Helena Colindres (they/them) is a two spirit versatile vocalist, educator, and activist of Nahua ancestry.
As a rising opera vocalist, they have performed roles such as Depsina in Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte, the Governess in Britten’s Turn of the Screw, Therese in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles di Tiresias, the title role in Handel’s Serse, Kenzie in Pollock’s Earth to Kenzie, die Königin from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Iris in Semele, and made their professional debut as Winnie in Beecher’s Sky on Swings with Opera Saratoga.
In addition to their opera experience, they have also had the pleasure of performing as a concert soloist with various orchestras in works such as Handel’s Messiah, Rutter’s Magnificat, Schubert’s Mass in G, Strauss' Brentano Lieder, and Larson’s A God in Disguise, with the latter being in Davies Symphony Hall. One of their career highlights has been performing alongside the Alexandria Orchestra under the baton of Maestro James Ross in a program curated to showcase Helena’s versatility as a vocal artist, consisting of R&B, oratorio, and folk music.
Helena has also participated in various master classes with established operatic figures including Evelyn Mandac, Kevin Murphy, and Marilyn Horne. Additionally, they have won first place at various competitions such as the Camille Coloratura Awards and the Sylvia Green Voice Competition. They recently were a finalist for the Washington International Competition and won third place at the Wonderlic Competition. They are also a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda Honors Association.
Recitals have also played an important role in Helena's artistic career because of the opportunities they have offered them to collaborate with other artists, have complete freedom to make the dramatic, artistic, and musical choices they would like to, and to program composers whose works have actively and violently been kept out of the classical canon. Helena will soon be doing a recital with Opera Saratoga featuring only songs highlighting Indigenous cultures of Turtle Island.
One of the cycles that will be on the recital will be in Nahuatl which is very similar to the language that Helena is reconnecting with. Helena is a reconnecting Native who was detribalized for two generations because of one the last major genocidal events in El Salvador’s history: “La Matanza”.Over 30,000 indigenous peoples were murdered and tortured mercilessly within one week and many anti-BIPOC laws were passed at this time such as vagrancy laws to force these people into slavery under a sharecropping system and making it illegal for BIPOC to practice any of their cultures.
Nawat is considered a “dead” language by colonizers but Nahua elders and the community are committed to its revitalization, the safety of all people, and the protection of the land. Music is always political and is more than just beautiful sounds and technique, it is about connecting with other living things, our ancestors, and expressing things that words alone simply cannot. Helena refuses to do performances with people and organizations that say that they like their singing but that they and other Indigenous people are not allowed to be themselves on stage from the regalia they wear to the art that they share with their audiences.
Helena graduated from the Peabody Conservatory with their MM in Voice and Pedagogy in 2022. They also have a BM in Voice and a BA in Comparative American Studies with a concentration in Identity and Diversity from the Oberlin College and Conservatory and an AA in Latin American and Latinx studies as well as an AS in Social Sciences from City College of San Francisco.
When they are not singing, they are sharing their knowledge with their community through their private voice studio. They are passionate about teaching voice through an individual-based holistic approach that is anti-racist, anti-ableist, non-gendered, trans-friendly, anatomy-based, cross-training, and dramatically-driven. They refuse to put styles and genres into hierarchies and refuse to push the concepts of beauty and perfection onto their students because those concepts are steeped in white supremacy and colonial biases.
Helena is autistic, two-spirit, Nahua, fat, nonbinary, low-income, has ADHD, is dyselxic, was afab, is an ex-cult member of the “Catholic Church” and has auto-immune disorders. They have had a tumultuous journey so far in creating a path to success as an intersectionally marginalized person in the performing arts because they refuse to leave their morals at the door and are committed to creating the art that their community deserves to enjoy and consume.
Helena was born and raised on Yelamu Ohlone Land to refugee parents. Their family has Nahua, Mayan, African, and European ancestry. Their family had been living on their ancestral lands that their ancestors named Guxgatan until Helena’s parents were pushed out of the country during the Salvadorian “civil war” that the US military funded heavily in the 80s as a part of their “cold” war against communism. Helena has always been committed to being an accomplice to undocumented refugees, especially if they are Native and are always finding more ways to honor and support the people whose land they are currently living on.
They try to educate themselves and their community because knowledge is power. They have been directly involved with grassroots organizing and community building initiatives and hope to use their singing platform to bring these conversations and themes to spaces that have purposely chosen not to engage with them thus far. They will never accept a seat at the table, engage in respectability politics, nor will they settle for being a token. They are committed to the liberation and equity of the most marginalized and will always be down to hold people accountable for their hatred. They are fighting to eradicate ableism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, classism, racism, colorism, and all the other ugly ideologies that are weaved into every fabric of this colonial police state.
They find so much joy and pride in knowing that their art is directly impacting people everyday through social media. They have over 8,000 followers on TikTok and are excited to build an even bigger following. Helena is extremely passionate about fighting for marginalized people and they are so grateful that they get to build community through their art, teaching, and organizing for the rest of their life.