Friday, Feb 14 @ 8:00 PM – Sydney Laurence Theatre in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts
Saturday, Feb 15 @ 8:00 PM – Sydney Laurence Theatre in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts
Sunday, Feb 16 @ 4:00 PM – Sydney Laurence Theatre in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts
Sung in English and Spanish with English supertitles
TICKETS call (907) 263-ARTS (2787) or online CLICK HERE
Music by Robert Xavier Rodríguez
Book by Hilary Blecher
Lyrics and monologues by Migdalia Cruz
“A telenovela set to music”
The life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is the stuff of legend. Wracked by agonizing physical pain and caught up in a stormy marriage to famed muralist, Diego Rivera, the flame that fueled Kahlo’s art kept burning bright. She painted fifty-five self-portraits, but no portrait is more revealing than the one in this opera. Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s colorful music is a pitch perfect match for the woman, her art and her passionate life. 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.”
Critics and audiences across America and throughout Europe have fallen in love with Frida…and you will too!
This Alaskan premiere of Frida is proudly presented by Anchorage Opera
Frida in Review
Cincinnati Opera (Photo by Philip Groshong)
“Taking on the title role, Colombian soprano Catalina Cuervo delivered a performance that was nothing short of a tour-de-force” – Classical Voice
“As Frida Kahlo, soprano Catalina Cuervo was totally convincing, conveying Kahlo’s courage, determination, and passion at every moment.” – Opera News
“Catalina Cuervo owns the role of Frida Kahlo. A petite Hispanic woman with long raven-black hair and a substantial soprano, Cuervo was by turns imperiously self-assertive, and cawed by Rivera’s larger-than-life character. She can summon at will the demons that followed Kahlo to her grave, and then exorcise them in the arms of Rivera, a lover a decade older, all in a memorable career-defining performance.” – Seen and Heard International
Florida Grand Opera
“Catalina Cuervo was a force of nature, vocally portraying the extant power inside the woman with volume that easily filled the hall, fleshing out her vulnerable side with lyric subtlety.” Miami Artzine
“Soprano Cuervo is a powerhouse…In the role of Kahlo, Cuervo gave a focused, emotional performance that avoided the diva-like, over-the-top dramatics that might have seemed obvious for such a role. Singing with smooth vocal intensity, her portrayal was characterized by strength, vulnerability and sensuality.” – South Florida Classical Review
Michigan Opera Theatre (Photo John F. Martin)
“Catalina Cuervo was ideal as Frida, a petite soprano powerhouse in a role scored for lyric mezzo. Cuervo’s exuberant voice was a soaring arrow one moment, a bright and cutting knife the next. Her titanic performance encompassed Frida’s fire alongside luxurious duets with Diego and the flirtatious sensuality of the erotic second-act quartet. Cuervo harnessed tremendous vocal strength through every inch of her range, untiring even to the final cry, “Viva la vida, alegria e Diego!” – Opera News
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.
Frida Kahlo began to paint in 1925, while recovering from a near-fatal bus accident that devastated her body and marked the beginning of lifelong physical ordeals. Over the next three decades, she would produce a relatively small yet consistent and arresting body of work. In meticulously executed paintings, Kahlo portrayed herself again and again, simultaneously exploring, questioning, and staging her self and identity. She also often evoked fraught episodes from her life, including her ongoing struggle with physical pain and the emotional distress caused by her turbulent relationship with celebrated painter Diego Rivera. Such personal subject matter, along with the intimate scale of her paintings, sharply contrasted with the work of her acclaimed contemporaries, the Mexican Muralists. Launched in the wake of the Mexican Revolution and backed by the government, the Mexican Muralist movement aimed to produce monumental public murals that mined the country’s national history and identity. She nonetheless participated in her peers’ exaltation of Mexico’s indigenous culture, avidly collecting Mexican popular art and often making use of its motifs and techniques. She also carefully crafted a flamboyant Mexican persona for herself, wearing colorful folk dresses and pre-Columbian jewelry, in a performative display of her identity.
Mexican culture and tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as naïve art or folk art. Kahlo’s early recognition was prompted by French poet and founder of Surrealism André Breton, who described her art as a “ribbon around a bomb”, and enthusiastically embraced her art as self-made Surrealism, including her work in his 1940 International Exhibition of Surrealism in Mexico City. Yet if her art had an uncanny quality akin to the movement’s tenets, Kahlo resisted the association: “They thought I was a Surrealist but I wasn’t,” she said. “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”
About the Composer
Robert Xavier 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.
“Our repertoire choices are always made with our community interests and needs in mind,” said Reed Smith, General Director. “In addition to the significant Hispanic community in Anchorage, Frida affords us the new opportunity to work closely and integrate with our strong visual and fine arts community on ancillary projects beneficial to our community, while also reaching many other segments as well. Frida Kahlo’s status as an icon of our LGBTQ community opens a dialogue with them, and her triumph, despite disability, provides connections to the disabled and organizations that serve them. As she was a polio survivor, producing the opera will interest the 15 area Rotary International Clubs in the area.”
In the weeks before the Alaska premiere of the opera, AO will take the cast and artistic team onsite to organizations engaged through the project for a program of excerpts and discussions about the production, including Anchorage School District classrooms. “One in five students comes from a household where English is not a first language and 23% of those report Spanish as their first language.” Smith said. “Opportunities to experience the arts, especially opera, are limited for ASD students. Our hope is to reach many under-served segments of our community while simultaneously demonstrating the diversity of artists and our art form in current times, thereby making it relatable to them. We believe that the subject matter of this opera will resonate with our community which many Hispanic, LGBTQ and disabled Alaskans call home.”
Bernardo Bermudez – Diego Rivera
Edmond Alexander Rodriguez – Man 1
Andreas Mitisek – Stage Director / Set Designer
Neda St Clair – Rehearsal Accompanist
Joanna Ceja – Woman 2
Roberto Perlas Gomez – Man 2
Cedar Cussins – Lighting Designer
Elle Janecek – Hair / Makeup Designer
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.”
Free Pre-Opera Talks
Plan to join us one hour before each performance of to learn the interesting background of the work and fascinating insights into the opera. We are proud to present our colleague in the arts, Michael Jungreis, as your Pre-Opera Talk Host. Michael is well-known to Anchorage audiences as the host of KLEF’s “Saturday Night at the Opera”.
Friday, Feb 14 @ 7:00 pm in the Sydney Laurence Theatre
Saturday, Feb 15 @ 7:00 pm in the Sydney Laurence Theatre
Sunday, Feb 16 @ 3:00 pm in the Sydney Laurence Theatre