In 2010 Houston Grand Opera scored a major hit with its (and the world's) first mariachi opera, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna/To Cross the Face of the Moon which they successfully traveled across the country and to Paris, France to tell the story of Mexican immigrants to the United States and the people they left behind.
It didn't hurt at all that the famed Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán ensemble was part of the mix.
Now, José "Pepe" Martinez and director Leonard Foglia are back with a second mariachi opera, El Pasado Nunca Se Termina/The Past Is Never Finished and among those making their HGO debut in this work is soprano Abigail Santos Villalobos who sings the role of a young teenager working in the fields with her mother at a Mexican hacienda in 1910, right before the Mexican Revolution.
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"Her story is she's a dreamer and she thinks that she can dream even if she's surrounded by very limited circumstances," Villalobos says. At the time, she says, the relationship between landowners and servants was almost like a feudal system. Which left little room for the son of the landowner to fall in love with a servant girl, which he does.
The 90-minute, no-intermission opera is sung is both English and Spanish with surtitles in each and is part of HGOco's community outreach program. Villalobos says it effectively combines both mariachi and operatic styles of music and singing.
Other cast members include 13-year-old Sebastien E. De La Cruz, a mariachi singer who was a semifinalist on America's Got Talent in 2012. "The story is heartbreaking. It touches a lot of different topics not just in the Hispanic community but for anybody who has come to this country," promises Villalobos.
Three performances are scheduled for May 13, 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Wortham Theater, 501 Texas. For information call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.com. $15-$100.