Alondra de la Parra, the conductor that girls dream of | The weekly country

When Alondra de la Parra (New York, 1980) went to concerts with her parents as a child, she noticed the conductor. In those times, their referents were male. It was not considered a women’s trade. But it is known that Alondra, already at that time, applied to life her philosophy based on a question: what if …? So she wanted to be like Carlos Kleiber, like Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle or Daniel Barenboim … She succeeded. And today there are many girls who dream of becoming Alondra de la Parra.

She wanted him from a very young age. “Yes, it could be many other things, but the direction is the one that would make me the happiest, even if I had the feeling that it would be complicated. I had no image of anyone around me who had achieved it, but I did have a good ear ”. The fear knew him. She was an insecure girl who keeps doubting all the time. But it was Charles Dutoit, who was the husband of the pianist Martha Argerich, who suddenly took it away from her when, at the age of 19, he put her in front of an orchestra. “Apart from hearing, what did push me was the imagination and fantasy that music provoked in me.”

His norm has been to open a gap. “Many of my generation can already provide that mirror: that’s how it has been and that’s how it is,” says De la Parra. She didn’t realize it then. But looking back, yes. What have been the barriers? All! But I have already become resistant as part of the ecosystem. In my 40s, I became an expert in that. It is included in my salary for each concert. I am fortunate to have learned from a very young age that what seems impossible is not, that I am able to turn around what does not exist and build it, make it possible. I have succeeded so many times … There is no door, I look on the other side, I imagine the exit. I don’t even think about it in negative terms: Why not? I turn it over. And what if? “

The Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra, photographed in Madrid.
The Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra, photographed in Madrid.Javier Salas

How about then if in Mexico, where he grew up, he was part of the refreshing batch of Latino conductors who have conquered the world from Venezuela, with his friends from the System of Orchestras created by José Antonio Abreu, such as Gustavo Dudamel, Christian Vásquez or Diego Matheuz. Or batons from Colombia, Peru and Argentina with similar ages and names like Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Harth-Bedoya and Alejo Pérez. A generation that stands out. What if all of them have managed to weave a network of audacity and contagious talent that has opened the doors of the great auditoriums, opera houses and festivals of the world …

Alondra is a sure value in that scenario. They call her from the Staatsoper in Berlin, where Barenboim invited her to direct The Magic Flute, and she has fulfilled her dream, through her countryman Rolando Villazón, of working with La Fura dels Baus in a show dedicated to Mozart such as THAMOS

But it is she who brings the initiative that makes her shine. You don’t usually sit idly by waiting for an agent call. Causes the event. Search, test. As has happened in the pandemic. A break that ruined her usual schedule of more than 50 concerts in a few months did not stop her. “It helped me get into projects that I had in the pipeline. One is scenic: Silence of Sound, it is titled, in which I have been for five years, with music by Prokofiev, Debussy, Stravinsky… ”.

Alondra de la Parra, photographed in Madrid.
Alondra de la Parra, photographed in Madrid.Javier Salas

In addition to the music and ballet festival of the Riviera Maya or what he has called the Impossible Orchestra. “With that I started a year ago, very concerned about the issue of violence against children and women in Mexico; that restlessness is mixed with what we do, we cannot be annulled, silenced or separated from what is happening in the world ”. That is why it was proposed to set up a formation with 30 musicians of 14 different nationalities. To that was added a choreography by Christopher Wildon for the Mexican dancer Elisa Carrillo, star of the Berlin Staatsoper. “We achieved two million visits and raised 400,000 euros that have gone to two foundations: Save the Children and the Semillas Fund.”

Being Latino in classical music implies a responsibility for her. “We live especially aware.” Alondra follows the path of one of her references: the musician Silvestre Revueltas, who died in Mexico in 1940. An accomplice, friend and partner in various cultural projects and agitators of Federico García Lorca. “I have had it very present during all this time; With examples like this, I felt the need not to stay at home ”. Perhaps also to drive away the fear of suddenly disappearing: “I wondered: if I can’t direct, do I exist? I already had it, but now I have become more involved. When something like this happens, the theaters are closed and all the artists go home, the absurd prevails, even if you understand the logic of the matter. Our duty is to accompany people, support them in their suffering, in their challenges, lift their spirits ”.

But the break has turned the ritual of going to a theater into something profound. “Inside we feel more strongly the ceremony, the ritual. The fact of being together becomes stronger if possible, more since the pandemic deprived us of the hug. After all, what is an orchestra? It is that, a summary of the society. Together creating, simultaneously, in an analogous way, without a single cable in between, without a device, focused on what we can do with our hands, our voices, our bodies, at the mercy of human genius and error ”.

This reflection has led her to formulate her own theory. “What has happened to the history of music in recent years?” Says De la Parra. “There was a time, centuries ago, when the music that we consider classical today was understood as a popular phenomenon, with a very human dimension. Then comes the technology, the amplification of sound that makes it possible for a single singer to be heard by 100,000 people. We enter another dimension and it becomes somewhat distant because it implies that supermen are needed for it ”.

The human dimension, palpable, measured, disappears. “And, at the same time, the world of classical music remains in the hands of a select few who little by little are making it exclusive and almost granting the right of entry for the initiated. Elitism affects in unpleasant terms, it is not nice to go to a concert if they make you feel bad ”.

To this is added a competition at a disadvantage with other forms of spectacle: “Living with other proposals in a space where everyone is invited, where you can talk, eat and dance to see a superman on stage, wins the game and contributes elements with which a violin or a flute cannot compete ”. If this were not enough, in the 21st century everything becomes more extreme, says the director. “Electronic is coming, disc jockeys, people who play music and are not even making it. I am not saying that it is not valid, nor that it does not require skill, but it is something else, and while, we, who execute it with the body, are victims of very bad markings ”.

What has happened in the last two years is going to change the landscape, he says. “The same thing happens with food, before people used to eat what was in their town, but madness arrives. They said to me: ‘Do you want an ugly, crooked radish, grown in the garden behind your house, or a delicious factory ice cream?’ We chose the latter, and right now I prefer radish, organic, real, and not so much coca-cola or so much sushi ”.

According to Alondra de la Parra, we are already returning to the closest. “And I think that the same thing is going to happen with music, that people are going to get fed up with supermen and machines and will choose to enjoy those who pour their whole being into extracting the sound of a real instrument, before our eyes and ears. They are going to choose to enter a theater so that they give us an ephemeral work of art. A work that disappears the moment it is executed and that is only for you: the most beautiful thing that can happen ”.

The baton of Alondra de la Parra, on the score of a fundamental work of the 20th century, Appalachian Spring, by the American composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990).
The baton of Alondra de la Parra, on the score of a fundamental work of the 20th century, Appalachian Spring, by the American composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990).Javier Salas

Therefore, the director is clear. “As soon as this pandemic ends, there is a boom in live music for us. We are in a very interesting moment because what the human being needs most now is what we do, on a human scale, to return to the purity of what we interpret because it comes from loving others, from a common effort and a discipline of our own, without help from any machine, without amplification or exaggeration, pending the error: it is the crooked radish, so authentic, unpacked and watered by you ”.

We would say that you are in the grip of a contagious euphoria and not at all misguided judging by how audiences have returned to theaters. “We live a kind of trance: a moment of human connection, of openness, which is beautiful. The director, in English, is called a conductor, and it is a very apt term because we are a cable. We have a source, which is the composer. A receiver, which are the musicians who reproduce it; a beautiful cycle, part of a system that passes through everything in a full stream of energy. The end point is the audience. Active audiences can change the sound, their role is decisive, without a doubt ”.