Arts & Entertainment

Miami musical pays tribute to Venezuela’s musical traditions, diaspora

By Jorge I. Perez

Miami, Jul 6 (EFE).- A musical set to debut in Miami pays tribute to the “cuatro,” a small, four-stringed guitar-like instrument played in Venezuela, and to the more than 6 million people who have emigrated from that oil-rich country in recent years due to its longstanding economic crisis.

“Papa cuatro,” which premieres Thursday at the Colony Theatre, an Art Deco performing arts venue on Miami Beach, also serves as a homage to late Venezuelan singer and Grammy Award-winning composer Simon Diaz (1928-2014), known for “Caballo viejo” and other classic songs.

“We’re five lead performers, five musicians with the same weight throughout the show, sharing with the audience our experience as emigrant musicians,” Venezuelan vocalist and actress Mariaca Semprun, a resident of Miami for the past five years, told Efe.

That acclaimed artist lends her voice to this musical produced by the Miami New Drama company.

She will be joined on stage by virtuoso cuatro player Miguel Siso, a Veneuzelan composer and producer who won a Latin Grammy in 2018 for his instrumental album “Identidad”; harpist Eduardo Betancourt, also a Latin Grammy winner; Mafer Bandola, who plays another traditional string instrument called a bandola; and drummer Adolfo Herrera, a Latin Grammy nominee.

Semprun has played the role of famed singers such as France’s Edith Piaf and Cuba’s La Lupe, and she was nominated for a Latin Grammy herself in 2020 for her tribute album “Soy Puro Teatro – Homenaje a La Lupe.”

According to the show’s production team, the Venezuelan cuatro “is among a select few musical instruments capable of safeguarding traditions, culture and identity.”

The musical features arrangements by the same recording artists/actors who make up the “Papa cuatro” cast, a selection that runs the gamut of Venezuela’s different regional genres.

Semprun said stage director Juan Souki’s fingerprints are all over this latest musical, which she described as a “quite experimental process” and a type of “documentary theatrical work.”

“The staging forced all of us to look inside at the balance of what we are now and feel, at how music continues to be a refuge, a meeting point and a balm,” the Venezuelan said.

Semprun said that she personally has been “very fortunate.”

“Since I came (to Miami), it was with a musical project about Edith Piaf in this same theater, and I spent three years touring in Mexico, Spain and the United States.”

The artist said she now feels “enormously privileged” to be reunited with artists that she performed with on several occasions in her home country.

Semprun said Betancourt and Bandola have arrived in Miami from Boston and New York, respectively, while Herrera resides in South Florida and Souki lives in Canada.

“The cuatrist is the one who came from furthest away, from Ireland, from Dublin. He came especially for this show,” she said.

“It’s a work that uplifts virtuoso Venezuelan musicians who in recent years have tried their luck in different territories and have had very different results,” Souki said. “In some cases, they’ve enjoyed dizzying success, while in others they’ve faced paths that have not been free of difficulties.”

The Miami New Drama company, for its part, said in a press release that “Papa cuatro” is a work created and presented by immigrants for immigrants and for anyone is search of an “authentically Venezuelan musical experience.”

Asked what a documentary theatrical work means to her, Semprun said it is “a genre that combines all the stage work with reality, historical documents and real references.”

“It’s not a musical as such, nor a documentary. It’s a hybrid,” she said of a show that will initially be performed in South Florida through July 31. EFE

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