Chronicle by a diva

María Eugenia Barrios never received anything as a gift; No path was easy for him. She studied bel canto at the highest level, the most elegant stages on the planet applauded the egregious Cuban.

Cuban soprano María Eugenia Barrios, the diva of two centuries Photo © Courtesy María Eugenia Barrios

Four years ago, December 2019, I had the enormous pleasure of interviewing the aptly named Diva of two centuries,the soprano María Eugenia Barrios. I was able to access the wide range of his culture, I learned from classical music greats, I learned about the paths he had to travel in a long life that is already celebrating 83 years.

Courtesy María Eugenia Barrios

At that time the teacher María Eugenia shone. It was incredible to watch her squat or lift one leg over her head at a 180 degree angle.

I remember his response to the reggaeton that his neighbors in the Centro Habana neighborhood were playing: he would go out to the little patio and sing a cappella the Exit by Cecilia Valdés or an aria from one of his three favorite operas Madama Butterfly, Tosca or La Traviata.

On that occasion he told me: “I was born an artist. Do you know that many, whatever the modality, are manufactured, molded, take advantage of their qualities, which are put according to what they want to achieve? I don't.I was born an artist… and I still am!

Courtesy María Eugenia Barrios

I had a wonderful impression and that is why I have maintained a friendship with this great woman; That's why I went to visit her a few days ago and my heart really skipped a beat. That was not the teacher I knew and it is not because of the passage of four years… it is for another reason!

The forgetfulness, abandonment, and mistreatment that retirees suffer in Cuba is a secret to no one; those who gave their lives in a useless chain of sacrifices and vain hope for a better future.

Within that abandoned mass there are doctors, teachers, athletes, artists... And this is what happens to María Eugenia Barrios, who after 64 years of working career has not even received the Artistic Teaching Awards or the Youth Teacher Award. .

Figures close to the teacher have told me that depression, something very bad at any age especially hers, has taken hold of the exquisite singer.

Those who have known her all their lives assure that María Eugenia was never one of those classic “guatacas” who get close to power seeking benefits and perks. He received the glory of applause as a gift from the Lord who, in his words, “gave him the most beautiful of gifts, his voice.”

María Eugenia Barrios never received anything as a gift; No path was easy for him. She studied bel canto at the highest level, the most elegant stages on the planet applauded the egregious Cuban. The numerous concerts and appearances of Barrios cannot be recounted "roughly." He always raised the name of Cuba and its culture.

Courtesy María Eugenia Barrios

When she was needed, she assumed the difficult role of teaching... How many of this woman's students have won international festivals, how many are leading figures of lyrical art on the entire planet!

For almost 50 years, Barrios was a singing professor at the so-called University of the Arts. Who now remembers this hard-working, tireless worker?

Neither lyrically nor professorially they have given her the place she deserves. During the pandemic, when she was already elderly, she never received a phone call asking how she was doing, what she needed. And he was still singing and recording the soap opera "TÚ" by Léster Hamlet, already at 80 years old.

When I visited her on that first floor of Centro Habana, which is difficult for me to climb, I appreciated how the teacher could go up and down after errands. In our talk she confessed to me that she had retired in May of last year but that she continued singing, until sadness, disappointments, disorder, indiscipline and a thousand other things overcame her.

The excellent teacher, very distant from the one from four years ago, blurted out to my face that she was so extremely depressed that she only longed for the final departure. Can you imagine my feeling, can anyone stay with their arms crossed in the face of this embarrassing oblivion, who can I demand the same from? that she, more than enough, has won?

What else can we say about the attitude of the great Plácido Domingo who asked to meet her, went to see her, had his portrait taken with her because in addition to enjoying her as a singer, he valued his disciples who live abroad?

Maria Eugenia Barrios She feels the absence of her voice in future generations because, simply, she did not have a way to save it and only at 70 did they make an album for her.

She was so poor that, because she did not have a camera or recorder, nothing remains of those first moments at the García Lorca National Theater, today Alicia Alonso, a fact that brings to mind what Indio Naborí said: "It doesn't hurt me to die, what hurts me is not leaving memory." Very unfortunate thatMaría Eugenia Barrios, the diva of two centuries, do not have any memory for those who come behind.

Something that could be done is to dedicate a place in the National Theater for the figures of lyrical art who brought so much prestige to Cuban culture, headed by this distinguished woman, as well as giving her, at least, a show of solidarity, calling her to ask her: “teacher, how this?" …something so simple.

We still have time!

What do you think?


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opinion article: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are the exclusive responsibility of its author and do not necessarily represent the point of view of CiberCuba.

Julita Osendi

Graduated in Journalism from the University of Havana in 1977. Journalist, sports commentator, announcer and director of more than 80 documentaries and special reports. Among my most relevant journalistic coverage are 6 Olympic Games, 6 World Athletics Championships, 3 Classics

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