Odaline de la Martinez

Odaline de la Martinez

A most dynamic and gifted musician, with a distinguished reputation in the International Music Scene, award winning composer and conductor Odaline de la Martinez pursues a demanding and successful career. She has focused on her composing work since the late 1990s with much success in writing opera. Since 2005, Martinez has been writing her Slavery Opera Trilogy. In 2015 Imoinda (Part I of her Trilogy) received a major composition award from Opera America to work with Opera Ebony in New York City and produced a video of the opera, released in December 2015.

Born in Matanzas, Cuba, Martinez was brought up and educated in the USA, furthering her studies at the Royal Academy of Music, London and University of Surrey.

Martinez studied at Tulane University, New Orleans reading both music and mathematics, graduating in 1972 summa cum laude and receiving several major awards. A Marshall Scholarship from the British government, and Danforth and Watson Fellowships, allowed her to continue her studies both in the UK and the European Continent.

At the Royal Academy of Music, she studied composition with Paul Patterson and piano with Else Cross and in 1976 she founded the ensemble Lontano. Martinez received her MMus in composition from the University of Surrey (1977), studying with Reginald Smith Brindle. This was followed by composer awards from the American National Endowment for the Arts (1979).

The 1980s were important years for composition and performance: Martinez wrote much chamber music: Cantos de amor, Canciones, Asonancias, her 1st String Quartet, and Color Studies for piano amongst others. She won a Guggenheim Fellowship (1980), which supported the composition of her first opera Sister Aimée An American Legend. This was premiered at Tulane University in 1984, followed by two other productions at the Royal College of Music, London (1987) and in Marin County College, California (1995).

Martinez also became the first woman to conduct a BBC Promenade concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1984.

Martinez has received many awards and prestigious positions:

1983: Outstanding Alumna of Newcomb College, Tulane University.

  • 1988: Villa-Lobos medal from the Brazilian government in recognition promoting and conducting his music.
  • 1989: Co-Director of VIVA, a festival of Latin-American music at London’s South Bank Centre
  • 1990: Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music.
  • 1992: Founder of the record label, LORELT, which concentrates on music by contemporary composers, women composers and those from Latin America
  • 1994 Conducted a historic performance of The Wreckers by Dame Ethel Smyth at the BBC Proms, later released on CD by Conifer Records and BMI in the States, followed by a CD recording of Smyth’s orchestral music for Chandos Records.
  • 1994: Artistic Director of the Cardiff Festival.
  • 2006 Founder of the Biennial London Festival of American Music, bringing to London the music of composers well known in the States but less known in Europe.

During the 1990s, Martinez pursued a rigorous international conducting schedule to include Colombia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Denmark, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, and the UK, including regular visits to the BBC Proms.

In 1994 she gave a special BBC Proms performance of Dame Ethel Smyth’s opera The Wreckers. This historic performance was recorded by Conifer Records in the UK and released by BMI records in the United States.

In the late 1990s, triggered by several commissions, Martinez resumed her composing career:

  • Music to a radio play commissioned by BBC Radio 4 (1998)
  • The Hansen Variations for Piano (1999), commissioned by the Music Department of Tulane University.
  • Second opera Imoinda, about slavery and the beginning of the Afro-Caribbean culture (2005-2008). This, the first of the Slavery Opera Trilogy, with libretto by Joan Anim-Addo, was commissioned by the Caribbean Women Writers’ Alliance (CWWA), with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund UK.
  • 2010 A CD of Martinez’s chamber music titled Asonancias, was released.
  • 2011 Artist in Residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • 2012 The Crossing, Part II of the Slavery Trilogy, was commissioned by Tulane University with a grant from the Sophie Newcomb Institute, Walter and Ruth Jenkins and an anonymous donor. The work was premiered by the Tulane and Xavier University Choirs with the Louisiana Philharmonic and soloists in April 2013, conductor Leonard Raybon.
  • 2013 A grant from Becky Skau Fund of The Sophie Newcomb Institute toward an artist residency at Tulane University to give master classes and deliver a public lecture.
  • In October 2014, Martinez was artist in residence at the University of Arizona, where she co-directed the University’s Festival of Latin American Music with lectures and performances, including several of her own works.
  • In November 2014, a semi-staged version of The Crossing, Part II of her Slavery Opera Trilogy received its UK Premiere at the Fifth London Festival of American Music, with Eclectic Voices, the Lontano Chamber Orchestra, and soloists, Scott Stroman conductor.
  • 2015 Residencies at MIT and SUNY Binghamton
  • In March 2015 Martinez received an award from Opera America, toward the production of a video based on her second opera Imoinda.
  • Martinez is presently working on Plantation, Part III of her Slavery Opera Trilogy.

As well as radio recordings for the BBC and commercial recordings for Metier, Chandos, Conifer, BMI, Summit, Da Capo, Albany and her own label, Lorelt Records, she is also known as a broadcaster for BBC Radio and Television. Martinez was interviewed and featured as composer and conductor in a two hour radio programme for Swiss Radio, introduced composers for BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week, and participated in Channel 4 television series featuring women composers.

Odaline de la Martinez and Lontano are in residence at Kings College University of London working with composers throughout the academic year. She is also trustee of The Mornington Trust that has been responsible for community and educational work in London boroughs since 2000. Presently the charity is involved in a eight-year project working with Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities in the East of London.

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