Latinx Voices: Vanessa Alonzo
In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month we want to highlight the incredible artistry of the Latinx singers, conductors, and directors in our community. This year, we’re focusing on the artists featured in our 2021–2022 Season kickoff, Ópera Afuera!
Houston native Vanessa Alonzo has performed with the greatest mariachi musicians in the world including Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, Mariachi Los Camperos, and Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlan. She was awarded Grand Champion Vocalist Award in the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza national vocal competition. Her travel and performing credits include tours to Ireland, Mexico, Norway, and Vietnam. In 2002, she performed for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. She studied mariachi and voice under the direction of the late Alfonso Guerra at the community-based program Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA).
In 2019, Alonzo created the role of Lupita for the world premiere of Houston Grand Opera’s El Milagro del Recuerdo/The Miracle of Remembering, which is a prequel to Cruzar la Cara de la Luna/To Cross the Face of the Moon, the first mariachi opera in the world. She reprised the role of Lupita in Cruzar La Cara De La Luna across the United States, with companies such as El Paso Opera (2019); Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera, and Teatro Nacional Sucre in Quito, Ecuador (2018); Fort Worth Opera (2017); Arizona Opera (2014); as well as the 2013 tri-city tour with San Diego Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Additionally, at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France in 2011. In 2015, Alonzo also created the role of Juana in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s El Pasado Nunca Se Termina/The Past Is Never Finished, which she also performed at Houston Grand Opera and San Diego Opera. She reprised the role at Fort Worth Opera in their 2019 season. Alonzo was invited to perform with Grammy Award winning Mariachi Los Camperos for the Houston Grand Opera Ball in 2019.
In what ways has your Latinx identity impacted your career in opera?
I feel my Latinx identity freed up my soul. It begged me to embrace it and run with it. So I did. English is my first language but Spanish speaks to my soul more clearly. It’s beautiful and delicious!
Did you have any Latinx role models or mentors when you were starting your career? What qualities did you admire about them?
Selena!!! I am a huge Selena fan. All I wanted to do was be like her. My grandmother used to sing and I wanted to be like her. Then Selena started singing mariachi music like my grandmother did and my heart skipped a beat when I heard that. Then Lola Beltran, Rocío Durcal, Ana Gabriel, Lucha Villa, and many others stole my heart and I just couldn’t hold back. My mother used to play Juan Gabriel music while cleaning, and now, I am my mother and listen, clean, and give my house a show with his music. The voices, the power, the passion, the soul that I hear in their music, you can’t help but want to pour out your soul too.
What changes would you like to see in the opera industry, specifically in relation to the Latinx community?
I love seeing that the changes are already happening. I felt there were only European or composers from the other side of the world. But there are composers such as Daniel Catán and Jose “Pepe” Martinez. I just love to see the changes happening.