat their reactions when they came backstageto congratulate her or stopped her onthe street to offer their accolades. Tall andstatuesque, she managedto dominate thestage at all times.Did she have anychance to travel outsideof San José?“Not too much,”Gash admitted. “I hadto stay around torehearse and to coverthe others in the cast.”“I went on a one-daytrip that included acanopy tour, and thescenery was breathtaking.But,” she chuckled,“I didn’t see muchwildlife. There was onebird and a colony ofants.”WHAT’S in the future for the divafrom the South? She will return to severalcities in Guatemala for a series of concertswith orchestra, again with Girón, and willsing Rossini’s “Stabat Mater,” a staple ofher repertory, in New Orleans – a specialcity for her, as she attended LoyolaUniversity there.Gash has been asked to prepare anotherVerdi heroine unlucky in love: Leonora,in “Il Trovatore.” This doomed lady needsthe same vocal prowess as the others.Voces Líricas Latinoamericanas is contemplatingother productions, according tothe grapevine – possibly the zarzuela“Luisa Fernanda” and the opera “LaBohème.” Plans to bring the productions toPanama and Guatemala are also beingconsidered.Perhaps Gash will be visiting us againfor more guest appearances – and have achance to finally see some animals on hernext excursion outside the Central Valley.

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