San Diego Opera to produce 'Frida & Diego' about famed Mexican painters
ASpanish-language opera based on the tumultuous love story of famed Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera will premiere in 2020 in San Diego. "The Last Dream of Frida & Diego" is being co-produced by San Diego Opera and Fort Worth Opera, which will be the first to present the new supernaturally themed work in 2020. The commission is also being underwritten by the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin and DePauw University.
After its Forth Worth debut, the opera will be presented at the Balboa Theatre as part of San Diego Opera's Detour Series of smaller-scale, nontraditional works. Production dates have not been announced. Because Kahlo and Rivera are the most important and famous Mexican artists of the 20th century, the co-producers and creative team plan to make an official announcement about the opera on Aug. 24 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes cultural center in Mexico City.
"The Last Dream of Frida & Diego" will feature a libretto (the operatic word for script and lyrics) by Pulitzer Prize-winning Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz and score and lyrics by Latin Grammy Award winner and pianist Gabriela Lena Frank. The opera will be set in 1957, a month before Rivera's death in Mexico City. On the Day of the Dead - when Mexicans honor family members who've passed away - the famed muralist walks through a cemetery and dreams of reuniting with his former lover, the colorful painter Kahlo, who died in 1954. For 24 hours, the underworld's keeper of souls, Catrina, releases Kahlo's spirit to wander the city with Rivera. Their tempestuous love story is told through song and their often-autobiographical paintings.
Frank will be only the second woman composer to have her work produced by San Diego Opera since its founding in 1965 (Laura Kaminsky, whose "As One" will be presented this fall, is the first). The Berkeley-born Frank, who has been composer-in-residence for Houston Symphony for the past three years, specializes in creating works inspired by Latin American folklore. The composer-librettist team of Frank and Cruz have written nine works together over the past decade, including a song cycle about Kahlo for singer Dawn Upshaw and the St Paul Orchestra. 'Anna in the Tropics'
Frank credits Kahlo for introducing her to Cruz in Manhattan in 2007. A small opera company approached her that year about writing an opera about Kahlo, but because she didn't know how to write a libretto, a friend introduced her to Cruz. That original opera was never commissioned, but she and Cruz hit it off so well they've been collaborating ever since. Cruz is best known for his stage play "Anna in the Tropics," which won the 2003 Pulitzer. With Peruvian composer Jimmy L?pez, he adapted the 2001 novel "Bel Canto" for Lyric Opera of Chicago. He also wrote the book for Frank Wildhorn's musical "Havana."
San Diego Opera General Director David Bennett said he's thrilled to be involved in the co-production because of the company's commitment to new work and telling stories that connect with local audiences. "Creating and producing new, innovative works of opera helps us deepen connections with the diverse community of San Diego," Bennett said. "In looking for the right subject matter, the lives of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera made perfect sense to us. Their extensive bodies of work influence creative artists here in our community, on both sides of the border." — www.sandiegouniontribune.com
In this March 31, 1932 file photo, from left to right: Frances Flynn Payne, who is selecting dancers; artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo; and William C Hammer, artistic director of the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company, seen in Philadelphia, where they are preparing the ballet "Horsepower" at the Metropolitan. — AP