Music by Robert Xavier Rodríguez
Book by Hilary Blecher
Lyrics and monologues by Migdalia Cruz
...high drama ...conveys the radiance and explosive fury of the woman whose art was, in the words of André Breton, “a ribbon around a bomb.” - Time Magazine
LBO REPRISE back by popular demand.
“I never paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality.” Famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo lived as she painted — with pain and passion in bold, vibrant colors. This celebration of Kahlo’s vivacious spirit, sexuality, fragility and her tumultuous life with muralist Diego Rivera is captured with music as rich and haunting as her art. Frida sings as she lived — against the tide from the very first note.
About the Opera
Rodríguez describes Frida as being "in the Gershwin, Sondheim, Kurt Weill tradition of dissolving the barriers and extending the common ground between opera and musical theater." In keeping with the Mexican setting of Frida, the score features mariachi-style orchestration with authentic Mexican folk songs and dances and the composer's own "imaginary folk music," tangos and colorations of zarzuela, ragtime, vaudeville and 1930's jazz — "Romantically dramatic" (The Washington Post) and full of "the composer's all-encompassing sense of humor" (The Los Angeles Times).
Among the "stolen" musical fragments used in Frida (like Stravinsky, Rodríguez says "I never borrow; I steal.") are such strange musical bedfellows as two traditional Mexican piñata songs ("Horo y fuego" and "Al quebrar la piñata"), two narrative ballads ("La Maguinita" and "Jesusita"), the Communist anthem ("L'Internationale"), Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, and Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.
Rodríguez says, "You learn much more about people by watching them not alone, but in conflict with others. Frida and Diego have two powerful love scenes, one at the beginning and one at the end, with one fight after another in between. It's that fascinating and unpredictable through-line of their relationship that drives the action." In a musical metaphor for Frida's unique persona, her vocal line is scored with its own characteristic rhythms. As Rodríguez observes, "Frida sings as she lived — against the tide from the very first note." Read Interview with the Composer
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
Frida Kahlo de Rivera, born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón, was a Mexican painter known for her self-portraits. Kahlo's life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home, which is known as "La Casa Azul," the Blue House. Her work has been celebrated internationally as emblematic of Mexican national and indigenous traditions, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.
Mexican culture and tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as naïve art or folk art. Her work has also been described as surrealist, and in 1938 André Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Kahlo's art as a "ribbon around a bomb". Frida rejected the "surrealist" label imposed by Breton, as she argued that her work reflected more of her reality than her dreams.
Kahlo had a volatile marriage with the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera. She suffered lifelong health problems, many of which were caused by a traffic accident she survived as a teenager. Recovering from her injuries isolated her from other people, and this isolation influenced her works, many of which are self-portraits. Kahlo suggested, "I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best." Frida Kahlo Timeline
I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.” - Frida Kahlo
Robert Xavier Rodríguez
Rodríguez was born on June 28, 1946 in San Antonio, Texas. He studied composition with Hunter Johnson, Halsey Stevens, Jacob Druckman, and Nadia Boulanger. He gained international recognition in 1971 when awarded the Prix de Composition Musicale Prince Pierre de Monaco by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace at the Palais Princier in Monte Carlo. Other honors include the Prix Lili Boulanger, a Guggenheim Fellowship, four National Endowment for the Arts grants, and the Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Rodríguez's music embraces all genres and often combines Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque techniques with ethnic and contemporary materials. He has had particular success with his operas. His most recent, the one-act comedy La Curandera, has been produced in Colorado, California, and Texas. Frida, had acclaimed productions at the American Music Theatre Festival, The American Repertory Theatre in Boston, the Brooklyn Academy's Next Wave Festival, Vienna Schauspielhaus, Theater Nordhausen in Germany, Mexico’s Jalisco Filharmonica, and the Houston Grand Opera. Rodríguez's children's opera Monkey See, Monkey Do is one of the most frequently performed contemporary operas in the US, with over 2000 performances to date.
Sung in both Spanish and English, Frida is the story of renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, wife of the country’s great muralist Diego Riviera. Her tortured life unfolds in a flowing succession of scenes, acted and sung by three woman and three men in a variety of guises - masked or plain-faced and as two- or three-dimensional puppets; shadow puppets and projections are also involved. Diego’s preoccupation with art and other women shrivel Frida’s soul and her demands for love drain him; they need one another desperately. Divorce is imminent. Frida’s health deteriorates; only painting permits emotional release, translating her agonies into a series of canvases. Her fate is to live alone, engulfed by pain, but her paintings live forever, reflecting hidden dreams and inspiring courage to transcend conventional boundaries.
Mexico City 1923. Frida at the National Preparatory School, learns what death looks like and the revolution comes to an end.
Frida's Room, Coyoacan. Frida becomes a woman.
Mexico City in 1925. Frida and her boyfriend Alejandro board a bus. The bus crashes, Frida is severely injured, begins her life as a painter.
1927-1929, Frida meets and marries Diego Rivera.
1929-30. Diego's work is denounced in Mexico. The Riveras resolve to try their luck in the USA.
New York City in 1933. Frida and Diego meet Rockefeller, who commissions the mural Man at the Crossroads.
New York City in 1934. Rockefeller complains about including Lenin in the mural. The mural is destroyed and Frida miscarries.
San Angel, Mexico. Frida ignores the parade of women through Diego's bedroom, but is horrified to discover her sister, Cristina, among them.
San Angel, Mexico 1937. Leon Trotsky and his wife join the Riveras in their house. Frida and Trotsky have a love affair.
Frida's Bath. Frida retreats to the seclusion of her bath and the comfort of a female lover.
New York. Frida has a love affair with photographer Nicholas Murray and sells her first paintings. Frida and Diego divorce.
Calaveras (Mexican death figures) appear in Frida's Imagination as she is haunted by her physical and emotional pain.
Finale - In delirium, Frida relives episodes of her life. Diego and Frida remarry. She departs with a cry of "Viva, la vida... allegría...and Diego."
Known as the "Fiery Soprano", Colombian/American singer Catalina Cuervo is considered one of the 5 most successful Colombian Sopranos in the Opera world and holds the distinction of having performed the most productions of the Opera Frida. Ms. Cuervo has performed at numerous prestigious companies and Symphony Orchestras including New York City Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Atlanta Opera, Theatro Municipal de São Paolo, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony and the Detroit Symphony. This is Catalina's debut with Long Beach Opera.
Venezuelan American singer Bernardo Bermudez is thrilled to reprise the role of Diego Rivera. Other roles with LBO include King Mark in The Love Potion. Roles performed include Don Jose in Carmen, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Danilo in The Merry Widow, the title role in Don Giovanni, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, and Vidal in Luisa Fernanda. He participated in Summer Festival at Opera North, Opera NEO, and The Music Academy of the West and was recently a recipient of the Alumni Enterprise Award. He is an Opera Buffs Grant recipient and semifinalist in the Loren L. Zachary Competition. www.bernardobermudez.com
Alejandra Villarreal Martinez
Alejandra Villarreal Martinez, soprano, is thrilled to return to Long Beach Opera for Frida, after debuting in the role of Woman 1 in 2017. She has since returned to LBO for The Love Potion and Three Tales. Other favorite opera roles include La Contessa (Le nozze di Figaro), Salud (La vida breve), and Margarita Xirgu (Ainadamar). Hailed as "consistently rich and beautiful," her solo concert credits include Beethoven's Mass in C, and Penderecki's St. Luke Passion. She will make her debut at Anchorage Opera with Andreas Mitisek's production of Frida in February, 2020. Learn more at https://www.soprano-alejandra-martinez.com/
An “alluring lyric tenor having ample spinto" and an "attractive and engaging stage demeanor” JJ Lopez was recognized by Opera News as Rodolfo/La Boheme with Pacific Opera Project. This is JJ’s Long Beach Opera debut. His other roles include Alfredo/La Traviata, Tamino/Die Zauberflöte, Foresto/Attila, Ferrando/Così fan tutti, Franz and Spalazani/Les contes d'Hoffman and Tanzmeister/Ariadne auf Naxos. Mr. Lopez has sung solos at Disney Concert Hall in Handel’s Messiah and Bruckner’s Great Mass. He performs with the Los Angeles Opera Education program and had his LAO main stage debut in El gato montés starring Plácido Domingo.
Mexican-American soprano Joanna Ceja is from Denton, Texas. Joanna performed the West Coast premiere of Frida by Robert Xavier Rodriguez in 2017 with Long Beach Opera, which she will reprise as Woman 2 in 2020. In addition to working at LBO as an education artist, she continued as a teaching artist for Los Angeles Opera in 2018. Recent engagements include Anita in West Side Story with South Coast Symphony, and her future performances are in Anchorage Opera’s Frida in February of 2020, and the world premiere of Sweet Land with The Industry in March of 2020.
Robert Perlas Gomez
Last seen as Shakes in LBO's Fairy Queen, Roberto Perlas Gomez has performed over one hundred roles with many of the international and regional opera companies throughout the United States. Among his many LBO roles are Vivaldi's Motezuma, The Emperor of Atlantis, and Chou en-lai in Nixon in China. He sings many standard leading baritones roles in Italian and French opera especially his signature role, Figaro in Il barbiere. He performed Rizal in Manila during the centennial year of the Philippine national hero and Marcello in La Boheme in Shanghai. Mr. Gomez made his European debut at the Arena di Verona in Nixon.
Since 2003, Mitisek has been LBO's Artistic & General Director. Recent LBO directing credits: The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, King Gesar, Macbeth, Tell-Tale Heart, Van Gogh, The Paper Nautilus, Ainadamar, and Maria de Buenos Aires. Recent LBO conducting credits:Thérèse Raquin, I was Looking at the Ceiling and then I Saw the Sky, The Death of Klinghoffer, Camelia la Tejana, and The Fall of the House of Usher (co-production with COT). Other conducting credits: Joruri in Tokyo, Don Giovanni (Seattle Opera), Madama Butterfly (Orlando Opera), Jane Eyre (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis) and Eugene Onegin (Teatro Municipal in Santiago de Chile). Mitisek has also conducted the Austrian and Italian premieres of Nixon in China. From 2012-2017 Andreas served Chicago Opera Theater as Artistic & General Director.
Born in Greenville, South Carolina, Stephen Karr is recognized as a compelling conductor. For LBO, he has appeared as a pianist for Three Tales and associate conductor for The Central Park Five. In 2020, he conducts The Lighthouse and Frida. Stephen was music director for Pacific Opera Project until 2016 where he led The Turn of the Screw, La Calisto and The Rake’s Progress, among others. The LA Times praised his work in the Stravinsky as having kept orchestra, cast and chorus on “well-articulated rhythmic track.” He has worked with OPERA Iowa, the Glimmerglass Festival, Opera New Jersey and Palm Beach Opera.
Bob Christian is LBO's resident sound designer. Including King Arthur, The Lighthouse, Billy the Kid and Frida, Bob has created soundscapaes and reinforcement on LBO productions of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus & Euridice (2008, 2010), John Adams' Nixon in China, Luigi Cherubini’s Medea, Philip Glass’ Akhnaten, David Lang’s The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, Astor Piazolla & Horacio Ferrer’s Maria de Buenos Aires (2012), Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Gavin Bryars' The Paper Nautilus, and Philip Glass’ Fall Of The House Of Usher. He is Sound Manager for the acclaimed Long Beach Municipal Band. Also a composer, Bob has written and produced music for numerous programs on TLC, Discovery Channel, and PBS.
This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov
Supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.
Long Beach Opera events are supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission