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Arizona Opera returns to stage with Christmas mariachi opera

El Milagro del Recuerdo
Posted at 6:32 AM, Dec 09, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For the first time since the pandemic began, Arizona Opera returns to the stage with a Christmas mariachi opera called "El Milagro del Recuerdo" (The Miracle of Remembering).

It's the third mariachi opera ever produced, with librettist Leonard Foglia at the helm of all three. Composer Javier Martinez set out to carry the legacy of his father, Jose Martinez, who wrote the first two mariachi operas - “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon)” and “El Pasado Nunca Se Termina (The Past is Never Finished).”

"The inspiration came after I realized I had the possibility of going back and tell a more extended, and actually a more positive about these characters," Foglia said.

The one act opera, sung in Spanish, centers around a family divided across the U.S. and Mexico border during Christmas. It explores themes of cultural traditions and familial bonds as the characters make life altering decisions. Filled with comedy and drama, Foglia said the opera really resonates with the audience as it mirrors the pandemic's impact on families.

"I started thinking about how the themes of this opera are so similar to what we experienced in the pandemic," Foglia said. "In the pandemic we had to be away from our families, we had to be careful and we lost out on so many moments and this is what the opera is all about."

El Milagro del Recuerdo originally premiered at Huston Grand Opera in December of 2019, just months before the pandemic began.

"I'm thrilled that it's Javier's and my piece that is reopening the opera," Foglia said.

Instead of a pit orchestra, the mariachi band plays on the stage. The Arizona Opera cast includes baritone Octavio Moreno, bass Miguel de Aranda, mezzo Vanessa Alonzo and mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte. Foglia said when he wrote the piece, he knew who was going to play each character.

Moreno plays Laurentino, the character he portrayed in the first ever mariachi opera, "Cruzar la Cara de la Luna." Moreno said when he was little, he wanted to be a mariachi singer and was then pulled into the world of opera.

"I was lucky to premiere the role of Laurentino in the first mariachi opera in 2010 where both my music loves came together," he said.

The show ran in Phoenix at the Herberger Theater from December 3rd to 5th. It will run in Tucson at the Temple of Music and Art on December 11th at 7p.m. and 12th at 2p.m. Tickets can be bought on the Arizona Opera website.