Viva Espana!

Viva Espana!

Spanish evenings return to St. Petersburg.

Published: October 26, 2011 (Issue # 1680)


Alexis Soriano.

A modern Spanish opera inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel “Don Quixote” is one of the central events of this year’s “Spanish Evenings” festival that kicked off on Oct. 21 with a performance by Spanish guitarist Rafael Aguirre at the Glinka Hall of the Philharmonic.

“The opera was shown in Passau in 2010 with great success and it will be performed in Barcelona and New York in 2012,” said Albert Barbeta, artistic director of the Art Modern Foundation, a St. Petersburg-based center of musical and cultural exchange among Russia, Spain, Latin America and the U.S. The foundation is a long-term partner of the festival.

“The mission of our foundation is to promote contemporary music,” Barbeta said. “One of our first projects was the “Sovremennoe Proshloye” (Contemporary Past) music festival, which we held in 2008 with an eye to showcasing Russian composers who suffered from persecution or whose music was banned for political reasons.”

The opera “La Dulcinea de Don Quixote,” written by the aspiring Spanish composer Agustin Castilla-Avila, will be performed Sunday at the theater of the St. Petersburg Academy of Theatrical Art on Mokhovaya Ulitsa. The festival, which is now in its 14th year, is always on the lookout for new venues and performance spaces.

“To keep the festival and the foundation alive, we feel we should not limit ourselves to the very narrow circle of academic venues like the Philharmonic Hall,” he said. “For example, one of the foundation’s most important projects was a performance of the chamber opera “The Letters of Van Gogh” with Opera Incognita St. Petersburg at the Hermitage Theater.”

On Oct. 29, the festival will present a master class by the Spanish pianist Enrique Bagaria at the Conservatory. The day before, the musician will give a recital at the Glinka Philharmonic Hall, accompanied by his compatriot, violinist Jesus Reina.

The “Spanish Evenings” festival was founded in 1998 by the Spanish conductor and Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory graduate Alexis Soriano, who reserves a special place in his heart for the city in which he studied music.

“I have been to many countries and towns, but only here have I met such an incredible love and enthusiasm for Spain and Spanish [culture],” he said. “This admiration touched me to the depths of my soul.”

As a response to this enthusiasm, in 1998 Soriano created a festival dedicated to a subject close to his heart: Spanish music. The idea behind “Spanish Evenings” is to introduce Russian audiences to more obscure music by eminent Spanish composers, with a focus on contemporary classical music in Spain. Ironically, even the festival’s organizers on the Russian side admit that contemporary Spanish classical music is virtually terra incognita in Russia.

According to Barbeta, Soriano strives to present the musical culture of Spain in all of its diversity.

“Alexis is very open to ideas; he has earned a solid reputation in Spain, and musicians often send him their work in the hope that he will present it to international audiences,” he said.  

“When the festival began in 1998, I essentially discovered a new world for myself,” says local composer Sergei Yevtushenko. “Before, I was under the impression that Spanish classical music … was dead and buried. It isn’t even studied at the Conservatory.”

However, the festival has proved that classical music is thriving in Spain.

“I was amazed to see the variety of names, styles and approaches,” said Yevtushenko. “Contemporary classical music has surely had a luckier fate in Spain than in St. Petersburg. Every [“Spanish Evenings”] festival features several Russian or even world premieres.”

For a full schedule of the festival, see

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