The young Mexican composer playing a tune of success in Europe
Diana Syrse is also a soprano - Photo: Courtesy of Astrid Ackerman

The young Mexican composer playing a tune of success in Europe

09/01/2020
19:00
Alida Piñón
Mexico City
-A +A
Diana Syrse is also a soprano who has fought for the visibility of women in art and the integration of Mexican music overseas

Leer en español

Born in Mexico City in 1984, Diana Syrse is a Mexican composer and soprano living in Germany since 2014. She has done several projects to support the visibility of women in art, the integration of Mexican music in Germany, and the relevance of diversity and inclusion in the world of new opera. She has written over 90 pieces. Recently, the UNAM graduate won two recognitions: an award from Bavaria’s Culture Ministry, which is a six-month stay in the Cité International des Arts in Paris, which is granted every year to two young artists in Germany.

The second is a commission for the Hamburg Opera and the Neuköllner Oper in Berlin, and it is the first time these institutions commission a Mexican composer.

Have you heard of the first Mexican woman who wrote a symphony?

In addition, Syrse has premieres and presentations in New York, the UK, Viena, Berlin, Paris, and Latvia; in August, the Mining Symphonic Orchestra will be in charge of the world premiere of one of her pieces.

Music arrived at her life since she was a child thanks to her father, a music teacher. She studied in the Musical Initiation Center of the Music Faculty (FAM) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and when she was seven years old, she was part of the Children and Young Adults Chorus of the FAM.

Diana always wanted to be a singer; she was shy and was afraid of presenting the exam for the singing major, a very competed specialty. “I thought that if I wasn’t selected I wouldn’t have the chance to continue studying music; my dad suggested me to enroll in composition; I presented the exam, played my own pieces and discovered I loved to create. Then I presented the singing exam and passed it. I studied both things in parallel. I try to combine them but I’m not always successful. Composition defines me as a singer, and singing defines me in composition because I’m focused on opera and voice is my instrument. Contemporary music is very important for me in both disciplines; I’m a combination of both,” she says.

Have you heard of the indigenous designer who will deliver a lecture at Harvard?

In composition, she explains, she felt the need of having a role model and found it in Gabriela Ortiz, one of her teachers at the FAM and one of the few female composers with great projection. It was her who made her realize that in Mexico there was not a doctorate degree in music, but that she had to continue her studies. She did and in 2009 she won an 80% scholarship at Indiana University in Bloomington. In addition, she was invited, two years in a row, as a resident composer in the program “¡Cantaré” of VocalEssence in Minnesota, which has the objective of connecting Mexican composers specialized in chorus music with young musicians of Latin American origin living in the United States.

From afar, Syrse celebrates that now, there is greater recognition and dissemination of female composers like Hilda Paredes, Georgina Derbez, Gina Enríquez, Lucía Álvarez, Marcela Rodríguez, Leticia Armijo, and, among the youngest, Cristina García, Liliana Zamora and many others.

“We are more women now; in the last five years, we have been more compelling in noticing the great work of women in all areas. In composition, there is being integration not only of women: in Europe, for example, they are also integrating and recognizing Latin American composers.”

Have you heard of the UNAM student who created a network of community libraries in Oaxaca?

Syrse’s education has been vast: in 2011, she obtained her Master’s degree as interpreter and composer in the Herb Alpert School of Music in the California Institute of the Arts (CALARTS), and in 2012, she made a residence in Canada’s Banff Centre, supported by the National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA). But must of all, she has achieved musical identity.

Her pieces are characterized by being influenced by jazz, rock, fusion, traditional music from the world, and avant-garde music, as well as for the use of non-occidental instruments, stage elements, and electronic music.

Her focus in music composition is combined with stage arts like the new music theater, the new opera, the composition of stage concerts and pieces with a process of collective interdisciplinary creation.

She has participated as a composer and singer in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatsoper Hamburg, VocalEssence, the Babylon Orchestra Berlin, Kinderkinder, Túumben Paax, and in international festivals in the United States, Mexico, Germany, the Netherlands, and Latvia.

Did you know the Mexican ballerina Elisa Carrillo received the Marius Petipa Award?

Musical flourishment
“I am part of a well-prepared generation, with many studies, that is observing its reality and is figuring out how to mirror in a stage the issues that matter to them. There is a big combination of identities that are in dialogue thanks to technology; we have a great need to talk, to say, and we have some many aesthetics to make us be heard, what’s happening in music is very rich. It’s refreshing to listen to other kinds of music; I wish there were spaces in the country for this new music, for all these new aesthetics to flourish,” she says.

Giving life to her work, she says, has meant a long endurance run. “In the opera world, we have been arguing about opera things becoming museums; they are closed for the tradition following its way; they are not open yet to all opera has to offer. I’m interested in the future of opera, mainly in Mexico, where there are so many singers; I feel proud of seeing so many colleagues fighting and opening doors for new repertoires.”

And she adds: “Opera has a very powerful tradition, that is why there is so much mistrust; they don’t believe there is someone as good as Verdi or Puccini; people don’t trust the artists of their time. And there is so much money invested. In Germany, there is a premiere every month; in Mexico, they want to have one every year; it’s fantastic.”

Syrse remembers that one day, while she was studying, she had the chance of playing and singing in a group on a cruise and she even thought of abandoning her career, but her family pushed her to continue and she hasn’t stopped since then. “I work and study at the same time, I apply for scholarships, I make projects, and this endorsement I can have now with the recognition is the result of a constant struggle and of a great collection of failures. Both in Europe and in Mexico, it’s very hard, but if I’m already at a point where I cannot go back, now my goal is for my work to be more known. I knock at a door, if they don’t open it, then I knock at another, and another, and another. There’s many of us at this; we are not alone, we’re not going to sink, I will not.”

In Europe, she says, there are festivals in honor of their great composers, Verdi or Beethoven; they are a national treasure. In Mexico, people could hardly mention a couple of composers like Silvestre Revueltas. “An ideal world would be for there to be a Revueltas year in Mexico, a Chávez year; for Mexican to know their heritage; for them to be interested in their young people, their women, their artists talking about their realities; for them to know we are theirs.”

Syrse warns about the need for continuing and increasing stimulus for creators, like the Fonca scholarships, with which she was able to create and study. “A meeting of young creators allows you to be in contact with many other artists; I hope there are more workshops for UNAM students to meet, that the private initiative bets for projects and for media outlets to disseminate them. We could do so many things together.”

Have you heard of the child prodigy portraying Mexican culture?

mp
 

Mantente al día con el boletín de El Universal