A curious cross-language phenomena is occurring throughout the U.S.: operas performed in Spanish and English sub-titles for Spanish telenovelas. All this pointing to the acculturation of many Hispanic elements by the general U.S. population and the growing interest in all things Hispanic.
While operas have long been heard in French, Italian, and even German, Spanish operas are relatively rare, but across the country, opera aficionados are changing that.
San Antonio native and former singer with regional opera companies, Daniel Frost Hernández, is the founding executive director of recently launched Opera Hispánica in New York. He began the opera after noticing an increased number of Latino opera singers, and composers. Like Hernández’s project, the New York Opera Society will be performing in Spanish as well. While the Houston Grand Opera has announced a single performance of “the first mariachi opera” on November 13th, titled “To Cross the Face of the Moon,” and LA Opera’s recent presentation of “Il Postino” featuring Placido Domingo as Chilean poet Pablo Nerudo was the most talked about Spanish opera this year.
While key cities with an established Latino population are featuring operas in Spanish, more surprisingly, these operas are also being showcased in locations like…Wisconsin? Yes. Milwaukee’s Florentine Company has chosen “Río de sangre” (“River of Blood”) by Don Davis for its first world premiere, and this is the first time the 77-year-old company will present an opera in Spanish.
While operas and telenovelas have little in common and are at two ends of the cultural arts spectrum, there does seem to be a shift in their respective audiences. Opera lovers wants to hear opera in Spanish to attract a Spanish speaking audience, Spanish language telenovelas wants to attract the English speaking audience with English subtitles.
English subtitles are recently being added to many telenovelas and other Spanish shows as television stations are trying to bring entire line-ups to bilingual or English-only Latino viewers. The subtitles are being offered in an attempt to “draw in younger viewers who are interested, but aren’t fluent in Spanish,” said the Los Angeles Times.
Across Southern California, Spanish-language television stations serve as cultural and linguistic lifelines for immigrants, but due to generational changes within the Latino community in the United States, stations are increasingly turning to English subtitles to attract and retain English-speaking audiences.
Given current demographic trends and the apparent decrease in Spanish-speaking skills, the demand for English subtitles on Spanish television is expected to increase.