Oratorio Panhispánico, An Immigrant Oratorio

Alejandro Zuleta

There are few oratorios composed now, and the newest presentation by Music at Co-Cath (MACC) is a unique and exciting one. Entirely in Spanish, this work tells the story of the Passion of Christ through the lens of Hispanic immigrants. The music utilizes a mix of contemporary classical sound and Latin American musical genres from Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Cuba, and Venezuela among others.

Daniel Irizarry

MACC (Music at Co-Cath) of The Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn will present Oratorio Panhispánico March 31 and April 1, 2023. MACC seeks to create awe-inspiring sacred music experiences made accessible to everyone for a kinder world. Composer Alejandro Zuleta’s El Oratorio Panhispánico, is a fully staged production directed by Daniel Irizarry. The piece features soloists soprano Cristina Maria Castro and tenor Daveed Buzaglo, as well as chorus and an instrumental ensemble that combines classical & traditional Latin American instruments.

Zuleta says, “The Panhispanic aspect of this piece begins with the text. The libretto for this oratorio comes from three sources. The first one is inspired by the tradition of décimas. The Décimas Espinelas are a type of verse of ten stanzas that originated in Spain and traveled to the Americas. Apart from its wonderful musicality, what is truly special about them is that they became part of the traditional way of improvising verses to music in almost every Hispanic country in Latin America.”

Daveed Buzaglo

He describes his compositional inspiration, “I wrote this oratorio as a way of resisting the consolidation of biased stereotypes about race and identity. I hope to accomplish this by using the material to explore the contradictory realities that emanate from human migration. On the one hand, migration makes possible the creation of new and unique expressions of culture, richness, and beauty. These expressions are only possible in the miraculous clashing of diverse cultural identities. On the other hand, there is the heartbreak that comes by being seen through biased stereotypes and treated as ‘The Other’ or ‘otherized.’ This brings isolation, injustice, abuse, suffering, and pain. Finally, there are the broken dreams and interrupted lives of migrants lost in the journey. In this oratorio, the music and the story portray this contradiction. The music is a unique fusion between the Baroque passion oratorio tradition and the cultural depth of Latin American folk music. The story confronts us with a timeless tale of persecution, betrayal, abuse, cruelty, injustice, suffering, and death. The setting is a fictional reunion of migrants along the border of Mexico and the U.S. This meeting opens the possibility for this Oratorio Panhispánio to exist. These are our names. These are our voices. This is our music. This is our story.”

Cristina Maria Castro

Castro notes, “The Passion of Christ serves as a mirror to our own personal identities as migrants, immigrants, sons, daughters, and grandchildren of immigrants—both in the wonderful and unique ways in which we share, celebrate, and blend our cultures, and also in the heartbreak that accompanies our stories.”

For more information and tickets, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/world-premiere-of-alejandro-zuletas-el-oratorio-panhispanico-tickets-545454598387

Joanie Brittingham

Joanie Brittingham is the Associate Editor for CS Music. She is also a soprano and writer living in New York City. She can be reached at joanie@csmusic.net. Visit her on Instagram and TikTok at @joaniebrittingham.