Curtain rising on a more Yucatecan Yucatán Symphony Orchestra

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
The proposed changes to Yucatán’s symphony orchestra have raised the eyebrows of concertgoers. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The Yucatán Symphony Orchestra has announced major changes that will be geared towards greater inclusivity.

These changes include a shift in musical programs to include more Yucatecan, Mexican and female composers, as well as the use of non-traditional venues.

Under this new plan, the symphony will be performing out of Mérida much more often, as well as scheduling presentations at schools, outdoor venues, and prisons.

“The idea is to make the OSY accessible to everyone, not just those who can easily get to downtown Mérida,” said OSY artistic director José Areán.

The symphony has no permanent home after a fire devastated the Teatro Peón Contreras in late 2022. Still, the real reason for all of these changes could boil down to money and politics. 

“Diversity is an important value, but all this talk about new venues came directly after the burning of the OSY’s home. All three levels of government have been passing the buck, and now things are essentially in shambles,” said an OSY board member who asked to remain anonymous.

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After the state-ordered removal of Juan Carlos Lomónaco as the OSY’s lead conductor after 14 years, rumors have begun to swirl regarding further shakeups in the symphony lineup. 

Photos in November 2022 show the extent of damage inside the Teatro Peón Contreras in Mérida. Photo: Courtesy

Though the state government did not frame the departure of Lomónco as an ousting, it is all but confirmed that Lomónaco had embarrassed state officials with statements regarding the lack of a sprinkler system, which could have avoided the fire at the Peón Contreras. 

While the Peón Contreras is being repaired and the proposed changes come into effect, Mérida’s Palacio de la Musica will continue to be the OSY’s principal venue.

There has also been a great deal of controversy regarding proposed changes in the types of programs presented by the OSY, which has historically leaned heavily toward European and American composers. 

Several concertgoers have noted that it seems like more than a coincidence that these types of critiques launched at the OSY happened to coincide with budget cuts and debacles with the delayed restoration of the Peón Contreras. 

The state government argues that the OSY should incorporate more regional genres of music, which are already well-represented throughout the state. These, too, are financed by the state and municipal governments.

“We enjoy everything from the Jarana to Mariachi, but the OSY was the one place where classical music could be heard live in the city. Taking that away or even just making it more infrequent is quite frankly a terrible blow to the city’s cultural scene,” said Juanita F., an avid concertgoer and OSY regular who asked for her full name to be withheld.