María Eugenia Barrios

María Eugenia Barrios: Passion in the Skin

Last modified: January 26, 2023

Only pronouncing her name, Maria Eugenia Barrios, is to call synonyms that always guard her: love, passion, professionalism, culture, talent, desire to live/sing, art…, combined with a voice that even now delights and makes us feel under the skin strange sound sensations which awake dreams.

Each May 31st, memories overwhelm our soprano María Eugenia Barrios because those first steps of the long way that initiated with her graduation as Primary School Teacher, that day in 1959, singing La Salida de Cecilia Valdés with the National Band of Concerts, conducted by the famous master Gonzalo Roig, invade her. A glorious starting point for an 18 years old young lady who loved the lyrical chant… It was at the Amphitheater of the Havana Primary Teachers School, and facing those professors of the band, and with the presence of the master Gonzalo Roig- creator of that lyrical piece- and the audience that filled the auditorium, “I felt in the Metropolitan or in the Scala…to that point I was overcame by emotion”, commented the artist once.

Time has passed, however, María Eugenia Barrios -who studied between 1966 and 1972 at the Tchaikovski Conservatory in Moscow, with the prestigious singer and Professor Emerita Nina Lbovna Dorleak- continues impassive in that space of art where only a few reach the stages. The prominent soprano, who turned 80 in December, 2020, has never abandoned the stages and continues to offer her indisputable voice and stage charisma in her dissimilar concerts. It is necessary to comment that each concert assumed by the soprano gives us surprises and gratifications; particularly the repertory, with an unusual width, that permits to be closer to diverse styles of the vocal art.

Wide Gallery of Characters

In the vast repertory constructed over time, the famous Cuban lyrical soprano María Eugenia Barrios, who also has a Degree in Lyrical Art and has been the professor of excellent singers who have very well represented Cuba around the world, has established guidelines, and has left an immense line of successful works and a wide gallery of characters which still follow her on stage, in spite of time…She has sung pieces from different styles: operas, operettas, Spanish zarzuelas, Cuban zarzuelas; and has been given the privilege to interpret the three fundamental tittles of Giacomo Puccini: Madame Butterfly, La Boheme and Tosca. Any of them is a beloved memory for her. From Giuseppe Verdi, La Traviata and Il Trovatore; from Leoncavallo, Los Payasos; Cavalleria Rusticana from Mascagni. Her debut in Madame Butterfly was indelibly “beautiful in my vocal life, the little Japanese presented me to the public, which received me with immense generosity and devotion. I had never thought that by interpreting La Traviata I could receive such acclaims and ovations”, she said.

Another vocal and histrionic challenge was Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. Difficult and daring was Longina, that black Guantanamera from the beautiful and very Cuban composition of the master Roberto Sánchez Ferrer about the homonymous piece of Alejo Carpentier; Barrios had the honor to appear in the world premiere. How she enjoyed Leonora (Il Trovatore), Georgetta (Il Tabarro), Susana (Il segreto di Susanna), Mimí (Tosca), La Viuda Alegre, Adriana (Los Gavilanes), Ascensión (La del Manojo de Rosas), Matilde (La Esclava)! So many characters, all very difficult, all unforgettable for the Cuban lyrical Diva.

After 61 years from that first time, the artist -who has performed in Europe, Latin America and Africa- remembers, in her own words, that in each concert she tries to offer something of her vast repertory. That’s why, the privileged voiced of our notable soprano María Eugenia Barrios deals with dissimilar pieces of the most recognized authors from every continent and styles: Cuban, Russian, German, French, Polish… that she had interpreted during these years of Active Vocal Life, and that have a great meaning in his artistic career, with her incomparable interpretations. Those interpretations in which the virtuous singer vibrates, but also does the great actress that lies in Barrios. It is most significant in this ARTIST that besides her vocal qualities and her musical/stylistic control, in the course of time, is added the strange talent for the dramatic expressiveness. Each piece is offered to us with a theatrical, expressive and significant sense.

There is still too much to say about this woman that challenges the years and keeps singing. Her warm, virtuous notes, which are born from the deepest place in her soul, make us vibrate with emotion. Gonzalo Roig discovered/prophesied her; he said “María Eugenia will be a great singer, because a splendorous and natural artist lives within her as well as a great temperament, passionate about her art”.


  • Among many others that she has received through his long artistic career:
  • Prize from Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso
  • Emeritus Artist from the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), winning in Voice and Acting for the characters Nedda (Los Payasos) and Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana)
  • Cubadisco Prize 2015
  • The replica of the baton of the Master Guillermo Tomás (given to her for the first time, because it is assigned only to important Directors of Orchestra and Bands).

Toni Piñera
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Journalist for more than 30 years at the Granma newspaper, art and dance critic, professor at the National Academy of Fine Arts San Alejandro, curator of Cuban art exhibitions (former director of the La Acacia gallery, Havana), poet.

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