Nestled in the center of historic Mazatlán, the Ángela Peralta Theater is a luxurious opera house that was named after one of Mexico’s most beloved singers whose winding life (and death) story involves a scandalous love affair, yellow fever, and a truly uncomfortable wedding.
María de los Ángeles Manuela Tranquilina Cirila Efrena Peralta Castera aka Ángela Peralta (1845-1883) was a world-famous soprano, composer, harpist, and pianist whose early fame was curtailed when she began an affair with her manager, Julián Montiel y Duarte in the 1870s. The relationship followed Peralta’s ill-fated marriage to her cousin who died in a Paris mental institution around the same time. Peralta and her manager’s new relationship so enraged the religious citizens in Peralta’s birthplace of Mexico City that the so-called “Mexican Nightingale” was soon confronted by hired hecklers and faced boycotts of her performances altogether.
Despite setbacks and vowing never to play Mexico City again (a vow she tragically kept), Peralta’s talent ensured the resilient woman a measure of continued success. But at the age of 38, she arrived in Mazatlán to a hero’s welcome and greeted the town’s adoring fans, only to die of yellow fever soon after, along with 76 of her operatic troupe’s fellow members as well as many citizens of Mazatlán.
Perhaps the strangest part of Peralta’s already tragic story is her deathbed marriage. Peralta was already unconscious (and likely deceased) when she was married to Julián Montiel y Duarte. Evidently, another singer from her company named Lemus nodded Peralta’s head in approval when the chaplain asked if Peralta took him as her husband. In the end, it was likely that it was all facilitated because Peralta’s death certificate had yet to be filed before the curious posthumous marriage took place.
Despite her tragic tale of hometown shame, epidemic, and morbid nuptials, Peralta’s golden voice lives on in the Mazatlán theater that bears her name. Built in 1874 as the Rubio Theater, the grand opera house that is now the city finest performance space had fallen into decline during the 1920s when the owner decided that the ornate theater was most profitable when showing films and hosting circuses and boxing matches. By the 60s, the space was completely unusable. After being shuttered for decades, the theater was completely renovated in 1992, bringing the space back to its lush operatic roots.
While she never performed there herself, ever since its restoration, the Ángela Peralta Theater has remained one of Mazatlán’s main attractions, supporting programming of a quality and caliber that give credit to Peralta’s name.
Know Before You Go
Carnaval 1024 (just off Plaza Machado in the Centro Historico of Mazatlán).