The Seventh annual Tucson Desert Song Festival is looking south for its inspiration and soul.

“Latin Celebration,” which kicked off Wednesday, Jan. 16, and runs through Feb. 5, will spotlight Latin artists from Mexico, Puerto Rico and our own backyard through 11 performances, including the premiere of the world’s first flamenco opera.

The festival is teaming up with the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson to promote the festival. The consulate also is co-presenting a recital with Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, the festival’s artist-in-residence. The Arizona Opera and the Arizona Opera Guild of Tucson are the other presenters on the Jan. 25 recital in Holsclaw Hall at the University of Arizona’s Fred Fox School of Music.

Unlike last year’s Bernstein 100th birthday-themed festival, this year’s “Latin Celebration” is not centered on repertoire, said festival executive director George Hanson. Instead, the theme relates more to the artists, many of them of Hispanic descent including Chacón-Cruz, a native of Sonora, Mexico.

“I was probably 19 years old the first time I sang in the States and it was in Tucson” said Chacón-Cruz, who was a frequent visitor to Tucson in his youth. “We would come to Tucson at least one weekend a month and go to the Tucson Mall.”

Chacón-Cruz is the second song festival artist-in-residence. As such, he will conduct master classes at the UA in addition to his recital.

Among the highlights of the 2019 festival:

  • The premiere of the world’s first flamenco opera, “Llantos 1492,” composed by classical and flamenco guitarist Adam del Monte (Jan. 30).
  • Concerts by Broadway superstar Kristin Chenoweth (Thursday, Jan. 17) and jazz great Bobby McFerrin (Sunday, Jan. 20).
  • A recital with operatic rock star Corinne Winters (Tuesday, Jan. 22).
  • “Viva Piazzolla!” a collaboration between the Tucson Guitar Society and Ballet Tucson Ballet (Feb. 3).

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

Cathalena has covered music for the Star for the past 20 years. She's a graduate of Arizona State University has worked at Sedona Red Rock News, Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, New York; and USA Today.