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Aylén Flores adjusts the violin, adjusts the bow and the sweet sound begins to flow without pause. “The first time I heard my teacher play I completely fell in love,” she will later say, with a smile on her face. At his side, Santiago Ortega (24) and Geraldine Lara (21) review the notes on a staff with their instruments at their side and discuss a composition, while the young cellist Jonatan Terrazas (20), who has just arrived for rehearsal, joins in silence. The scene takes place in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, in an area where needs abound. There, a hundred young people, adolescents, boys and girls captivated by classical music are preparing for the third edition of the Villera Opera Festival that will take place at the beginning of November.
“With music, inequality is reduced,” defines Mailén Ubiedo Myskow (Buenos Aires, 34), a graduate in Composition from the Argentine Catholic University and coordinator of the Argentine Solidarity Artistic Center (CASA), made up of a group of teachers who teach music workshops. all the disciplines that make up opera (music, dramaturgy, costumes and characterization) to about 180 boys and girls from the Fátima and Padre Ricciardelli neighborhoods, two of the most humble settlements in the City of Buenos Aires.
The initiative arose in 2010, when Ubiedo Myskow was finishing his university studies. Together with a group of colleagues, he began to give workshops in vulnerable neighborhoods. “I always had a social vocation through music,” he says. “I am privileged, I was able to study what I wanted, but there are people who were not affected by that reality and it would be good if they could access it,” he hopes.
Mailén Ubiedo Myskow.Silvina Frydlewsky
Thirteen years later, the project already has more than 20 teachers and in addition to producing the first Villera Opera Festival, they give impetus to the artistic careers of young people who have just finished school: several of their students entered conservatories to study music. professionally, others are students at the Instituto Superior de Arte del Teatro Colón – the prestigious Argentine opera house – and one of them, Nashy-Nashai, has just won the reality show La Firma, on Netflix, a talent show that was looking for to the great figures of the urban genre in Latin America.
Music to confront inequality
For Santiago it is impossible to forget the first day he played the trumpet, when he was 13 years old. His body vibrated, he remembers eleven years later. “It’s a unique experience,” he says during a rehearsal break. In his family, no one was dedicated to music and it was he alone who approached a Youth Orchestra workshop that operated in his neighborhood, intrigued by the magic of the instruments. Ortega, who just joined this year the workshop coordinated by Ubiedo Myskow, is excited to participate in the festival that will take place from November 4 to 12. “I’m composing, which is something I’ve never done, it’s good to try new things,” he reflects.
Dozens of children from 10 to 18 years old and older youth participate in the rehearsal and workshops. This takes place on a property of the La Verónica foundation where homes operate for women victims of situations of violence who live in the homes from Monday to Friday. On Saturdays it is the headquarters of the CASA project, where in addition to the composition workshop, the disciplines of dramaturgy – a key piece of opera -, characterization and costumes advance.
Young people work on making costumes, in one of the CASA workshops, on September 2. Silvina Frydlewsky
Tatiana Solorzano (21) was Mailén’s student at school and thanks to her she learned about CASA. Although as a teenager she wanted to study cardiology, when she enrolled in the courses she discovered that her true passion was artistic makeup and costumes. She is now a student of the Characterization program taught at the Teatro Colón and dreams of making the complete costumes for a play.
For Ubiedo Myskow, music is a tool to reduce inequality and show young people that it can be their livelihood. For this reason, she emphasizes to them that art can be sold as a product. “They can work in film, theater or television, regardless of whether they were born in a working-class neighborhood,” she reflects. “What we do exceeds art,” says the teacher, who clarifies: “In these neighborhoods, art is an excuse to meet, to accompany children who have very complicated economic realities, where the lack of money is a common denominator, “But there are also situations of violence, abuse and in many cases they live in overcrowded conditions.”
Young people participate in a CASA art workshop at the facilities of the La Verónica foundation. Silvina Frydlewsky
“I want this for my life”
At the end of the covid quarantine – which in the informal settlements of Buenos Aires caused havoc due to living conditions – the Villera Opera Festival was born with the objective of exhibiting all the artistic production of the students. After two editions, now the young people are preparing for the third, which is carried out jointly between CASA and the Contemporánea Lírica company and will include three 20-minute micro-operas, in which three lyrical singers will participate as guests.
The production requires a far from simple architecture: the theater group creates a dramaturgy for the opera; while the musicians are in charge of the composition. The designers, for their part, are in charge of the costumes and sets, and the characterists do the same with the makeup. “It is something that does not exist, it was not done. For the kids it is closing time and for us it is fabulous, all the families come. There is light, sound… they feel like they are in the Teatro Colón. They tell us ‘I want this for my life,’” the teacher is excited.
The coordinator believes that the next big step is to be able to build a residence for young musicians that also includes a home for boys and girls. “We do not have the commitment from the State that we would like to have, we struggle to get our own space, because now we are on loan. But the project covers more, it runs beyond the artistic,” she acknowledges.
Young people during one of the festival preparation activities. Silvina Frydlewsky
“This is my second festival and I am taking care of composition, which is what I want to dedicate myself to,” says Jonatan Terrazas during a rehearsal break. Born in Bolivia, seven years ago he moved to Buenos Aires with his family and has been playing the cello for some time, an instrument that he did not know and that completely captivated him. “It is unusual, it has its complexity, especially with the tuning,” explains the young man, who studies at the Astor Piazzolla Conservatory, like Aylén Flores, who learned about the violin three years ago, when he heard Mailén play. “I fell in love and wanted to learn, I had never seen or heard a violin before,” she says.
On the other hand, Geraldine Lara did know the violin because some family members played it. “I grabbed it ten years ago and I haven’t let it go again, the difficulty motivates me, wanting to improve myself,” says the Manuel de Falla conservatory student, who also began giving musical initiation classes to children who join the CASA project. A few minutes later they will resume the composition. When the cold Saturday afternoon is about to come to an end, among smiles that do not fade, the sound of classical music will take over the small room. There, again, they will shine again, despite everything.
The musicians rehearse together on September 2 in Buenos Aires (Argentina). Silvina Frydlewsky
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