Houston Grand Opera, which probably holds the record for the most commissions by any major American opera company, commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) to celebrate the 2010 anniversaries of Mexico's War of Independence (1810) and Revolution (1910). The composer and author of the lyrics is José "Pepe" Martinez, director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, with the book by the composer and theater director Leonard Foglia. The poignant story traces the impact on families of the immigration of men to work in the U.S., leaving wives and children in Mexico, and concludes with the eventual reconciliation and reunion of one family. Martinez's music isn't crossover -- an attempt to synthesize classical and mariachi -- it's the real thing. The mariachi songs and dances are punctuated by concise spoken interactions that advance the plot. It's a genuinely moving opera, one that in just a few strokes establishes sympathetic characters and dramatic situations, and it resolves in a cathartic finale. All of the music is melodious and catchy, but the song "Quieres Bailar?" is a real show-stopper. The text alternates between English and Spanish, so an understanding of both languages would increase appreciation for the opera, and in Houston that would likely be the case. The performers are all terrific, with warmly expressive voices and deep investment in their characters. Tenor David Guzman and mezzo-sopranos Cecilia Duarte and Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo are standouts, but Octavio Moreno, Brian Shircliffe, Brittany Wheeler, and Juan Mejía are excellent as well. Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán plays and sings with great feeling and spirit under the musical direction of David Hanlon. The sound of live semi-staged is clean, present, and realistic. Highly recommended for fans of new opera looking for something entirely new under the sun.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Cruzar la Cara de la Luna|