HAVANA TIMES — Lyric singing marked the beginning of Orley Cruz’s artistic career as a soloist in performances staged by Cuba’s National Lyric Theater, a company he later left in order to start a new path in singing.
HT: You entered the professional world at a very young age.
Orley Cruz: I had my first experience on a stage at the age of five during a children’s festival. I did not sing seriously again until I was ten, with a group of friends in a band we called Fiebre Salsera (Salsa fever). This all happened in my hometown Ciego de Ávila.
From that moment on, I took part in every Amateur singers’ festival, and I made it to the national level at the age of 16, in 2000, which opened the doors of professional singing to me. One year later I began to perform at restaurants and nightclubs as part of professional artistic shows.
HT: What motivated your interest in lyrical singing, given the fact that you were a folk music singer at the beginning?
OC: Lyric singing entered my life when I was finishing high school and looking for information about the teaching of singing in our country. I learned that lyric singing is taught at the Higher Art Institute (ISA), and I set out to pass the tests to enter that school. My main motivation for this was the desire to be nurtured with the technical tools that would allow me to sing professional, solidly, as a science. Only lyric singing, with its ancestral tradition, could offer me that.
HT: Tell us about the interest of the new generations of Cuban musicians for lyric singing.
OC: In the last years, this interest has been multiplied due to the new opportunities in the training of lyric voices. The ISA in Havana and Holguin City are no longer the only places where you can study lyric singing. Only five years ago, the National Lyric Singing School was founded, in which it is possible to start getting into the passionate world of opera from an early age.
The training of singers is also strongly promoted in the province of Pinar del Río. Currently, lyric singing companies have been created, which has made it possible to widen the working range of the artists. The Habana Clasicos, directed by Jimmy Sánchez, and the young people of Opera de la Calle, directed by Ulises Aquino, and others, stand out among these companies. They are all nurtured by the young talent graduated at our schools, and contribute to promoting a good musical taste in our people.
HT: Traces left by your career as soloist with the Cuba’s National Lyric Company?
OC: The deepest trace was discipline. Facing the lyric repertoire takes a lot of energy, commitment and passion. I learned that you can sing lyric and folk with the same vocal organ and the same technique, though this criterion is not shared by all the masters of the genre. The secret is in identifying and placing oneself in the style inherent to each musical genre.
HT: Is there any reason why many soloists decide to leave the company after a short time, or is it just coincidence?
OC: In my opinion, the exodus is mainly caused by economic reasons. It is no secret that classical music in Cuba is subsidized by the state and the artists’ pay is not the best, if you compare it with that of pop singers, though this has been reverted to a great extent, thanks to the new opportunities I mentioned before.
HT: “A la orilla de un beso” (At the shore of a kiss)?
OC: “A la orilla de un beso” is a dream come true, it is the materialization of many years of work. It is a compilation of the best unedited songs of my friends, and also some of mine. The disc is very rich in musical genres and you can both reflect and dance with the songs. It is singing to love, happiness and hope.
HT: And currently, what is happening in Orley Cruz’s musical career?
OC: Currently, I am focused on the promotion of the disc, and of the video clip of the theme “Y serás” (And you will be), which can already be heard on the Cuban radio and television. I am also working in the selection of the themes for a new disc that I intend to start recording at mid-year. I am also part of a cultural project with the renowned Cuban painter Ever Fonseca, National Prizewinner for Plastic Arts in 2012. I am doing all this without forgetting what I like the most, live performances.
HT: So do you consider yourself, a lyric or a pop singer?
OC: Just a singer…