OUR Mothly NewsLetter - Nov 1, 2022
Our Latest Project
On Oct 13, Alliance for New Music-Theatre had the first showcase performance of selections from its new chamber opera in development – On the Road to Arivaca – sponsored by The European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) as part of a conference on global migration and refugees.
The work is based on a true encounter, a “Samaritan” and a “Sojourner” inadvertently meet in the Sonoran Desert and both the water-dropping volunteer and the undocumented Mexican worker face difficult moral choices. The opera puts the audience “on the road” in situations that surround the many issues of immigration, national boundaries, and cross-cultural-and-linguistic engagement.
How does one act when one has to decide in a split second on the fate of a fellow human being?
Theme of the Opera
In the desert… unintended encounters can open our hearts ...or pick our bones bare.
The Sonoran Desert where many have tried to cross.
Photo by Alvaro Enciso, Artist and Social Activist
Composer Rosino Serrano from Mexico City was on hand, along with Librettist Susan Galbraith, and advisor Larry Ortiz, whose poem inspired the work. The music was conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez, with an orchestra of five led by pianist Burnett Thompson.
The performance took place in the Hammer Auditorium at GW’s Corcoran School of the Arts & Design.
The cast included:
Israel Lozano as The Sojourner
He lost his daughter, Maria, in the desert and risks his life to go back to find her.
The Sojourner recounts his hellish journey crossing the high desert,
" ... no encuentro a mi hija. ..no tenia agua... el desierto mata... El viaje ha concluido."
The cast included Baritone Javier Arrey as The Samaritan.
He becomes lost when he volunteers to drop water for people trying to cross the desert.
“We are good people. Are we good people?”
Javier Arrey with Conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez
Darcy Monsalve as Maria
Maria is the voice of the desert. Hardly more than a child herself, she faces deportation and fights her way back across the border to find her father and the lost children.
All alone, Maria listens to the wind then cries out for her father and to the world,
"Debes venir a buscarme. Tu me lo promestiste. Lo promestiste.
No, me olvides. No me abandones, mundo."
Yvette Spears as Consuelo
A tough Chicana social worker, originally from East LA, Consuelo warns the children of all the dangers in the desert and on the border. She is torn between the rules of her job and wanting to help the children in their dream of getting to safety.
Consuelo as she 'levels' with the detained children,
“Beware of unintended encounters. Don't stare at the people who stop you.
The bus, like the cartels, will drop you. Bang, bang, bang!"
The whole cast, musicians, conductor, composer and librettist.
The Youth Chorus – coro de la comunidad –
was an integral part of this performance.
Audiences agreed this was a critically important and moving story and the music was hauntingly beautiful.
Read on for their comments.
In its commitment to imbed artistic production in community relationship building, in 2021 Alliance for New Music-Theatre launched an inaugural partnership with GALA Hispanic Theatre and the Mexican Cultural Institute (MCI) in the Greater Washington area to create a youth chorus - coro de la comunidad. Under the direction of Leo Herrera, it has grown in one year, attracting students as young as precocious third graders up through high school and is conducted in weekly after-school classes taught in Spanish and based in the heart of DC’s bilingual (Spanish-English) neighborhood. Students acquire music literacy skills, learn basics of choral singing, and practice repertoire while experiencing the joy making music and making new friends.
We have also been approached by people caring for young refugees who recently crossed the dangers of the jungle between Colombia and Panama and were then driven by bus and dropped in our Capital city. We welcome these young people into our Coro believing that there may be some help found in the healing power of music and knowing that our project will be all the richer for their participation.
As part of our mission we reach out to other cultural organizations to collaborate and partner with them to develop audiences across social groups and cultures. For this performance we partnered with GW's Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, and EUNIC, led by the Embassies of the Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal.
We thank them for their ongoing support on this project
Loren Kajikawa (Chair of the Music Program at GW's Corcoran School of the Arts and Design)
Czech Ambassador Miloslav Štašek
Lauren Onkey (Director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design and Professor of Music at the George Washington University)
Sandra Pires (Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of Portugal)
Lukáš Přibyl (Cultural Counselor of the Embassy of the Czech Republic and EUNIC DC President).
After the performance we held a short discussion to give the audience opportunity to deepen their experience by engaging with others, sharing their interpretations and learning from each other. We received very positive comments after the performance from the audience, many of which were under 21. These are a selection:
(under 21) “I come from a family of immigrants – being able to see representative of immigrant stories was so nice –and humbling. I feel grateful for my experience and more connected to my family.”
(under 21) “ …an immersive, beautiful, yet saddening experience…the emotion conveyed by the characters was truly enthralling. Even as a non-Spanish speaker I understood the story… The most memorable moment for me was when the Sojourner sings about his daughter. The pain and agony was so deeply felt.”
“…thought provoking, incredibly relevant subject, connected to both ongoing and contemporary themes. I appreciated so the incorporation of a youth chorus.”
(under 21) “… I am half Ukrainian but my mother is a latina refugee…I loved the coro parts…’Los pollitos dicen’ – my mom sang it to me as a lullaby”
“I cried during the play. I could see and feel the suffering of my students who crossed the jungle and desert to come to USA to flee misery.”
(under 21) “incredible… emotional…[and] the wolf howl… so realistic that it gave chills down my back.”
“ the way the Samaritan wanted so to help. Of course, I would recommend this to others. 100%”
“The moving story of the father that lost his daughter brought us close to many immigrants experience and it being sung in two languages showed new perspectives.
“Sometimes things were shocking, but sometime sI felt sad, even helpless… The lost daughter.”
“Such an important & fantastic piece!”
(under 21) “The feeling was so authentic and original…yes, and so amazing [singing] in both languages.”
“It was all amazing, moving and an eye opener. I loved the children. The way in which the subject matter was delivered.”
“…very diverse in musical styles but it all came very well together…and very powerful voices.”
“The melodies so emotional and the different styles from classical opera to jazz”
“I loved the chorus and the way you integrated the Samaritan and the story of the father, touching and at times heart-wrenching”
“It grabbed my attention – all of it! I would tell people “Go to see and hear what I experienced.”
“Everything …was amazing. Everyone was great. Thank you so much for this wonderful event.”
“The juxtaposition of such beautiful, haunting music and such intense suffering”
“[The work]… shows the power of music theatre in expressing the complexity of a current issue.”
And finally comments by Javier Arrey, The Samaritan, about his experience on this work:
The topic of "migration" is a worldwide challenge. To have the opportunity to participate on this project, as a migrant, means a lot to me.
My experience with "On the road to Arivaca" has been an opportunity to discover a score with a musical language accessible for everyone and a story that gives the opportunity to all of us to meditate about compassion and kindness, vital components in life. To realize that we can be the change, to be part of the solution rather than be part of the problem; everyone, even giving a bottle of water or sharing some kindness, can change the life of someone else…that’s precious.
We hope that you will follow our progress with the coro and to join us “on the road” as we further develop our opera into a full production.
We plan to premiere On the Road to Arivaca in Washington DC in 2023 and we need your support.