In front of an appreciative audience that included some of the educators that blessed his early life, tenor Rafael Moras gave an impassioned recital at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church on February 4, 2020 for the Tuesday Musical Club. In between arias, songs, and highlights from favorite zarzuelas, his easygoing rapport with the crowd made one feel like he was sharing these melodies just for you.
Moras explained in a post-recital interview that he learned the art of public speaking by watching his mother, an artist at the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, and father, a professor at St. Mary’s University. “There’s the opportunity to talk to the people who have taken the time, and have generously come to hear you,” Moras said. “To say, ‘look, this is what [this song] is about… ‘here’s how I connect to it.’”
It was during his senior year at Douglas MacArthur High School that Moras finally decided on his path to being a professional singer. He was starring as Tony in a school production of “West Side Story,” and “it kind of crystallized in my mind.”
“I had really wonderful people in my life,” Moras said. Those include NEISD educators, and the support of a loving family.
But even before then, the zarzuela, a Spanish theatrical form combining operatic arias, popular Spanish melodies, and spoken word, was always in his heart. “It really is the music of my childhood, of my youth. My father would, on the piano and the accordion, play these melodies.”
Last year, Moras was privileged to be a part of a new work that combines popular Mexican culture with operatic theater. “El Milagro del Recuerdo” is a mariachi opera set in Michoacan in the 1960s. “It’s a beautiful story,” Moras said, “they’re getting ready for the holidays, and they’re talking about the decisions that basically shape any family, the decisions the ancestors took.”
Composer Javier Martínez worked with librettist Leonard Foglia on the work, which premiered at the Houston Grand Opera last December. Moras says they hope to present it again, in Arizona, within a year.
If zarzuela and mariachi have been characterized as music of the people, Moras emphazied opera falls into that category, too.
“It’s for everybody,” he said. “There’s something there for anybody who’s willing to give it a listen.”
Listen to an excerpt from Moras’ Tuesday Musical Club recital in the audio player below. You can hear more on TPR’s “Performance Saturday” on March 28 at 7 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM.