Latin music

Miami Beach concert explores shared secrets of Sephardic and flamenco music


If you go

What: ‘Flamenco Sephardit.’

When: 7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Temple Emanu-EL, 1701 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.

Tickets: $12, $5 for temple members at

Before their expulsion from Spain in 1492, Sephardic Jews kept their religious practice, including their music, mostly hidden. Three centuries later, Spain’s Gypsies performed flamenco in private rituals. Deemed illegal, both flamenco and Ladino traditions were passed orally from generation to generation in Spain before spreading across the world.

"Flamenco and Ladino music really do come from the same place," says conductor Jeffrey Eckstein. "If you listen to flamenco pieces and then to Ladino pieces, they remind you of one another."

Eckstein has linked the two musical traditions in Flamenco Sephardit, a concert at Miami Beach’s Temple Emanu-El on Sunday.

Eckstein typically conducts classical music, but he fell for flamenco when he heard legendary guitarist Vicente Amigo in Barcelona. "I said, ‘What is this? I feel the music in my soul!’ 

The feeling stuck when he returned to the United States. Eckstein, who lives in New York, often travels to South Florida to conduct the Miami Lyric Opera. When in town, he attends services at Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach, where he struck up a friendship with Rabbi Marc Philippe. Inspired by the coming-together of Hispanic and Jewish traditions in Miami, Eckstein proposed the concert to him.

To represent flamenco, Eckstein has enlisted dancer Celia Fonta, who is also Jewish. Her guitarist-husband, Spaniard Paco Fonta, will perform with classical and flamenco guitarist Michel Gonzalez.

Eckstein believes that adding classical elements enhances these folk forms, so he has included cellist Rosanna Butterfield and violinist Derek Powell from New World Symphony — and Rabbi Philippe himself, who trained in Paris as a classical singer, as well as a cantor.

"The cello and the violin will make the sound fuller," Eckstein said in a telephone interview.

Rounding out the ensemble is mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock, who has released an album of Ladino songs using the artistic name Aviva. Entitled Songs for Carmen, the album is a tribute to the mythical Gypsy in Bizet’s opera. (Many scholars believe Carmen was inspired by the legend of La Petenera, a beautiful Jewish woman who ignited passions in men and was ultimately murdered by a jealous suitor.)

Eckstein hopes to capture the passion of both traditions by adapting Ladino melodies to fit the structure of flamenco.

"For example, we took a Ladino song and combined it with a Sevillana, or a Soleá," he says, referring to flamenco styles that are distinguished by specific rhythmic patterns. "So they start becoming one piece of music, and all from the same place and origin in Spain." is a nonprofit source of South Florida dance and performing arts coverage.

Read more Entertainment stories from the Miami Herald

  • Coming to town

    Spend the night with Joan Collins

    Cue the Dynasty music and break out the shoulder pads — Joan Collins is coming to town Friday night with her one-woman show. But don’t expect the Hollywood legend, 80, to focus on her time as bitchy Alexis Carrington Colby on the famed ’80s night soap opera. Collins has quite the acting pedigree, having debuted on the London stage at the age of 9 before she made it on the big screen in such 1950s movies as The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing and Rally Round the Flag Boys. Still quick as a whip, the glamorous as all get-out Brit will tell you all about her illustrious career and more during One Night with Joan at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek.

  • Celebrity roundup

    Cuba Gooding Jr to divorce, Al Gore’s daughter marries

    Cuba Gooding Jr. may have to show the money to his soon to be ex-wife, schoolteacher Sara Kapfer, who filed for legal separation. The Jerry Maguire actor and Kapfer were high school sweethearts in L.A. So what happened? Just last year Gooding gushed on The View about his spouse: “I got a wonderful lady that knows how to run the household even when I’m not there.” Hmm, maybe he wasn’t there enough....or maybe he pulled a Dean McDermott while on set.

  • Celebrity birthdays on April 23

    Actor David Birney is 75. Actor Lee Majors is 75. Actress Blair Brown is 66. Actress Joyce DeWitt is 65. Director Michael Moore is 60. Actress Judy Davis is 59. Actress Valerie Bertinelli is 54. Comedian George Lopez is 53. Actor Scott Bairstow (“Party of Five”) is 44. Actor John Lutz (“30 Rock”) is 41. Actor-comedian John Oliver is 37. Actor Kal Penn is 37. Singer Taio Cruz is 31. Actor Dev Patel is 24. Actor Matthew Underwood (“Zoey 101”) is 24.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category