Latinx Voices: Reinaldo Moya

It’s Latinx Heritage Month! All month, we’ll be highlighting the incredible artistry of the Latinx singers, directors, and composers in our community as well as uplifting local Latinx organizations that need your support. Recently, we sat down with several Latinx members of the MN Opera family to talk about how their Latinx identities have impacted their opera careers and what they would like to see change in the opera industry with regard to Latinx representation.   

Reinaldo Moya is a Venezuelan-American composer whose rhythmically and emotionally charged works depict the multitude of voices and influences present in the American continents today. Moya is a graduate of The Juilliard School where he received his masters and doctorate degrees. He is the current Composer-in-Residence at the Schubert Club and is also the recipient of the 2015 McKnight Composers Fellowship, the Van Lier Fellowship from Meet the Composer, and the Aaron Copland Award from the Copland House. MN Opera fans will recognize his music from Project Opera’s production in the spring of 2016 based on Will Weaver’s best-selling book, Memory Boy. His music has been performed in Germany, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, and throughout the United States. Moya currently serves as the Assistant Professor of Composition at Augsburg University in Minneapolis. He has been on the faculties of St. Olaf and Macalester Colleges, as well as on the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan.


In what ways has your Latinx identity impacted your career journey in opera?

I guess the main way that my Latinx identity has had an impact on my career is through the choice of stories I tell. The idea for my first opera was to tell the story of a Latin American dictator, a character that is almost by definition larger-than-life and operatic. I was reacting to what I saw as a worrying situation in my native Venezuela, but the whole show is looking more and more current, unfortunately. The success of that show allowed me to make Memory Boy for the Minnesota Opera’s Project Opera, which was a nice departure from the dark tone of Generalissimo, but an important step in my career as an opera composer. With my opera Tienda, I went back to telling stories about the Latinx community, this time through the journey of Luis Garzón, who was one of the first Mexican American immigrants to Minnesota. The opera deals with forgotten chapters in American history such as the repatriation drives of the 1920s and ’30s, and the early history of the Latin American community in Minnesota. 

Zooming out a bit, as a Venezuelan-American opera composer, for me it has always been important to tell our stories, those of folks who look and feel like I do. I am excited to continue my journey on this path and continue to explore my history and identity through music. There is just so much to tell and discover in the history and consciousness of Latin America. 

Did you have any Latinx role models or mentors when you were starting your career? What qualities did you admire about them?

Unfortunately, I did not find too many Latinx role models or mentors. There were certainly works that inspired me and gave me much to think about, such as the powerful operas by Daniel Catán and Alberto Ginastera. But, I couldn’t meet them and pick their brains! For me, one of the major sources of inspiration was the great wealth of Latin American literature, especially the big books from the Boom of the 1960s and ’70s (García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Cortázar’s Hopscotch, etc.). Those books opened up my imagination and showed me a path towards telling stories that brought Latin American consciousness into the wider world. 

In terms of important mentors who encouraged me along my path as a composer, I would like to mention my teachers Samuel Adler, Robert Beaser and John Beall, and other important mentors, such as Libby Larsen and Mark Campbell. More recently I have had some wonderfully encouraging conversations with Gabriela Lena Frank who is a shining model of how to be a mentor and understands how important it is to give guidance to the younger generation. I am excited to be collaborating with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music as a CREA Mentor, where I will be working on mentoring two young composers of color throughout the 20-21 season. 

What changes would you like to see in the opera industry, specifically in relation to the Latinx community?

We need opera companies to embrace diverse stories, told in different ways and styles. There is such a wealth of wonderful storytelling from throughout the world and opera companies continue to focus their seasons on a handful of works from 19th century Europe. I see that Latinx composers and stories are gaining more visibility, and acclaim, but we need to continue moving forward. The music being written today is often so gorgeous, sensitive and vibrant and has the potential to reach to and connect with, a much wider audience. On a slightly different note, I would love to see greater visibility for the wonderful Latinx singers and performers who continue to excel at all levels of the opera and voice world. They exhibit such great flexibility, tenacity, and determination and I would love to continue to see them featured on the opera stage and have their accomplishments celebrated. 


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