Sunday, April 15, 2012

Three Favorite Concert Halls in Mexico

Several important things are required of a good concert hall - 1. it must be a comfortable and pleasant experience for the audience. 2. it must have a good acoustic quality for both the music and the performer. 3. all of the above.

I worked as a musician in Mexico, serving at several important posts during the 1980s. During that time, I had the opportunity to play in a lot of different theatres, some good, some bad or indifferent, and a few of them great. First, a few remarks about the not so good halls. The excellent Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City Philharmonic) is poorly served by their home, the Sala Ollin Yolitzli. Mexico's Sinfonica Nacional does somewhat better. The Teatro Bellas Artes is a marvel to look at and presents an interesting interior hall for the pleasure of the audience. Unfortunately, it leaves something to be desired in terms of the acoustics. This is more a problem for the musicians than for the listener. However, the concert experience is only optimal when a concert space serves both the players and the listeners.

Sala Nezahualcoyotl - Mexico City

By far the best venue in Mexico City, and one of the very best in all of the Americas, is the Sala Nezahualcoyotl, on the campus of Mexico's National University (UNAM). The physical setting, next to ancient lava flows, is spectacular. But the absolute proof of this as one of the finest concert halls in the world is found inside. The sight is stunning and the sound is superb.  This is the permanent home of the Orquesta Filarmonica de la UNAM, and the Sala Neza (as it is sometimes called) hosts the Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria during the summer months. Musicians count themselves extremely fortunate to play here.

Teatro de la Ciudad - downtown Mexico City
Another enjoyable venue is the Teatro de la Ciudad, located in the historic center of Mexico City. This theatre, built in 1918, survived a fire in the mid-1980s, and is today a popular location for music of all sorts. It's not an exceptional acoustic, but I nevertheless love the ambience. I've played orchestral concerts here, and opera. I've also listened to full orchestras here, and opera too. One of my fondest memories was hearing the legendary saxophonist Dexter Gordon in the Teatro de la Ciudad.

Finally, another very beautiful theatre is the Teatro Degollado, in Guadalajara. Here one finds history (the theatre was inaugurated in 1866) and classic beauty, from the chandeliered entry to the oh so European looking interior. The sound is not great, but it's not too bad either. Musicians enjoy playing this venue. It serves as the home of the Orquesta Filarmonica de Jalisco, now conducted by Alondra de la Parra.

Teatro Degollado - Guadalajara
On this week's edition of Itinerarios, you will have the opportunity to hear performances recorded in the Sala Nezahualcoyotl. I encourage you, if you are so fortunate as to travel to Mexico City or Guadalajara, to check out the three theatres I describe here. Your visit to Mexico will be enhanced by the experience.

-James Baker, host and producer of Itinerarios

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