World’s First Mariachi Opera Premiere at HGO

Houston, TX – Houston Grand Opera (HGO) will present its forty-first world premiere, To Cross the Face of the Moon / Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, commissioned by HGO through its Song of Houston project. Music by José “Pepe” Martinez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, with libretto by acclaimed Broadway director and author Leonard Foglia, the opera will be performed in concert by a cast that includes mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, baritone and HGO studio alumnus Octavio Moreno, and Martinez, together with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, on Saturday, November 13, 2010, at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston, Texas. This will be Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán’s only Houston performance in 2010.

The new opera was the brainchild of HGO General Director and CEO Anthony Freud, who attended a performance by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and was struck by the resonances between mariachi and operatic traditions. “Opera arias and mariachi songs tell human stories of love and loss, family and country; through music they aim their narratives straight at the heart,” says Freud. “It seemed to me that the two traditions were a natural fit. I wanted to be certain that we respected the integrity of both traditions in the piece we created, so it was also natural to turn to Pepe Martinez to compose it, given how strongly he has influenced contemporary mariachi repertoire, and to Leonard Foglia, whose truly operatic style of storytelling and theatricality is his signature, to write the lyrics.” He added, “I am truly thrilled that we will have the honor of performing the world premiere with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who are supreme practitioners of the art of mariachi music.”

Composer and music director José “Pepe” Martinez has been writing for and performing and recording with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán since 1975; the ensemble has been in existence since 1897, and most of the storied composers, arrangers and performers in the mariachi tradition have at one time or another been in the ensemble. The 13-piece ensemble includes violins, trumpets, guitarrón, guitar, vihuela and harp. Internationally acclaimed, the group tours annually in the United States and throughout the world, and has produced more than 50 recordings. “In my career, I have written many different kinds of songs which told many different stories,” said Martinez. “This is the first time I have written in an operatic context, but the story and the characters are very moving, and I think the mariachi tradition helps bring them to life in a way that is both relevant and very exciting.”

To Cross the Face of the Moon chronicles three generations of a family, divided by countries and cultures. “The emotional and spiritual connection to one’s country of origin, the challenges of being a stranger in a strange land, the very nature of home are at the heart of the immigrant experience, and of the opera,” said Foglia, who makes his home in Querétaro, in Central Mexico.

“At its heart, Song of Houston is an extraordinary series of projects that celebrate the people who define the unique character of our city,” commented Sandra Bernhard, Director of HGOco, which produces and manages the Song of Houston project. Its first commission was The Refuge, which premiered in November 2007, told stories collected from Houston’s African, Central American, Indian, Mexican, Pakistani, Soviet-era Jewish and Vietnamese communities. “We wanted to focus our efforts on the Mexican community in Houston because of the multi-generational nature of their experience here. This project gave us the opportunity to explore a universal theme of home and belonging and to collaborate in a way that honors a unique musical tradition. We’re honored to be bringing something new and very special into being.”

A first-of-its-kind collaboration with Talento Bilingüe de Houston will follow the concert performance at Wortham Theater Center. The work will be fully staged and presented at Talento Bilingüe de Houston with HGO’s vocal cast and a Texan mariachi ensemble. There will be four performances of the fully staged version on December 3, 4 and 5, 2010. “This event marries the magic of culture and song in a premiere stage engagement celebrating Houston’s Latin community,” says Juan Esquivel, President and CEO of Talento Bilingüe de Houston. “We are proud to combine efforts with HGO to bring a world-class performance for a multi-diverse and multicultural audience right to the heart of Houston’s East End.”

Tickets for the November 13 world premiere of To Cross the Face of the Moon / Cruzar la Cara de la Luna go on sale on September 7, 2010, and range in price from $35 to $125. They can be purchased online at www.houstongrandopera.org, or by calling Houston Grand Opera Customer Care at 713-228-6737.

SYNOPSIS

Where is home? Is it where we are born? Or where we live most of our lives? Is it with the family we leave behind or with the new ones we create? To Cross the Face of the Moon / Cruzar la Cara de la Luna chronicles three generations of a family, divided by countries and cultures. As a Mexican/American man deals with the approaching death of his father, he is forced to face these questions about his own place in the world – straddling two cultures – as well as that of his immigrant father and his American daughter. As long buried secrets are revealed, he finds himself dramatically re-evaluating his own understanding of what makes a family. Like the Monarch butterflies that migrate every year to the birthplace of his father, the members of the Velasquez family must travel both physically and spiritually between Michoacán and Texas and look deep into their hearts before they learn where they truly belong.

Houston Grand Opera presents

To Cross the Face of the Moon / Cruzar la Cara de la Luna

A Mariachi Opera

Music by José “Pepe” Martinez – Libretto by Leonard Foglia

Starring Cecilia Duarte, Octavio Moreno, and David Guzman

Featuring José “Pepe” Martinez as Chucho

with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán

Performed in Spanish and English with surtitles

Saturday, November 13, 2010

8:00 p.m., Brown Auditorium, Wortham Theater Center

500 Texas Street – Houston, TX 77002

Tickets and Information: www.houstongrandopera.org / 713-228-6737

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