Victoria Botero at home (photo by Jim Barcus)
The acclaimed soprano receives a cultural production grant from the Charlotte Street Foundation for her concert series The Cecilia, including an upcoming program featuring Gabriel García Márquez
A soprano plays the treble. The highest.
Victoria Botero has been doing this since moving here in 2002. Operatively, she has performed in Kansas City and across the country in ‘The Magic Flute’, ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, ‘Rigoletto ‘, ‘Pirates of Penzance‘, the locally produced world premiere ‘The Giver’ and even a TEDxKC presentation tailored to the opera. Theatrically, she has had roles with The Coterie, Metropolitan Ensemble Theater and Fishtank Theatre. And she gave a myriad of concerts dedicated to Mozart, Bernstein and even sacred classical music with Northern Irish artists The Priests, during their 2018 Sony BMG tour.
In a contemporary vein, Botero has partnered with Brad Cox and Owen/Cox Dance Group, newEar Ensemble, Ashley Miller, ArtSounds, the Black House Collective, Ensemble Ibérica and KC Baroque Consortium. In cinema and television, she was present in “Homecoming: An Evening with Virgil T”, reminiscent of the genius of Virgil Thompson, and “Devotion”, a short film by Don Maxwell on the work of ceramicist Linda Lighton.
Increasingly, however, Botero is self-producing, creating his own material, and bringing unexplored and educational content to audiences. Two primary motivations are to shine a light on unsung women and people of color in music history and to honor the contributions of immigrants and little-known international artists.
Botero was born in this country and raised in the Washington, DC area, but her family is originally from Colombia and she is increasingly interested in honoring those roots.
Botero created The Cecilia Series to “explore the cultural significance of song repertoire, finding the connective tissue between composers, writers, and performers from many eras and traditions.”
For the past two years, she has performed a holiday concert, “Navidad~Natal,” with Brazilian actress Vanessa Severo, featuring seasonal traditions, music and tales from their South American family origins. In 2020 it was virtual, filmed at the 1900 Building, but in December 2021 the full Black Box audience applauded Botero, Severo, Bolivian musician Amado Espinoza and accompanist Lamar Sims, in a Latin American atmosphere very festive.
Years ago, Botero launched The Cecilia Series to “explore the cultural significance of song repertoire, finding the connective tissue between composers, writers, and performers from many eras and traditions.”
Project performances at Building 1900 have included “La Serenissima,” featuring 17th-century Venetian composers Barbara Strozzi and Benedetto Ferrari; “Morena”, featuring the traditional music of Sephardic, Arab and Armenian women; “The Music of Susan Kander,” a retrospective of the Kansas City-born composer, including the world premiere of “Eavesdropping,” a cycle of songs from the poetry of Michelle Boisseau; the KC premiere of “dwb (driving while black),” featuring soprano and librettist Roberta Gumbel; and “The Cult of the Soprano,” enlightening music written exclusively for women from the 16th to 19th centuries.
Botero was thrilled to receive a Cultural Producer Grant from the Charlotte Street Foundation for her 2022 series The Cecilia. “, she said. “I am proud that the committee has recognized my work in overturning classical recital and bringing marginalized voices to the stage.”
The series kicks off with a program highlighting Nobel Prize for Literature winner Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia’s most famous son. The evening will transport listeners to Macondo, the replacement for García Márquez’s hometown of Aracataca, the northern Colombian town he made famous. Joining the show will be KC talents Calvin Arsenia, Amado Espinoza and Latin GRAMMY winner Andrés Salguero. The date and location of the performance are to be determined.
Later this year, the Cecilia series will continue with “Dissident”, a concert of music by Sergei Prokofiev, John Tavener and Iris Dement, three seemingly unrelated composers who were all inspired to write music based on the works. censored by the extraordinary Russian poet. Anna Akhmatova.
In a radio interview with Gina Kauffman on “The Cult of the Soprano,” Botero called operatic soprano roles traditionally hopeless. Characters are usually suicidal, deranged, dying, or mortal, all due to tragically limited choices. She says you have to “dig deep” to “understand that these women are powerful in their own way.” They rarely triumph.
Botero is a complete contradiction to this. She is positive, enthusiastic and fulfilled in her direction of life. For years, her pride and joy has been her son, Lorenzo, and the two have built a loving and unbreakable partnership. In November last year, she married Dr Langston Hemenway, professor of music and director of instrumental studies at William Jewell College. Now the three make great music together.
Coloratura is an opera technique closely related to the sopranos. It involves flashy high notes, trills, runs and elaborate ornamentation and is thrilling for opera audiences.
It’s virtuoso. Which perfectly describes Victoria Botero.
As critic Patrick Neas observed in a January 2019 profile in “The Kansas City Star,” “A Botero concert is more than just a recital of beautiful songs, it’s a reflection on the human condition.”
For more information and a concert schedule, visit www.victoriabotero.com.