Ángela Peralta, known as "the Mexican nightingale", possessed an extraordinary voice. However, her full name was just as remarkable, resembling a litany: María de los Ángeles Manuela Tranquilina Cirila Efrena Peralta y Castera. She was born into a humble family in Mexico City on June 16, 1845, and tragically died in Mazatlan on August 30, 1883, while attempting to recapture the fame that had made her a star of the international opera scene.
Ángela's musical talent and angelic voice were discovered when she was only six years old. Despite her modest beginnings, she received a meticulous artistic education. Agustín Balderas was her first instructor, and at the age of eight, she sang the cavatina in Gaetano Donizetti's opera Belisario. Later, she enrolled in the National Conservatory of Music and made her debut at the National Theater at the age of 15, portraying Leonora in Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore, which was met with resounding success. This achievement propelled her to Europe, where she honed her vocal technique.
Although Ángela never received a government scholarship, her father supported her journey to Spain to find a singing teacher. From there, they traveled to Milan, where Francesco Lamperti became her instructor. Ángela quickly made her debut at La Scala with Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor in 1862. That evening, the audience was enraptured by her singing, and even Donizetti's son marveled at her miraculous voice, lamenting that his father had not had the chance to hear her.
Angela Peralta: Defying Prejudice and Captivating Audiences
Angela Peralta, a woman of humble origins and indigenous ancestry, defied the prejudices of the upper classes to pursue her passion for singing. In 1862, she captivated the audience in Turin with her beautiful rendition of Vincenzo Bellini's La sonnambula, receiving thunderous applause that forced her to leave the stage 32 times. This was just the beginning of her successful two-year tour of Italian cities and other European destinations, including Lisbon, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Cairo, Alexandria, and St. Petersburg, which eventually led her to America, where she performed in New York and Havana.
Her impact on the world of music was significant, especially for women who followed in her footsteps. In 1865, Angela returned to Mexico at the invitation of Emperor Maximilian, performing at the Teatro Imperial Mexicano to a welcoming crowd of admirers. She continued her tour in the country's provinces, delighting audiences with her talent.
When the imperialist regime collapsed in 1866, Angela returned to Europe and married her first cousin, Eugenio Castera, in Madrid. However, her husband's mental illness soon became a burden, and Angela's career suffered. She continued to perform until her consummation with Bellini's I puritani, but her husband's worsening condition forced her to confine him to a psychiatric hospital in Paris, where he died in 1876. Angela was unable to continue her performances after this tragic event.
Ángela Peralta's Triumphs, Trials, and Legacy of a Talented Soprano
In 1877, Ángela Peralta triumphantly returned to Mexico to perform Giuseppe Verdi's Aida and premiere Gino Corsini, an opera by Mexican composer Melesio Morales, at the Gran Teatro Nacional. However, her success was short-lived. Despite her talent remaining intact, her career took a sudden nosedive as the public turned their backs on her and booed her performances. The reason for this drastic change in fortunes was not due to a decline in her singing ability, but rather the revelation of her love affair with Julián Montiel y Duarte, the manager of her opera company. Insults and moral reproaches overshadowed her previous triumphs, leading to a suspension of her career for three years.
Despite her setbacks, Ángela Peralta was a talented harpist and composer who created many romantic pieces, including galopas, dances, fantasies, and waltzes. Her struggle continued as she attempted to win back her fans by touring the provinces, but the public's reaction did not change. Desperate to salvage her economic and artistic situation, she had to travel to remote and insignificant places across the country in search of acceptance.
Finally, in August 1883, Ángela Peralta arrived in Mazatlán with an 80-person opera company, most of whom were Italians. Fortunately, the people of Mazatlán welcomed her with open arms, aware of her reputation as a talented artist. Despite her previous hardships, she continued to persevere, leaving behind a legacy as a brilliant soprano, harpist, and composer.
Remembering Angela Peralta: Mexico's Trailblazing Opera Soprano
In Mazatlan, the opera company aimed to revive their former glory through rehearsals. However, their efforts were disrupted when a ship carrying the corpse of an American victim of yellow fever arrived at the port, and the disease rapidly spread through the city. Despite this, the company still performed Verdi's Il Trovatore on August 23 to a sparse audience, as people feared contracting the fever, which they called "Nickel".
Despite the challenges, a journalist wrote a glowing review of Angela Peralta, the company's star soprano, describing her as a woman of pleasant presence with a wonderful voice that effortlessly hit the highest and lowest notes. However, the epidemic also affected the opera company, with several singers and musicians falling seriously ill, and only six surviving. Angela Peralta herself fell ill, and despite efforts from doctors, she passed away on August 30, 1883, at the age of 38. Before her death, she married her eternal lover Julián Montiel on her deathbed.
Today, Angela Peralta's legacy lives on through the theaters in Mazatlán and San Miguel de Allende named in her honor. She was the first woman to open the doors of opera in Mexico and to perform on the most important stages around the world, bringing Mexico to the forefront of the opera world. Her mortal remains were transferred to the Memorial of the Distinguished Persons in April 1937, where they rest today.
Ángela Peralta: The Mexican Nightingale and Opera Legend
Ángela Peralta may not have been considered physically graceful due to her obesity, bulging eyes, round face, and short stature. However, her remarkable and unique voice earned her the title of "The Mexican Nightingale" in Spain and "Angelica di voce e di nome" (Angelica by voice and name) in Italy. With her prodigious talent, Peralta became one of the most celebrated sopranos in the history of opera, captivating audiences worldwide. She even brought this sublime art to remote places in the Mexican province, performing both European and Mexican works. Today, several theaters in the country are named after her.
Peralta was not only an accomplished singer but also a skilled musician who composed simple works such as songs, waltzes, mazurkas, romanzas, and fantasias. Her compositions, including popular songs like 'Adiós a México', 'Lejos de ti', and 'Nostalgia', raised Mexico's reputation in the world.
Despite her professional success, Peralta experienced loneliness during her adolescence while her country was fighting the French invasion. She returned to Mexico in 1865 and sang before Emperor Maximilian, who was so impressed with her talent that he appointed her Chamber Singer of the Empire. With this recognition, Peralta toured the country, inaugurating theaters, and performing in various cities such as Guanajuato, León, and San Francisco del Rincón.
Peralta was well-known for her interpretations of Donizetti's Lucia, which she sang 166 times, as well as Bellini's Amina, with which she recorded 122 performances. She also received accolades for her roles in Verdi's tragic Violetta in La Traviata, Adina in Donizetti's comedy L'Elisir d'Amore, Bellini's Norma, and Verdi's Aida. Ángela Peralta's legacy continues to be fondly remembered in Mexico and beyond.