Yucatan Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco still does not have permission from INAH to host a concert by Placido Domingo at Chichen Itza on Oct. 4, but as promised, she announced it anyway.
According to an INAH spokesman, the agency, which oversees Mexico’s pre-Columbian sites, has not made a final decision on the concert, as it is awaiting word from its technical departments. Only one, the Council of Archaeology, has reached a decision that has been made public, and it recommended against holding the concert because of there would be no way to adequately protect the site (see full story HERE).
On Wednesday the governor made the announcement in front of the media, along with several hundred politicians and other interested parties. She said her team has met with INAH and the Ministry of Public Education, which oversees it, and has explained the terms, as well as the technical and legal grounds “under which our proposal feasible.” She went on to say, “The state government has full confidence that soon the federal authorities will resolve the request in favor of the approach, which will be communicated in due course.”
The announcement Wednesday also revealed many details about the program, to be called the Concert of the Thousand Columns, and it is no exaggeration to say that the organizers behind it are making it very hard for INAH to say no. The reasons behind the concert and its execution appears to cover every possible political base possible, specifically:
— The main performer, Placido Domingo, has deep ties to Mexico, as it is where he spent much of his youth. He also made his first professional engagement in Yucatan.
— Domingo will be joined by Armando Manzanero, the premier modern composer and songwriter in Mexico, who was born in Merida and is of Maya ancestry.
— The event not only commemorates the one-year anniversary of Chichen Itza being named a Wonder of the World, but also the 20-year anniversary of the site being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered by many to be a much more prestigious honor.
— One of the planks of the administration of Mexican President Felix Calderon is the encouragement of cultural tourism.
Yucatan: Where Placido Domingo Got His Start
The great Spanish tenor made his first appearance on the stage in Merida, Yucatan, in 1957 when he was 16 years old. He performed with his mother, who was a well known performer at the time.
Although born in Madrid, Domingo moved with his family to Mexico when he was 8. His parents ran a theatrical company that performed zarzuela, which is to Spain what Gilbert and Sullivan were to England. Young Placido regularly performed in his parent’s company, particularly when the zarzuela required the role of a boy or young man.
Domingo’s son, Alvaro, was present at Wednesday’s announcement and read a message from his father. The Spanish tenor said it is his “thrill and honor” to sing at Chichen Itza, especially since he has in the past performed at some of the greatest landmarks in the world, such as the Baths of Caraccala in Rome, the Coliseum in Athens, the Forbidden City in Beijing, Luxor in Egypt, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and soon, in Petra, Jordan.
Yucatan has special meaning, according to the younger Domingo, because “my father moved back to Merida in 1957 where he began his acting career as a singer in the company of his mother, Pepita Embil.”
Manzanero Returns Home
Manzanero is probably Mexico’s best known songwriter. His most well known song, at least by United States audiences, is “Somos Novios,” which was translated into “It’s Impossible” and made famous by Perry Como.
His work has been performed by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Elvis Presley, Andrea Bocelli, and Christina Aguilera, among others.
When Manzanero appeared at Wednesday’s announcement, the room exploded into applause. He will accompany Domingo on piano, but it was not revealed what song or songs they will perform.
“When I feel more Maya is when I’m among my people,” Manzanero told the crowd.
The Rest of the Bill
Also slated to perform at the Concert of the Thousand Columns will be the Symphony Orchestra of Yucatan, under the direction of JosÃ© Luis Chan, which will perform the music of Huapango by JosÃ© Pablo Moncayo, “The Waltz of the Flowers” by Tchaikovsky, and “Conga del Fuego Nuevo” by the Mexican composer Arturo MÃ¡rquez.
Domingo will also perform a duet with Puerto Rican soprano Ana Maria Martinez.
Governor Makes Alternative Plans
In an interview after the press conference, Governor Pacheco Ortega told El Universal that the organizers will seek an alternative location if INAH decides against the proposal. “We spoke with the director (of INAH, Alfonso de Maria y Campos) … We have asked them to rethink some things we have proposed, but at the end of the day the final say lies with the institute.”
The concert, at least as far as the govenor is concerned, “represents an economic development and hence social development. While our Mayan architects have left us a great legacy of course we are committed to its preservation and conservation, but we also have the opportunity to take ‘advantage,’ so to speak, to promote the Yucatan.”