Concert Review | Alexandre Da Costa and El Mariachi Figueroa for Cinco de Mayo

Advertisement / Publicité

Cinco de Mayo, a concert celebrating the holiday of the same name, engulfed Montreal audiences in a whirlwind of traditional rhythms and mariachi melodies. The performance by the Orchestre Philharmonique du Québec — formerly known as the Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil — left crowds feeling cheerful and festive. On the programme were a variety of pieces by primarily Mexican singers and composers.

Photo by: Maxence Mounier

Montréal’s own Alexandre Da Costa joined the stage in the afternoon’s performance: not in his usual role as the orchestra’s conductor, but as the incredibly gifted solo violinist. The pieces flourished under the baton of the enthusiastic Francisco Javier Gutiérrez Juan, current director of the Banda Sinfónica Municipal de Sevilla. It was undeniably El Mariachi Figueroa that stole the show, a band consisting of a talented family. 

What you missed 

This concert kicked off with the somewhat martial La Emparatriz Hispana by Daniel Albarrán before Da Costa’s highly anticipated interpretation of the Fire and Blood concerto for violin and orchestra, by American Michael Daugherty. 

Da Costa’s interpretation of Fire and Blood won him the Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year in 2012.  The three parts of the piece — Volcano, River Rouge and Assembly Line — were inspired by murals painted of Detroit’s automobile industry by Mexican modernist artist Diego Rivera. 

Alexandre Da Costa, Photo by Maxence Mounier

Fittingly, Volcano was filled with explosive bursts of sound from the orchestra. Da Costa played very well, highlighting each triple stop with flair and switching octaves with ease. His River Rouge was eerie and melancholy, evoking blood and toil. The dual trumpet harmonies were beautiful, though they were some of the few audibly Mexican influences in the entire three movements. Lastly, Assembly Line was a short and bustling movement in a rapid 7/8 time, each instrument a steady cog in the grand machine of the piece. The percussion section did a fabulous job balancing the unique instrumentation of Daugherty’s piece, especially considering their small numbers. 

El Mariachi Figueroa, Photo by Maxence Mounier

The  second half of the concert introduced a completely different atmosphere — one of great joy and cultural passion. The Figueroa family dazzled on stage with Antonio singing beautifully, Tomy playing the trumpet, and Alexandre, Manuel Jr. and Director Jose-Luis on mariachi strings such as the vihuela and guitarrón. The multigenerational band brought an incredibly animated color to the Théâtre Maisonneuve, cheering the audience up with strong vocals. Though the trumpet was impressive and polished, the supporting talent of the Figueroa strings could also not be ignored. 

Antonio Figueroa, Photo by Maxence Mounier

The band played alongside the orchestra for several renditions of popular Mexican songs such as La Bikina by Rubén Fuentes and La Malagueña by Elpidio Ramírez and Pedro Galindo. Gutiérrez Juan merrily encouraged audience participation. The stage’s energy was bright and infectious and soon enough, cheers, laughter and gritos — Mexican whoops and expressions of celebration — were erupting all around the theater. 


The last song on the programme was Danzon no. 2 by Arturo Márquez, a beautiful piece that takes me back to my high school concert band days. Again, the percussion was commendable, as were the soloists playing the piano, piccolo, violin, trumpet, and clarinet. Gutiérrez Juan alternated well between full orchestral blasts and sudden soft dynamics, though certain parts of the piece could have been built up to a louder crescendo before quieting back down. 

A bit of sunlight

Before the evening closed, El Mariachi Figueroa returned to serenade the audience with two encores, most notably Cielito Lindo, accompanied by Da Costa and the orchestra. The wildly popular chorus was echoed throughout the audience, easy to follow along even for non-Spanish speakers. 

It was an almost surreal concert experience — more akin to a rowdy fiesta than a classical performance. The Figueroas charmed the audience, and as Gutiérrez Juan declared, the concert provided all those in attendance with ‘a bit of sunlight on an otherwise gray and rainy day.’

For more on the Orchestre Philharmonique du Québec:


About Author

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.