During a 1932 trip to Mexico, Aaron Copland visited a popular dance hall in Mexico City called El Salón México. Fascinated by watching the locals and listening to the band, he sought out collections of Mexican folk music, adapting their tunes into a colorful orchestral score. Alive with the stomping rhythms and brilliant colors that inspired him, El Salón México has become a popular curtain-raiser.

Gabriela Lena Frank is a one-woman cultural melting pot who has frequently drawn on her part-Peruvian heritage for musical inspiration. Her Concerto Cusqueño combines a Peruvian melody with a fragment by Benjamin Britten. She has written: “Concertino Cusqueño melds together two brief musical ideas: The first few notes of a religious tune, ‘Ccollanan María,’ from Cusco (the original capital of the Inca empire with the simple timpani motif from the opening of Britten’s elegant Violin Concerto. I am able to spin an entire work from these two ideas, designating a prominent role to the four-string principal players (with a bow to the piccolo/bass clarinet duo and, yes, the timpanist).”

Danzón is a popular Cuban dance of 19th-century origin. For Danzón No.2, Arturo Márquez was inspired by friends who are professional ballroom dancers. Popular Mexican tunes and catchy rhythms course through this music, which is Márquez’s nostalgic salute to a genre still treasured by the older generation.

The Louisville Orchestra commissioned Mexico’s José Pablo Moncayo to write Cumbres in 1953. The title, which means “Summits,” suggests the views from a Mexican mountaintop: a panoramic vista of Mexican landscape and culture. Moncayo’s score captures the character and jagged pulse of Mexican folk music adapted to a traditional symphony orchestra. The effect is upbeat and electrifying.

George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture is a sassy foot-tapping score. He had vacationed in 1930s Havana with a group of high-rolling friends. Decades before Fidel Castro took over, the Cuban capital was a vibrant party city. Known as “the Paris of the Caribbean,” Havana was extremely popular with Americans during Prohibition. In this irresistible overture, Gershwin captured the glamour and excitement of Old Cuba.

Daniel Catán’s opera Florencia en el Amazonas has the distinction of being the first opera in Spanish commissioned by a major American company.  Featuring a libretto inspired by the revered Latin-American author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the work premiered in October 1996. Portraying the story of Florencia Grimaldi, a glamorous diva who travels the Amazon in search of a long-lost lover, the lush and romantic music and orchestration of the opera are key to the growing popularity of the work.