Flamenco music and dance fans are in for a history-making special treat this weekend. International flamenco superstar Antonio Rey, one of Spain’s best guitarists and composers, will perform in Santa Barbara for the first time on Sunday, September 11.
Rey says this is a don’t-miss event “because it will be a night of flamenco in its pure state.” He will play his own compositions from his 2020 album Flamenco Sin Fronteras, which won a Latin Grammy. In addition, he will play songs from prior albums such as Camino Al Alma and Colores Del Fuego.
Guitarist José Tanaka, percussionist Diego Alvarez (a master cajón player), and dancer Maria Bermudez will join Rey on stage at The New Vic. They are all close friends and have performed together a number of times.
Bermudez, a flamenco artist, director, choreographer, and teacher who runs the Maria Bermudez Flamenco Performing Arts Studio in downtown Santa Barbara, is particularly excited about the event. More than 30 years ago she moved to Jerez de la Frontera (recognized as the birthplace of flamenco) to immerse herself in the art form “full-on.” Now a master of the region’s complex and intricate dance style, she still lives there part-time. She has performed at many legendary venues, including the Hollywood Bowl, Lope de Vega in Seville, Lincoln Center in New York, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. She says it’s a privilege to perform with Rey, Tanaka, and Alvarez. “They are consummate artists. We all share our love for flamenco; it’s what we do; it’s our lifeline.”
“I’m proud to be working together to bring an artist like Antonio to Santa Barbara together with the Flamenco Arts Festival,” says Mitch Chang (founder and owner of the Los Angeles Flamenco Festival, Kala Koa Entertainment, and Mitch Chang Mortgage), who is producing the show in partnership with Santa Barbara’s nonprofit Flamenco Arts Festival. A fan of the S.B. festival from the beginning, Chang says, “It was a beautiful opportunity to experience so many incredible artists that have since gone on to become legendary. Those concerts will forever hold a place in my heart, and it is my wish that Santa Barbara locals will likewise walk away from this performance with their own special memories and a newfound thirst for discovering flamenco music and artists, both past and present.”
Since its debut in 2000, the Flamenco Arts Festival usually happens every September, but the pandemic forced a pause in programming. Vibiana Pizano, the festival’s founder and president, explains that they instead launched a virtual event in April 2022 called Flamenco on Film, with eight different films showcasing various artists performing from Spain and in Santa Barbara.
“Now, we are planning our return to live programming and hope to make an announcement in early 2023,” says Pizano. She adds, “This concert is important because it helps to promote flamenco music, which is a priority for the Flamenco Arts Festival. Our goal is to increase the knowledge, interest, and understanding of flamenco in our community not just through dance events, but also through music concerts.”
Antonio Rey performs at The New Vic (33 W. Victoria St.) Sunday, September 11, at 7 p.m. For tickets, call (805) 965-5400 or visit store.ensembletheatre.com/events.