HAVANA TIMES — Spanish musician Carlos Aransay is the director of Coro Cervantes in England and a lover of Cuban culture. Concerning the island, he says, “Cuba always makes me smile and gives me life.” He tries to come each year to work with Cuban musicians.
HT: Let’s talk about your musical training.
CA: I did my studies in Spain, at the conservatories in Murcia and Madrid, graduating in music theory, piano and composition there. Later I did my master’s in orchestra conducting, theory and composition in London. I also studied singing at the Escuela Superior de Canto in Madrid, and continued private studies in London.
HT: You’re of Spanish background?
CA: Of origin and destination! – meaning I’m Spanish on all four sides, and with a nice mixture of Catalonian, Andalusian, Riojan, Basque and Murcian – therefore I love my country very much.
HT: Tell us about England, where you have lived for several years. What importance does it have in your life?
CA: At 14, I was already fascinated by Anglo-Saxon culture, and especially London.
I have spent half my adult life in London. Since I’ve lived there for 24 years, I consider myself a true Londoner. Growing musically and professionally in that city has really helped me in the training I’ve received, the continuing musical treasures in which I have participated and the professionalism of English musicians – from whom I hope I have learned.
HT: Coro Cervantes – tell us about this group that you direct.
CA: I founded it in 1995, and from the beginning I wanted it to be the flagship of Spanish classical choral music in the UK. I think I’ve achieved that, though it’s always a difficult task to keep active and stay in the forefront. We’re a very small professional choir, made up of British singers as well as Hispanics. We have already recorded five albums and presented ourselves in the best halls in London and in countries such as Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, and of course Spain.
HT: What about your experience in directing symphony orchestras?
CA: I’ve been fortunate in having been invited to conduct in several countries. I led the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba on two occasions, and similarly in Peru. I’ve also directed the SODRE Orchestra in Uruguay on national radio and television, and I have also conducted orchestras in Costa Rica, Venezuela, Mexico, and of course in the UK, where I’ve been a lead conductor for a few years at one of the university orchestras of London. Without a doubt my best experience there was leading the London Symphony Orchestra, with which I recorded an album.
HT: Opera holds a special place in your life.
CA: Everyone who knows me knows that singing is my passion. In addition, listening to opera occupies the leading place in my life. I started working with opera singers when I was 18 in Madrid, and I haven’t stopped since then. I love opera. I had the great fortune of being able to train a company of 600 people in which we performed opera Carmen in Germany and Switzerland, with Jose Carreras leading five different casts. This was all rehearsed and prepared under my direction. I can’t imagine life without opera.
CA: Cuba has gradually become one of my greatest loves. I can’t conceive of life without an annual visit to Cuba either. I was invited to lead the National Symphony Orchestra here twice, and also to teach two courses at the Instituto Superior del Arte. I performed here at the Festival La Huella de España, invited by the National Ballet, I have seen how the dancers here rehearse, and above all, at a personal level, I have fallen prey to the seduction of its people, its colors, its heat, flavors and its wonderful sea. Cuba always makes me smile and gives me life.
HT: What has surprised you most about the arts on the island, can you mention any artists specifically?
CA: I have enormous respect for the seriousness with which the Cubans take all types of art. In the field of singing I have been fortunate to meet a figure such as Maria Eugenia Barrios, a woman, an artist and a first class educator. Then there’s the soprano Barbara Llanes, a spectacular singer. She does any genre well and is a wonderful composer.
There is also the international diva Eglise Gutierrez, with whom I shared unforgettable moments. Nor must we forget other great musicians that I have worked with or whose work I admire, people like Ramon Centeno, Ivette Betancourt, Vilma Garriga, the musicians of the OSN, Ars Longa and Teresa Paz, the choral singers with whom I shared a course this year, Entrevoces, maestro Digna Guerra, Jose Maria Vitier, and so many others…. and with so many of them already having become very dear friends of mine.
HT: What are your upcoming professional commitments for when you return to Cuba?
CA: Well, I’m always making plans with Barbara Llanes so that we don’t stop collaborating. We’re already mulling around some ideas for next year. I would love to do a small festival in a country town called Aguacate, in Mayabeque Province, where we’ve already done a little something this year – so it would be nice to continue with that. I’m also grateful to Madelaine Masses, the director of the Centro Nacional de Conciertos for having already invited me back to conduct next year.
HT: Is there anything else of importance on your agenda for 2012.
CA: This year, I think my greatest achievement has been my being appointed as the teacher of the Spanish repertoire of the London Opera House in Covent Garden. It’s something that has built up my greatest hopes because I’m also working with some of the best singers in the world. In addition, in November 2012, I marked ten years as the director of the International Singing Competition in Trujillo, Peru.
For me it’s a very special engagement since, among other things, Trujillo was where I made friends with Cuban artists who would later open doors for me to this beautiful country. In August I’ll have the London performance of the Coro Cervantes after a two year absence in that city. It was very special to be able to return to prepare the French soprano Patricia Petibon for a second recording with the German label Deutsche Grammophon. And I finally managed to launch a small promoting effort called London Lyric Arts, to try to develop more musical activities having to do with the vocal arts in London. Professionally, I hope to travel to Spain, Scotland, Mexico, Peru and Brazil.