Odaline de la Martinez

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Odaline de la Martinez (born 31 October 1949) is a Cuban-American composer and conductor, currently residing in the UK. She is the artistic director of Lontano, a London-based contemporary music ensemble which she co-founded in 1976 with New Zealander flautist Ingrid Culliford, and was the first woman to conduct at the BBC Promenade Concerts (the Proms) in 1984. As well as frequent appearances as a guest conductor with leading orchestras throughout Great Britain, including all the BBC orchestras, she has conducted several leading ensembles around the world, including the Ensemble 2e2m in Paris; the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra; the Australian Youth Orchestra; the OFUNAM and the Camerata of the Americas in Mexico; and the Vancouver Chamber Orchestra. She is also known as a broadcaster for BBC Radio and Television and has recorded extensively for several labels.


Odaline de la Martinez was born in 1949 in Matanzas and grew up in Jovellanos, a cane-sugar manufacturing town in the same province. After the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 her parents decided to send her and her sister to live with their aunt and uncle in the U.S.A. She studied at Tulane University, New Orleans, where she read both music and mathematics, graduating summa cum laude in 1972 and receiving several awards upon graduation - a Marshall Scholarship from the British government, and a Danforth and Watson Fellowships - which allowed her to continue her studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where she studied composition with Paul Patterson and piano with Else Cross and where she founded Lontano Ensemble in 1976 with Ingrid Culliford. With Lontano she conducted the premiere of Judith Weir's The Consolations of Scholarship at the University of Durham in 1985 (subsequently recording it with Linda Hirst in 1989).[1]

Martinez received her MMus in composition from the University of Surrey in 1977, where she studied with Reginald Smith Brindle. This was followed by composer awards from the American National Endowment for the Arts (1979) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1980), supporting the composition of her first opera Sister Aimee: An American Legend (1984), with a libretto by John Whiting. Sister Aimme was premiered at Tulane University in 1984, followed by two other productions at the Royal College of Music (1987) and in Marin County College, California, in 1995.

In 1984 Martinez became the first woman to conduct at a BBC Promenade Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1987 she was awarded the Villa Lobos medal from the Brazilian government for her championing of the music of Heitor Villa Lobos and other Brazilian composers. Her continuing commitment to showcase the music of Latin America for UK and European audiences led her in 1989 to co-direct with Eduardo Mata VIVA! - a festival of Latin-American music - at London's South Bank Centre. In 1990 she was made a fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and in 1992 she founded LORELT (Lontano Records Limited) with the intent of promoting the work of living composers and women and Latin American composers from all periods. The label has since released over 30 CDs to critical acclaim.

In the summer of 1994 Martinez conducted the BBC Proms premiere of Ethel Smyth's The Wreckers, later released on CD by Conifer Records. A CD recording of Smyth's orchestral music for Chandos Records followed, as did (2016) the first complete recording by Retrospect Opera of The Boatswain's Mate. Her forthcoming complete recording of Smyth's Fête Galante, also by Retrospect Opera, was announced in August 2016.[2]

After a gap of almost 10 years, Martinez began composing again. First, music to a radio play commissioned by BBC Radio 4 (1998), followed by the Hansen Variations for Piano (1999) - commissioned by the Music Department of Tulane University. In 2008 she completed her second opera, Imoinda, with a libretto by Joan Anim-Addo about slavery and the beginning of the Afro-Caribbean culture.

In the autumn of 2006 together with Lontano Ensemble she founded the London Festival of American Music aiming to introduce UK audiences to a broader spectrum of works from contemporary American and US-based composers, and it has continued to be celebrated biennially since then. Several major works have received their UK premieres there, including works by John Harbison, Marjorie Merryman, Daniel Asia, Peter Child and Roberto Sierra.


  1. ^ Booklet accompanying 'Judith Weir : 3 operas', United 88040 CD, 1994.
  2. ^ "Retrospect Opera: Fête Galante". Retrospect Opera. Retrieved 25 September 2016.

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