About

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. 

Synopsis

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.

ACT I

Scene 1
Mexico City 1923. Frida at the National Preparatory School, learns what death looks like and the revolution comes to an end. 

Scene 2 
Frida's Room, Coyoacan. Frida becomes a woman.

Scene 3
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. 

Scene 4
1927-1929, Frida meets and marries Diego Rivera.

Scene 5
1929-30. Diego's work is denounced in Mexico. The Riveras resolve to try their luck in the USA. 

Scene 6
New York City in 1933. Frida and Diego meet Rockefeller, who commissions the mural Man at the Crossroads

Scene 7
New York City in 1934. Rockefeller complains about including Lenin in the mural. The mural is destroyed and Frida miscarries. 

ACT II 

Scene 1
San Angel, Mexico. Frida ignores the parade of women through Diego's bedroom, but is horrified to discover her sister, Cristina, among them. 

Scene 2
San Angel, Mexico 1937. Leon Trotsky and his wife join the Riveras in their house. Frida and Trotsky have a love affair. 

Scene 3
Frida's Bath. Frida retreats to the seclusion of her bath and the comfort of a female lover. 

Scene 4
New York. Frida has a love affair with photographer Nicholas Murray and sells her first paintings. Frida and Diego divorce. 

Scene 5
Calaveras (Mexican death figures) appear in Frida's Imagination as she is haunted by her physical and emotional pain.

Scene 6
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."

 

Cast



National Endowement for the Arts    California Arts Council Arts Council for Long Beach City of Long Beach Art Works Opera America KUSC

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