Faithful followers of my blogs may have noticed that the month of April went without a written report on our adventures. The reason is simple: starting a restaurant is a challenging and time-consuming business.
So, what are the latest developments at El Jardin?
We’ve been receiving raving reviews in EverythingPlayaDelCarmen (http://everythingplayadelcarmen.com/el-jardin-restaurant)
And in The Playa Times (http://theplayatimes.com/2015/05/15/el-jardin-community-center-and-restaurant-paradise-found/
And in The Foodies Guide to Playa del Carmen (http://theplayatimes.com/2015/05/15/el-jardin-community-center-and-restaurant-paradise-found/
In other words, we’re doing well and our guests are happy and keep coming back.
People are also coming back for the Noche de Divas. The 1st night was great fun and the place was packed.
We even have a little recording singing Hit The Road Jack.
Instead of a monthly event we decided to turn it into a weekly concert with a more classical theme, allowing our Cuban soprano Mayret Rosa Alvarez to shine and sing her classical repertoire like Puccini’s ‘O mio Babinno Caro’. If you are not familiar with this world famous aria, here’s a taste.
And now I could explore the classical repertoire I had been studying for many years myself. One of those arias was turned into a duet, and now Mayret Rosa and I sing together. Here’s an impression of that song.
Many people have asked me how I’ve found this lovely and talented Cuban soprano. The truth is; she found me.
But let’s first go back in history, the time when Mayret Rosa was born on the 9th of November 1987 in a small town called Media Luna in the South West coastal region of Cuba.
Mayret began her musical career at the age of 7 when she started with guitar classes and eventually added piano classes as well.
At the age of 18 she graduated from the Conservatorio de Musica Jose White with a degree in guitar.
It wasn’t until she had finished 3 years obligatory social services, where she worked as a teacher in musical history, that she started to study voice. After 5 years attending the ‘Instituto Superior de Artes’ in Holguin she graduated at the age of 26.
During those 5 years she first worked with ‘Ojare’, a group of musicians who presented traditional music of Cuba, then with the ‘Teatro Lyrico de Rodrigro Prats’ and eventually with a band called ‘Grupo Velas al Viento’, with whom she traveled to Playa del Carmen.
Then one night Mayret Rosa found herself at Le Lotus Rouge with her band, ready to play the keyboard after the performance of a lady she had never heard of before.
Natasha, the lovely and eccentric owner of the international restaurant and art school Le Lotus Rouge, had asked me to perform for the 3rd anniversary of her place, which fell on Valentine’s Day. I had prepared a beautiful romantic repertoire for her audience, and right after my show this little Cuban girl walks up to me and almost desperately asks, “Donde se puede cantar lyrico?” (Where can I sing classical). I smiled and answered, “Well, with me at El Jardin! But how do you know that I study classical voice?” She quickly replied, “I can hear from your singing technique.” The following week we met at El Jardin and talked about how we could study and work together. That’s when she told me about her personal living situation. The band with whom she had traveled to Playa had changed name and leader and from then on Mayret’s career went downhill. She got paid the equivalent of $60.- USD a month, no matter how many nights she played. She slept in a room with 2 men, not allowing her any privacy. But worst of all, they had taken her passport. You can all imagine my reaction when she told me all this, resulting in that Mayret opened her mouth demanding her passport back. The Cuban mafia, as Mayret called them, didn’t like a smart girl who starts talking and asking question, so she was basically kicked out.
Before we realised it she had found herself a small room and friends had already donated a table, 2 chairs and a few kitchen utensils. When I shared Mayret’s account with our audience they felt so touched by her story that more donations from our fans started pouring in: a bicycle, a refrigerator and even financial help. A week later she got married to a Mexican friend and her biggest fans were her witnesses. In other words; we kind of adopted her.
For 2 months now we’ve offered the Noche de Divas to our Playa community and every week we receive a nice group of people who enjoy listening to opera, boleros, chanson and jazz. Some faithful fans never miss a concert.
We even bought a long gown for Mayret, the standard dress size when singing classical, because all her long dresses are still in Cuba. Since I’m studying Habanera from Bizet’s opera Carmen, I thought that this red one was a good match with Mayret’s coral.
We even sang Schubert’s Ave Maria as a duet on a special Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch at El Jardin. That was a dream come true. Glowing after our performance…
Mayret and I have also been pretty busy with our various voice students. Young girls, women my age, men in their sixties, we have students from all ages and all walks of life. We try to inspire and prepare them to join us on our stage.
And soon a few of our voice students will join us on our stage, so stay tuned.