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Classical Music

Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Tango Caliente Heat The Weekend With Astor Piazzolla

Houston-born soprano Camille Zamora talks with D before bringing her voice and passion for Spanish music to the Meyerson.
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Camille Zamora. Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Camille Zamora debuts at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra tonight through Sunday with Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik, six tango dancers, a bandoneon player, and the full panoply of the orchestra performing the music of Argentine tango great Astor Piazzolla. It should be, in a word, electrifying.

For the layperson who thrills at salsa and merengue, but hadn’t envisioned it in the concert hall, Zamora could point out the arias of 18th century tango operas. The program includes a sampling.

“The high classics of Brahms and Bach—I need that in my life, deeply,” Zamora says. “But there is so much room in the repertoire for Spanish music. Audiences go crazy for it. It’s incredibly virtuosic. It’s high art. It’s also just really deeply relatable and emotional.” And, she says, “with the huge color and palette that you have with a symphony orchestra—it’s thrilling.”

Zamora’s own heritage is deeply enmeshed with the music that forms the base of the repertoire. “My dad was Spanish, and he would play the guitar, these wonderful songs,” she says. Zamora grew up going back and forth between Houston and Mexico City, and received outstanding music education in both, she says.

She attended Juliard for opera. But Spanish music was a touchstone, always. And so it’s rewarding, she says, to see it served via entities like the DSO. “I want people to take cues all over the country,” she says.

Zamora’s career has taken her to five continents, where she’s collaborated with artists like Plácido Domingo and Sting. The singer’s relationship with the bandoneon, an instrument like a cross between accordion, concertina, and organ, is always vital. “He is like a great soprano,” Zamora says of Argentinian bandeonist Hector del Curto, who played with Piazzolla and is lauded for his sensitivity and lyricism. “Even the vibrato is a very human vibrato,” Zamora says. And so there exists a thrilling contrast between the intimacy of the voice and bandoleon and the “incredible wash of sound” of the orchestra.

Dancers, soloists, and orchestra ultimately operate synchronously with a synergy like a mutual jazz riff. “A tango is an opera in three minutes,” Zamora says. “Humor, pathos, love, and loss. These are emotions writ large.” And that resonate in the space of a concert hall. It is, she says, “such a luxury of sound.”

Particular things to look out for in the program:

“Por una Cabeza”: “We have a really opulent setting of [it], which is vintage tango in the sense that it alternates pattery, fast words with these beautiful, long, legato lines. It’s so fun to sing,” Zamora says. (You may remember the piece from Scent of a Woman—a reminder that much of what we know of great tango comes from movies.)

“Vuelvo al Sur” is a profoundly subtle piece orchestrated by Tyzik, in which the orchestra simulates a South American breeze and the soloist is like a bird, soaring through it. “It has this incredibly profound poetry. It’s almost like a Neruda poem,” Zamora says. “It’s about one of the essential elements of tango—nostalgia [and] yearning. [This music] was created by immigrants. So, there’s this great sense of aching and longing. I feel like I hear it in the winds.”

Towards the end of our conversation, Zamora reflects on the performance of interpreting these pieces.

“Amplifying lost voices,” Zamora says, “That’s a through-line in my career. It probably came through my father.”

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