What better sound to break the silence of a city under siege than the glorious voice of a lyric soprano? That’s what happened in Santiago, Chile, on the evening of October 22, as soprano Ayleen Jovita Romero‘s voice echoed through empty streets, ending to a swell of applause.
Since October 18, the streets of Chile have been filled with throngs of its citizens as they demonstrate against the government of President Sebastian Pinera. It all began with student protests when the government sought to raise the price of metro tickets. Despite achieving the goal of having the rate hike repealed, the crowds have continued to gather.
The metro ticket price is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to socio-economic frustrations of the South American nation, which include unpopular privatization of public services, coupled by low wages. At least 19 demonstrators have been killed by the Chilean army forces, and thousands detained. The government has imposed a curfew to keep the streets clear.
The danger, and the curfew, didn’t stop Ayleen Jovita Romero, a native of the African continent, who surprised her neighbourhood with an a capella version of “El derecho de vivir en paz” — or “The right to live in peace” — by composer Victor Jara. Jara was a teacher, poet, singer-songwriter, and theatre director, who fell afoul of the Pinochet regime for his political activism. He was tortured and killed, and the song has become a rallying cry for demonstrations in the country, including the current protests.
Ayleen Jovita Romero is a young lyric soprano from Santiago, third place winner of the Opéra-Chili 2019 contest. She sang in a Santiago production of Bellini’s Norma in April 2019. In a post on her Instagram page, the soprano says, (translated from Spanish),
“We demonstrate peacefully during this curfew, all the neighbours here supporting the cause by singing and playing their beautiful instruments […] here is my little piece
I invite other artists to do the same in their homes, people thank you and do you good. It’s necessary.”
The video is a compilation of two clips, one taken from the “El Canto Nuevo de Chile” Facebook page, and the other from Ayleen Jovita Romero’s Instagram account (@ayleenjovita.soprano).