A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Ximena Uribe Steps Into My Grandmother's Shoes
Thursday, May 01, 2014



 
Ximena Uribe, Manila 1901

My grandmother was an excellent coloratura soprano. She prided in her ability to sing Lucia in Gaetano Donizeti’s  Lucia di Lammermoor.  She never sang the part on an opera stage.She was to have made her debut in mid 1899.

Unfortunately a few months before the famous Sarah Bernhart had scandalized Manila with her travesty performance as the Florentine minstrel in François Coppé's Le Passant. My grandmother’s parents, José (a rich Baker according to stories my grandmother told me) and Ventura Reyes were present at the Ateneo de Manila and were profoundly shocked. They soon found out that Bernhart had been a courtesan in the 1860s. 

Sarah Bernhardt
When my grandmother Lolita informed her parents of her debut as a promising young opera singer with talent, Pepe Reyes put his foot down telling her that opera singers and actresses were all prostitutes. His daughter was not going to be one of those. And that was the end of my grandmother’s promising career as an opera singer. Through the years she was often asked to sing the Ave María the one composed by Francisco Guerrero at church weddings. I can attest that my grandmother had a terrific voice and volume to fill a cathedral.


José & Ventura Reyes
In our family album there is this picture under which my mother wrote the name Ximena Uribe in white ink. One day I asked her who the woman with the smile was. I was told, and my mother, too, smiled that Ximena had been a rival to Lolita and in spite of being an almost as good coloratura soprano; Lolita and Ximena had been good friends. When Lolita had to decline her part in the Donizeti opera, Ximena stepped into her shoes and by all accounts she was a success. In later years she had eventful appearances in the fine opera house of Mondragón in the Basque Provinces in Spain.

As for Sarah Bernhart, her name persisted in our family for years. My mother was a drama queen and a hypochondriac. From her early childhood she was often told that she was just like “La Bernhart.”



     

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3/5/17 - 3/12/17