Houston Grand Opera Takes First Mariachi Opera Across Atlantic

Having commissioned the world's first Mariachi opera and premiered the work to great acclaim last season, Houston Grand Opera crosses the Atlantic with its pioneering creation for season-opening performances September 23-27 at the illustrious Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) features music by composer and writer José “Pepe” Martínez, with lyrics by Broadway director and author Leonard Foglia. To showcase the vibrant score–which ranges from plaintive, folk-like balladry to rousing Latin dance rhythms–a live recording from the Houston premiere of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna will be released on CD by Albany Records on October 1.

Enthusing over last December's sold-out premiere run in Houston, the Houston Chronicle called Cruzar la Cara de la Luna "a bold first-time fusion" that "succeeded on all fronts." The newspaper added, "Kudos to [former] HGO general director Anthony Freud . . . for taking a chance on something different and realizing the concept so expertly.” The New York Times chimed in, pointing out that "Houston Grand Opera [still] embraces bold ventures," while Culture Map called Cruzar "a stunning, emotional work." As on the recording, the upcoming Paris performances will feature Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán–the world's top mariachi ensemble, directed by Martínez–along with mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte as Renata (praised by the Houston Chronicle for her "intensity and conviction") and baritone Octavio Moreno as Laurentino (hailed as "warm and sympathetic").

The 2,000-seat Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris is renowned for showcasing original, compelling productions from around the globe, offering a platform to singers, musicians, actors, and dancers who have forged new paths across the international arts landscape. The invitation to open the new season at the Châtelet follows last year’s sold-out Houston premiere performances at the Wortham Center and Talento Bilingüe de Houston. Commissioned by Houston Grand Opera through its "Song of Houston: Mexico 2010" project (in celebration of the anniversaries of Mexican independence and revolution), Cruzar la Cara de la Luna chronicles three generations of a family divided by countries and cultures, and depicts the emotional-spiritual connection to one’s country of origin; the challenges of being a stranger in a strange land; and the very nature of home that is at the heart of the immigrant experience.

The fusion of mariachi and opera was the brainchild of former HGO general director Anthony Freud (now general director of Lyric Opera Chicago). Watching a performance by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, Freud was struck by the resonances between the two 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,” he says. “It seemed to me a natural fit.”

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