Marcela Rodríguez

Article Bio Works Merits Projects
Music (classical music, new music)
America, Central
Mexico City
created on:
May 15, 2003
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since January 25, 2012. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
information provided by:
Other languages:


Born in 1951, Marcela Rodriguez belongs to a generation of Mexican and Latin American composers which has distanced itself from the regionalism of the nationalistic music of the 20th century and is trying to get into touch with European and Anglo-American music without sacrificing its search for a Latin American musical identity. Marcela Rodriguez has written works for solo instruments and voices as well as songs, chamber music, symphonies, concertos and operas. Since 1979 she has been writing music for dramas, too, and has worked together with the most eminent Mexican directors.
Marcela Rodriguez is unusually well informed in the field of music and uses the resources of the European tradition as well as those of the Latin American one. She studied the guitar under two of its greatest interpreters - the Argentinean Manuel López Ramos and the most important modern composer for the guitar, the Cuban Leo Brouwer. Both of them made Rodriguez aware of Latin American music and the problem of defining its identity.
During a lengthy stay in London, where she completed a course of studying the guitar, she devoted her time mostly to the tradition of European music. Back in Mexico City she continued her studies under the music pedagogue Jesús Estrada and Mario Lavista, the most eminent living Mexican composer.

Jesús Estrada (1898-1980), a musicologist and important teacher of composition had been the first foreigner invited to teach at the Papal Music Institute in Rome, beginning in 1933. He was especially interested in researching into Mexican baroque music and concentrated on works by Ignacio Jerúsalem and Manuel de Zumayas, whom he felt to be the founders of an independent Mexican tradition influential throughout Latin America.

Mario Lavista, a pupil of Carlos Chávez, Rodolfo Halfter, Héctor Quintanar, Jean Etienne Marie, Xenaxis and Pousseur, broke with the aesthetic principles of the nationalistic school of composition, which had dominated Mexican music in the first half of the 20th century. Though taking international trends into account, he created an oeuvre with an identifiable Mexican and Latin American character. Estrada and Lavista were both keen to shape a Mexican musical identity relying not on a regional dialect but on a language current throughout the western hemisphere.

Marcela Rodriguez takes up where her teachers left off. She too is concerned with Mexico’s musical identity and seeking its roots in Mexican culture of the 16th and 17th centuries. Such a quest runs counter to the one prevalent in the 20th century, based on the notion that ‘true’ Mexican culture first sprang up after the revolution of 1910. This notion ignored the whole legacy of the era of vice-regents (1521-1822) and turned only to ancient Mexico and present-day folklore.

Hence followers of the composers around Mario Lavista (such as Federico Ibarra and Joaquin Gutiérrez Heras), which include the present-day composers Marcela Rodriguez, Ana Lara, Gabriela Ortiz and Luis Jaime Cortez, are trying to continue a Mexican tradition which is not rooted in Mexican folklore, unlike composers of the national music school of the first half of the 20th century such as Carlos, Chávez, Silvestre Revueltas and Candelario Huizar. Marcela Rodriguez and her colleagues are not trying to incorporate hypothetical musical traits of pre-Spanish America into their compositions but rather to base their styles on Mexican music of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. At that time there was already a fairly unified Spanish-speaking cultural region, in which may be seen the roots of a Latin American identity. Free from regional quirks, Mexico was a respected partner in cultural exchange with Europe.

This attitude is especially apparent in Marcela Rodriguez’ settings of Mexican poems from the 16th and 17th centuries. Already in 1987 she wrote music for a staging of a comedy by the Mexican Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (1570-1639). Nonetheless she surprised the public and critics in 1992 with her song-cycle ‘Adúltera enemiga’, in which she set eight poems from various comedies by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón for soprano and chamber orchestra. Though without postmodern quotes, the music written for these poems clearly refers back to the time of Juan Ruiz de Alarcón through its instrumentation and certain rhythmical structures. But the satirical and grotesque nature of the settings leaves little scope for nostalgia.

This alienation was taken further by Marcela Rodriguez in her cycle of six arias from works by the great baroque poetess Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1649-1695). The settings of Juan Ruiz de Alarcón were of complete poems, but the new ones were of fragments. These were sometimes single verses but sometimes only the first or key words of poems already familiar to hearers. These sic arias have often been sung and have also been issued on a CD. They are also being incorporated into the score of an opera about Sor Juana.

While writing this opera, Marcela Rodriguez is also writing an opera about Seneca. Both works are concerned with the relationship of intellectuals and artists to political big-wigs and with the corresponding problem of freedom of thought and expression. Evidently these themes refer to conditions in Latin America in the 20th century.

In 2002, Marcela Rodriguez devised the program New Music for the festival at the request of the House of World Cultures.

Author: Alberto Perez-Amador Adam


Marcela Rodriguez was born on the 18th April, 1951, in Mexico City. She studied the guitar firstly under Manuel López Ramos then under Leo Brouwer. She later rounded her study of the renaissance lute off under Javier Hinojosa and played it in the Juárez Echenique ensemble, which concentrates on interpreting Mexican music from the renaissance and baroque periods.
In 1978 she completed her studies of the guitar at the Royal School of Music in London, then turned to studying composition under Mario Lavista and Jeús Estrada at the National Conservatory in Mexico City.

For solo instruments and orchestra she has written many concertos internationally acclaimed, among which the Concerto for Descant Recorder and Orchestra (1993), composed for and first performed by Horacio Franco, deserves special mention. This notably difficult work has already been performed with many orchestras, including the Mexican Orquesta de Mineria, the American Composers’ Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russel Davis in Carnegie Hall in February 1994, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the National University of Mexico, the Orquesta de Querétaro, the American Orquesta Sinfónica de San Antonio conducted by Christopher Wilkins , and the Venezuelan Orquesta Simón Bolívar de Caracas.

Marcela Rodriguez is especially likes writing for the voice and for stage productions. She has already written music for many dramas, including some by R. Tagore, Juan Ruiz, de Alarcón and Ionesco, and has written an opera and ballet music.

In 1991 the two-act comic opera ‘La Sunamita’ was successfully premiered at the international festival of the old part of Mexico City (Festival del Centro Histórico), then in the following years was shown on television in various lands, including Spain, and issued as a CD.

At present Marcela Rodriguez is writing two operas, one about Seneca and one about Sor Juana. The libretto for the opera about Seneca comes from the philosopher Carlos Pereda, who also wrote the libretto for her first opera, and the libretto for the opera about Sor Juana comes from Sandra Belgrade. Her existing series of six arias after poems by Sor Juana are to be incorporated into the latter opera. These arias have been issued as a cycle for soprano and chamber orchestra and were premiered in 1995.

Marcela Rodriguez lives in Mexico City.



Published Audio,
including La Fábula de las regiones; Funesta - six arias for soprano and chamber orchestra after poems by Sor Juana de la Cruz (1649-1695); Adúltera Enemiga - a song-cycle after poems by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (c. 1570-1639), URTEXT JBCC 036

La Sunamita

Published Audio,
an opera in two acts. Libretto by Carlos Pereda after the synonymous tale by Inés Arredondo. Mexico INBA/CNCA 1994 (2 CDs)

Concerto for Descant Recorder with Horacio Franco as soloist

Published Audio,
The Philharmonic Orchestra of the National University of Mexico, conducted by Ronald Zollman: in ‘Musica Sinfónica Mexicana’ with works by Silvestre Revueltas, Federico Ibarra, Gabriela Oritz, Manuel Enrique, José Pablo Huapango, Joaquin Gutiérrez Heras, Marcela Rodriguez, Arturo Márquez, Carlos Chávez. URTEXT/UNAM , No. JBCC ¾ (2 CDs)


Production / Performance,
Works by Marcela Rodriguez have been performed by orchestras including the following: the Orquesta de Mineria (Mexico), the American Composers’ Orchestra, the Orquesta de Querétaro, the Orquesta Sinfónida de San Antonio (USA), the Orquesta Bolivár de Caracas, the Orquesta de Kisinev - the Kisinev Symphony Orchestra - (Moldavia), the Orquesta de Córdoba (Spain) and the Athens Symphony Orchestra (Greece). Marcela Rodriguez’ ballet 4:14 belongs to the repertoire of the ensemble ‘Jan Erkert and Dancers of Chicago’.

‘Vértigos for Orchestra and Percussion’

Production / Performance,
premiered at the Festival Cervantino

‘Concerto for Cello and Orchestra’

Production / Performance,
premiered at the Festival Cervantino

‘Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra’

Production / Performance,
dedicated to Leo Brouwer and premiered at the Festival Cervantino

‘La Fábula de las regiones’

Production / Performance,

‘Concerto for Descant Recorder and Orchestra’

Production / Performance,
dedicated to and first performed by Horacio Franco

‘La Sunamita’

Production / Performance,
an opera in two acts after a tale by Inés Arredondo. It was premiered at the festival in the old part of Mexico City (Festival de Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de Mexico)


1987 Prize for stage-music for the play ‘Examen de mandos’ by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón at the 12th International Festival for Classical Spanish Drama (12th Siglo de Oro Drama Festival, Chamizal National Memorial)
1988 Prize ‘Felipe Villanueva’ for the orchestral work ‘Noturno’
1996 ‘Sor Juana’ Prize for the work ‘Funesta’ - six arias for soprano and chamber orchestra after poems by the baroque poetess Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1649-1695)


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

The Mexico-festival in Berlin

(15 September 02 - 01 December 02)