SASO, Lerner heading back to Oaxaca

Opera is not native to the culturally rich southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, but a Tucson conductor and his orchestra are among those trying to change that.

Linus Lerner, conductor and music director of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, will lead more than 100 vocalists from Mexico, the U.S., Italy and Lerner’s native Brazil in a pair of full-staged operas — Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” and Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” — as part of the third annual Oaxaca Opera Festival.

Members of SASO, as well as musicians from the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and from Oaxaca, will perform as they have in two earlier festivals in 2013 and 2014. Both of those festivals included concerts of opera scenes, but nothing as elaborate as this year.

Lerner founded the Oaxaca Opera Festival with Maribel Sanchez of Oaxaca with the intention of providing training opportunities to mostly Mexican vocalists. Many of them had little exposure to opera.

The event has grown to be one of Mexico’s premiere music festivals and one of the few not funded by the Mexican government, Lerner said. The festival is supported by volunteers and donations including those from SASO benefactors Dorothy VanekIrving Olson and Tim Secomb. The event also gets funding from sponsors in Oaxaca.

In addition to leading SASO, Lerner is music director and conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte in his native Brazil.

Lerner will invite winners of the festival’s vocal competitions to perform with SASO at the orchestra’s Mexican independence concert on Sept. 15 at Fox Tucson Theatre downtown. Details:

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