We had the good fortune of connecting with Zuly Inirio and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Zuly, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Ever since I could remember, I was surrounded by music.

One of my parents’ favorite stories to tell is that when I was a very young girl before I could even fully talk, I would request ‘merengues’ (Dominican music) based on what I heard in the song. So, there was one particular merengue where the singer would sigh, so when I asked for that one, I’d say “Zuly quiere ‘ahhh'” (Zuly wants “sigh”) and eventually, my family figured out what that meant. Before I could fully express myself, music was speaking to me. Listening to stories like that really affirmed what I felt in myself all along, I love to create music, and more specifically, I love to sing.

At the age of 15, I went to my first opera in Miami, where I grew up. It was La Traviata at Florida Grand Opera. I was absolutely floored by the spectacle unfolding in real-time. It was the costumes, the orchestra, the chorus, the acting, the drama, and the power of the unamplified voice that I heard all the in the back where I was sitting. It changed my life. That day I said, I want to be an opera singer, so that’s what I did.

I like to say that I didn’t choose music but it chose me.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m an opera singer, scholar, and arts advocate. I’m really proud of my most recent project: The Afro-Latinx Song & Opera Project (www.afrolatinxopera.org) which aims to commission new works that tell the stories of the Afro-Latin and Afro-Latinx communities, as well as decolonize the classical music canon by uplifting the contributions and stories of existing Afro-Latin American and Afro-Latinx classical composers.

I convene Afro-Latinx musicians, composers, writers, and creatives that collaborate to create and eventually perform these commissioned works. I also convene partners and scholars of Afro-Latinidad that take part in supporting, mentoring, and participating in this project.

The long-term goal is for these works to be performed in major opera houses and festivals within the US and abroad as well as in music programs in universities and conservatories. Stipulations for appropriate casting will be made with some of the works so that there is an accurate representation of Afro-Latinx people and the African Diaspora.

Some of my hardships came with commissions. I came to better understand the process of commissioning major works of classical music. A challenge that I experienced is that commissioning works is a lengthy process that takes multiple years and substantial funding.

With grant funds acquired, I was able to fund four commissions and partially fund one commission which are in the process of being created. I am now seeking further funding to premiere these works in the coming years. These works and future commissions represent the nuance and diversity within the Afro-Latinx community.

Through research to prepare for commissions, I also found Afro-Latin classical music that already existed and to my surprise, there are a plethora of unperformed existing works by Afro-Latin classical composers who have not been included in the classical music canon. The scope of the project expanded to include existing works, research, and scholarship of Afro-Latin Classical music along with current commissions. This allowed me to curate and arrange recitals of lesser-known existing works as the commissions continue to be worked on.

I got to where I am professionally by working on my craft, believing in my abilities, and having mentors that supported me and my work. Without the help of those that have gone through similar experiences, I would not be where I am today.

What I would like the world to know about my brand and story is that my professional career is definitely unorthodox for an opera singer and would not be deemed “successful” in the traditional sense but success for me is defined by being able to show up as myself fully in any space and having the freedom and agency in my creative practice to express myself fully. I have those things right now and the more that I lean into that, the more doors open up and avenues to explore and collaborate with folks appear.

Singer Bio:
Afro-Latina soprano Zuly Inirio hails from the Dominican Republic and has appeared as a soloist throughout the United States and Europe. Her roles include Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw, First Lady in The Magic Flute, Gertrud in Hansel und Gretel, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, and scenes from Ariadne auf Naxos, Götterdämmerung, Falstaff, and Albert Herring. She was part of Opera Louisiane’s The Ring (reduced) and where she performed the roles of Wellgunde, Ortlinde, and 2nd Norn. She actively pursues bringing awareness to Afro-Latinidad in classical music with her ‘Afro-Latinx Song and Opera Project’ whose goal is to commission musical works that tell the stories of the Afro-Latinx community in the US while creating performance opportunities for that community and diversifying the classical music canon. Through her artistry and activism, she works toward representation and equity for BIPOC.

Ms. Inirio is also well-versed in concert work and as a recitalist, most notably in the Lyrica Dialogues Organized by the Lyrica Society at Harvard in Boston, MA where she debuted Carson Cooman’s Sunset. She also performed Jake Heggie’s Natural Selection in Baton Rouge, LA where she worked with the composer directly. Most recently, she was highlighted in Austin Opera’s Concerts at the Consulate.

European highlights include soprano soloist for the Verdi Requiem in Munich, Germany at Allerheiligenkirche under the baton of Massimiliano Murrali and singing High Priestess while covering the title role in Verdi’s Aida with the Mythos Opera Festival in Sicily, Italy.

In 2022, Ms. Inirio will perform the role of Isabelle in Mizzy Mazzoli’s Song of the Uproar with The Demaskus Theater Collective in Pittsburgh, PA, and as part of her Afro-Latinx Song & Opera Project will be performing a series of recitals for the University of Pittsburgh, Chamber Music Pittsburgh, and East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

Zuly Inirio holds a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree and a Master of Music Degree from Louisiana State University where she was the recipient of a full-tuition scholarship. She completed her Bachelor of Music Degree at New World School of the Arts in Miami, FL where she was also a recipient of a full-tuition scholarship. Ms. Inirio currently resides in Pittsburgh, PA.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take my friend to The Mattress Factory, a stroll in Frick Park where you can forget you’re even in a city, and a fun festival or to hear some live music. There is always something going on in PGH. For foord and drinks we can go up to The Summit to see a beautiful view of Pittsburgh at golden hour or even take the funicular up to the Mt. Washington Overlook. Some fave places to eat and drink include Girasole, Mercurio’s, Morcilla, and The Colombian Spot. We would wrap up the night by going to Jekyl & Hyde, a bar where it’s Halloween yearround!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Nobody can do this alone. I am beyond blessed with all of the beautiful people and organizations that have taken me under their wing to support me. I am forever grateful to the folks at the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), my co-creators at Latina Women in Opera (Cynthia López Pérez and Maria Brea), Unisound, Act3 Consulting (Kendra Ross, Dee Briggs, and Tanika Harris), Linda Addlespurger at Hope Academy, Leigh Solomon Pugliano of the Equity | Impact Center, Shaunda McDill of Demaskus Theater Collective, Demareus Cooper, and Dr. Michele Reid-Vazquez at the University of Pittsburgh.

Website: www.zulyinirio.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/zulyinirio

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zulyinirio/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/zulylein

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/zulyiniriosoprano

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8Lvo6xvmFb4bTOLm8tN_Nw

Image Credits
Nino DiMartino

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