Similar to many other holidays, El Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of The Dead) has been commercialized and adopted by retailers hungry to sell masks and flowers. We see the image of la calavera (the skull) so frequently these days that its true value is lost, as if we forget that it represents the ultimate conclusion to this thing called life: Death.
Yet in the Mexican tradition, although it induces tears and mourning, Death is not something to be afraid of or vilified. El Dia de Los Muertos is a beautiful celebration of our loved ones and friends who have passed onto the next life, and we take the time to remember and honor them.
On Friday night in Downtown Houston (with showings on Saturday and Sunday as well), the Houston Symphony presented the classiest and perhaps most monumental honoring of the dead since the ancient pyramids were built. The world premiere of La Triste Historia tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers set during the backdrop of The Mexican Revolution. A classic scenario with not-so-classic characters.
The night began with the return of conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto, who previously was an associate conductor at the Houston Symphony several years ago. It was easy to see why this man is/was a crowd favorite; his smile and energy and heart makes your best friend in an instant, with enough flair and command to move even the stodgiest of works into symphonic masterpieces.
As he raised his baton, the whole room seemingly came to attention, ready for the ride through the emotional musical journey that was set before us. Watching Prieto maneuver up and down and sideways made it clear that being a conductor is one of the most satisfying jobs in the whole world. Sitting in the audience that night became a festival of enjoyment and wonder, with the senses of sound and sight creeping towards overload.