SASO, Enrique Toussaint, Festival Soloists Perform Free Concert Sept. 15

The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra and vocalists from the San Luis Potosí Opera Festival join forces to perform a free public concert in celebration of Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. the Fox Theatre.

The Consulate of Mexico in Tucson, in collaboration with the Instituto Cultural Mexicano de Tucson, SASO and the Fox Theatre Tucson, presents this commemoration of the 206th anniversary of Mexican Independence.

The concert features arias sung by vocalists who performed this summer at the first Opera Festival of San Luis Potosí, founded by SASO music director Linus Lerner. The selections span from Gershwin and Gounod to Dvorák, Puccini, Donizetti, Mozart and Verdi.

The program also features jazz pieces performed on electric bass guitar by Enrique Toussaint, whose late brother Eugenio composed some of the works. They formed a popular band called Sacbé in 1976, a musical project with an original, Latin-American identity. In addition, SASO will perform two works by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez: Conga Del Fuego Nuevo and Danzón No. 2.

Lerner is an internationally known vocal coach and conductor. He said, “In recent years, Mexico has become the source of some of the best emerging opera singers in the world.” He organized a series of opera festivals in Mexico to showcase these emerging talents and to nurture their development through workshops and individual coaching. In addition to the inaugural festival and Linus Lerner Vocal Competition in San Luis Potosí, SASO musicians performed at three summer opera festivals in Oaxaca in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The Mexican Independence Day concert includes these soloists from Mexico and their featured arias. This program is subject to change.

  • Ricardo López of Mexico, baritone and winner of five awards in the voice competition, including the top prize: arias from operas by Gounod, Verdi and Donizetti
  • Andrea Cortes-Moreno of Mexico, soprano and prize winner in the voice competition: Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now” from Porgy and Bess; Puccini’s “Mi chiamano Mimi” from La Bohème, “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca and “Un bel di vedremo” from Madama Butterfly
  • Elizabeth Barrios of Puerto Rico, soprano: Leoncavallo’s “Stridono lassù” from Pagliacci, Dvorák’s “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka and Puccini’s “Musetta’s Waltz” from La Bohème
  •  Liliana del Conde of Mexico City, soprano: Donizetti’s “Quel guardo il cavaliere” from Don Pasquale, Mozart’s “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni (with Ricardo López), Mozart’s “Der Hölle Rache” from The Magic Flute and “Verdi’s “E strano … Sempre libera” from La Traviata 

This is SASO’s third annual Mexican Independence Day celebration concert. Ricardo Pineda, Consul of Mexico in Tucson, has said, “We want to share with the public our rich historical and cultural legacy and our different traditions. This event seeks to bring our communities together in remembrance of those who have forged the history of Mexico.”

On the eve of September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called upon the residents of the town of Dolores, Hidalgo to rise up against the government of New Spain. This call to arms began an 11-year struggle that culminated with the Cordoba Treaties and the birth of a new nation.

The Fox Theatre Tucson, which seats 1,200, is in downtown Tucson at 17 W. Congress St. The event is open to the public at no charge. Doors will open at 6 p.m.

Founded in 1979, SASO presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites. The orchestra is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music – locally and internationally. For more information call 308-6226 or visit

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SASO’s Story

The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.