MazatlánLife is a useful website for people going to Mazatlán to hear our opera. They also did several interviews with me last year which can be heard on their website.


Here is a video advertisement for Cultura/Mazatlán’s season:
El Festival Cultural Mazatlán 2014.

Our opera is part of this festival and will premiere 14, 15 November 2014 at the Teatro Ángela Peralta in Mazatlán


IMG_20120113_154711Act I

On a warm August evening Angela Peralta de Castera, celebrated Mexican soprano, and her 80-person opera company board the S.S. Newbern, an American steamer just arrived in La Paz from Panama; they have booked passage across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlán, where the company will conclude its summer tour with a week of performances in the Teatro Rubio. Captain Martin Ybarra, who watches the passengers, ponders the relationships between the company, and anticipates learning more about the famous soprano and her associates.

As the ship begins the voyage and night falls, Julián Montiel y Duarte, the company’s business manager, meets the captain for conversation. Julián has known Angela since childhood, when he met her during a vocal competition; although she has forgotten that first meeting he has loved her ever since. When she returned to Mexico after a triumphant European career, he met her again. The conversation is interrupted, first by a sudden violent squall (a chubasco, as they are called in the Sea of Cortez), and finally by squabbles below deck; Julián departs to settle the company.

Ybarra checks on the status of the voyage, and is angered when a sailor suddenly collapses, presumably drunk. He sends the man below and returns to his cabin.

Angela meets him at the door. He offers her sherry; she accepts tequila and a cigar. As they converse, Angela describes her return to Mexico in the manner of a sentimental press release: not false, but very controlled All too soon, however, they are interrupted by a sailor: the captain’s presence is urgently required below decks. Ybarra leaves Angela in the company of sailors on the deck, who greet her enthusiastically. After a brief interruption by La Zepilli and La Saborini, two company sopranos who are ostentatious frenemies, the sailors beg Angela for a song. She obliges with her signature tune, “The Dove in the Tree.” In return, a sailor sings a love song in her honor.

On deck during the sailor’s song is Rosa Vargas de Montiel, Julián’s wife. Somber and bitter, she has a story she wishes to tell the captain as well—but her is once again interrupted by trouble below decks. Rosa is left to tell her story to no one. She was also a singer, and was a participant in the vocal competition that Julián remembers; she recalls it differently, and nurses a grudge against Angela for having been unjustly singled out as a star. To make matters worse, she married Julián because he seemed as interested in her then as he was in Angela—but he has forgotten that she was ever there, and when Angela returned to Mexico, Julián began an affair with her that still continues. Rosa is reduced to being the company bookkeeper, and now Julián has asked for a divorce, and she has consented. Nevertheless, she has had enough of bitterness and envy. Singing to herself, she invokes the nightingale as her emblem, hoping to face the future with hope and determination.

Suddenly a soprano cat-fight erupts from below decks. La Zepilli and La Saborini make a scene. Angela brings the shenanigans to a halt and forces the sopranos to make up. Julián, seeing Rosa, attempts to be civil, but she is still bitter. Angela tries to ease things, but with no success, and Rosa departs to her duties. Angela and Julián reminisce, and begin to hope that the tour’s conclusion in Mazatlán will also be a new beginning for them both. As the members of the company appear on deck, the ship arrives in Mazatlán.
The first mate recognizes that the troubles with the sailors has one cause: the ship is carrying Yellow Fever. (22 August, 1883—Tuesday.)

Act II
Arriving in the Plazuela Machado, Angela is greeted by rapturous acclaim: a mysterious man (the historical, legendary bandit Eraclio Bernal) hands her a white rose, the crowd serenades her, and Maclovio Castellanos, the prefect of Mazatlán, gives a welcoming speech. Angela rises to the occasion with an eloquent speech of her own. As the crowd disperses, Julián encounters Araceli, an old women who mutters strange warnings about death and ruin.

The next morning, Rosa is working at the accounts when she is visited by Beatriz Melani, an adventuress. When Mexico City’s society discovered Angela’s affair with Julián, they boycotted her performances and even hired a claque to disrupt them. Beatriz was the primary organizer of the claque; but Rosa was secretly directing them. Now, since Rosa has broken off ties, Beatriz is blackmailing her. Later on, Beatriz appears in Angela’s retinue, but Rosa has Julián expel her from the hotel.

But there are more urgent problems to consider; singers and crew are beginning to fall ill, and there is no treatment available. Angela, Julián, and Rosa unite in the face of financial ruin.

Four days later, Angela and Julián have returned from mass; she feels rather weak, but is determined to press on. But more singers are ill. As Angela strives to manage her company, she collapses into hallucinations. Julián reflects on his love for her.

The next day, an anxious crowd has gathered in the Plazuelo Machado, hoping to hear Angela sing to them. She is delirious, but goes to the balcony to perform a version of the nightingale song. Afterwards she collapses into a fever dream. When she wakes, Araceli is there as a nurse. Angela reflects on her own life, on choices made and refused.

Three days later, Julián’s divorce is final, and he has arranged for a marriage ceremony in Angela’s suite. Angela is unconscious or unresponsive, and has to be “helped” to assent to the marriage. After the officials leave, Rosa enters to make peace, Hearing the crowd again outside, Rosa dons Angela’s shawl and goes to the balcony to sing “The Dove in the Tree.” Angela awakens, and hearing Rosa, is glad to have someone take her place. She and Julián acknowledge the wrongs they have done. When Rosa returns, Julián observes that yet again, no one will know that Rosa was singing. She accepts this as a debt she owed. As Angela dies, the three of them forgive one another; Julián and Rosa watch by Angela’s bedside.
Inspired by the final weeks of the life of Ángela Peralta
Libretto by Mitchell Morris
Storyline by Mitchell Morris and Roger Bourland
© 2014 by Roger Bourland and Mitchell Morris


In early 2003 our dear friends Tom Brooks and his painter wife, Jessica Rice, invited us to visit Mazatlán. Unbeknownst to me, they had arranged a meeting with a gentleman who was the head of the Teatro Angela Peralta. He took me on a tour of the theatre and told me of its amazing history. Before leaving, he gave me a book about the history of the theater, but more so about the future heroine of our future opera, Angela Peralta. I was amazed that no one had ever made an opera about her most dramatic life. And so I decided——there and then——that I would.

Repos au Ruisseau

I began doing exhaustive research about Peralta. My late colleague and friend, Robert Stevenson, was an authority on AP and told me many amusing but mostly scholarly bits about her life. Every year, more information would appear on the internet. Her life could make an amazing movie, in fact at one point, as I began writing the storyline, I fancied that I would turn the story into a movie script after doing the libretto. By mid-2005 I came up with a treatment and ran it past many friends who gave me excellent feedback. I was planning on doing the libretto at this time, but all I created was a synopsis. I decided it would be a poetic thing to do by returning to Mazatlán and start writing the libretto. I wrote at a feverish pace and turned out seven lyrics in five days. I read them to my spouse, and to Tom and Jess. They were polite, but I could tell it wasn’t quite working.


The early titles I went through were numerous and amusing: “Duarte’s Wives” “Angela Peralta” “Rosa and the Nightingale” “Duarte’s Fate” “Duarte’s Wives” “Nona and Duarte” “The Rose and the Nightingale” and then finally “The Dove and the Nightingale” which became “La Paloma y el Ruiseñor” in the Spanish adaptation.

I decided to put the story aside, and then all of a sudden I got a whole series of commissions culminating with becoming the Chair of the Music Department for four years. In 2010 I decided to take an early retirement from UCLA with a few strings attached: I got a year sabbatical (which I had earned) to compose my opera, I would return for a year and at the end of that year, my opera would have a workshop performance by our opera program, and THEN I would retire.

During all this, I approached Mitchell Morris, my colleague in Musicology at UCLA, and someone who knows far more than I about opera, to compose the libretto. I gave him my treatment and the permission to do with it what he wished. None of my lyrics survive, thankfully, but he included chunks of the content scattered here and there. Mitchell also did extensive research and I was delighted to see how much drama there was in the details of boat ride across the Sea of Cortéz. [The recent Hurrican Odile is a reminder of how dangerous that little 12-hour boat ride could be.]

Composer, Jake Heggie advised me to have at least one workshop before the premiere. We decided to write four of the big arias first, spaced like dramatic pillars throughout the opera. That piece was called DUARTE’S LOVE SONGS. Mark Carlson‘s Pacific Serenades chamber music ensemble commissioned the work, and Russian baritone, and my UCLA colleague Vladimir Chernov gave a wonderful performance for its premiere. This was, in effect, our first “workshop”——a concept I was told Steven Sondheim first invented. The songs were all cut back in the opera, but left in tact in that quartet of arias from the point of view of the male lead, Julián Montiel y Duarte.

The “real” and final workshop was directed by Peter Kazaras and performed by the terrific talent at UCLA, the UCLA Opera Workshop, in May 2013. At that workshop, a group from Mazatlán——headed by Raúl Rico González——came to listen. Once again, our dear friend Jessica Rice made the connection with Raúl. Raúl was moved by the work, and offered to have the work premiered at the Teatro Angela Peralta in Mazatlán. I said: YES.

Juliana GondekFrom the beginning, I composed the work for my long-time friend, colleague and collaborator, Juliana Gondek. Her voice had an enormous range, but her instrument was evolving more towards a very low soprano. The high C that I wrote for her at the end of ROSARIUM, didn’t exist any longer. That was ok, as I decided I would use the lower voice, especially in Act 2 where Angela begins to get sick, and the lower voice gives the impression that the soprano not feeling well. After the workshop, and after hearing from all in attendance, especially my friends from Mazatlán, including Enrique Patrón, they all felt it was a mistake ignoring the range of Angela’s true range——she was, after all, famous for roles like Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor. So, although I decided to transpose the part up to Angela’s original range, and not Juliana’s, the true inspiration for the entire part was Juliana Gondek and her versatile personalities.

Painting credit: “Repos au Ruisseau” (oil on canvas 48×48) by Jessica Rice

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La Paloma y el Ruiseñor 3 BAJA-1

Are you looking for an excuse to have a little long-weekend-getaway two weeks before Thanksgiving? Come to Mazatlán and hear the premiere of my opera “La Paloma y el Ruiseñor” [The Dove and the Nightingale] at the Teatro Ángela Peralta. It is a wonderful city with terrific people, restaurants, culture, history and November temperatures that range from 70-90 degrees in early November. I love this city. Hotels get booked from the mid-November through the first week in January, so if you are tempted to attend, don’t delay getting a reservation: and the tickets for the opera are going fast.

Here are the details:

Composer: Roger Bourland
Libretto: Mitchell Morris
Spanish adaptation: Placido Domingo Jr.
Conductor: Scott Dunn

November 14, 15 2014: 8:00
[Open dress rehearsal: Nov.13, 2014]

Producer: Raúl Rico González
Production assistant: Abril Márquez
Orchestra: Camarata Mazatlán; Percival Álvarez, Music Director
Chorus: Coro Guillermo Sarabia, Music Directors Enrique Patrón de Rueda and Martha Félix
Dance ensembles:
Delfos Danza Contemporánea, Víctor Manuel Ruiz, Director
Ballet Folklórico, Javier Arcadia, Director
Stage direction: Ramón Gómez Polo and Raúl Rico González
Stage design: Jorge González Nery
Costumes: Elisa Espinosa

Jessica Loaiza Pérez/Ángela Peralta
Armando Piña López/ Julián
Penélope María Luna Núñez/Rosa
Emily Sánchez Osuna/ Young Ángela
Jessika Arevalo/La Zepilli
Adriana Romero Jesus Ramirez/La Saborini
Fernando Martinez/Captain Ybarra
Miguel Gonzalez/Maclovio Castellanos
Héctor Rosendo Valle Loera/Solomon Marsh, Juan Jacobo Valadés
Christopher Roldan, Ramón Ocampo
Eden Vega/Cecilio Ocón, Carlos Meneses
Esteban Baltazar/ Young Julián, Eraclio Bernal
Athenea Reyes/Hermana Josefina
Mariela Angulo/Beatriz Melani
Miguel Valenzuela/Prof Agustín Balderas
Irving Bonilla/Cristóbal, Jesús Caravantes
Flor Estrada/Madame L’Aiguille, Araceli
Karla Alvarez/Madame DiGrazia
Laura Martinez/La Venadita
Alba Cecilia Rivera/Young Rosa

Muchísimas gracias to my long-time friend and colleague, Scott Dunn who helped me with my setting of Placido’s gorgeous adaptation of Mitchell Morris’ terrific libretto. Scott reviewed every note of the orchestration, making sure it would not get in the way of our amazing singers. As this is my first grand opera, I am greatly appreciative for his help.

I am most indebted to Raúl Rico, who has encouraged me and supported me in this effort. Mitchell and I have dedicated the opera to Raúl and the amazing talent at Cultura/Mazatlán.


An fun overview of the history of “Dies irae”––the Gregorian chant most associated with death.


Perhaps we should add cymatics to our music curriculum.


Released this week, a new CD of my complete songs featuring Juliana Gondek, soprano and William Lumpkin, piano: FOUR QUARTETS OF SONGS AND ARIAS.The YouTube clip above will give you a little preview. The album is available as an enhanced CD anywhere you buy CDs, and as a download anywhere you download music. You may need to search by title or Juliana Gondek for various reasons. I am very happy with this publication and hope you will take a listen.


How fleeting, how empty

October 22, 2013


In a retirement phase one looks around at all the stuff accumulated over the years and asks What am I going to do with all this stuff? After years of asking just this question, I’ve come up with a partial answer: throw away, recycle or give away stuff you don’t need, and take care of what you decide to keep and/or pass down to heirs.

By chance I put on a Bach cantata, “Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig” and the music drew me in (I was not paying attention to the words). But then I wondered what Bach was writing about that made me feel this way, and after reading the words (below) I realized that it was a work about not being attached to stuff, and if I had a gig in a church and had to musically sell this topic I would probably use Michael Frank’s text as Bach did:

Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig

1. Chorus

Ah, how fleeting, ah, how trifling
Is the life of man!
As a mist soon arises
And soon vanishes again,
So is our life, see!

2. Aria (T)

As swiftly as roaring water rushes by,
So hurry by the days of our life.
Time passes, the hours hurry by,
Just as the raindrops suddenly divide themselves,
When all rushes into the abyss.

3. Recitative (A)

Joy turns to sorrow,
Beauty falls like a flower,
The greatest strength is weakened,
Good fortune changes in time,
Soon honour and glory are over,
Knowledge and men’s creations
Are in the end brought to nothing by the grave.

4. Aria (B)

To hang one’s heart on earthly treasures
Is a seduction of the foolish world.
How easily arise devouring embers,
How the surging floods roar and tear away
Until everything is shattered and falls apart in ruins.

5. Recitative (S)

The highest majesty and spendour
Are shrouded at last by the night of death.
The person who sat on a throne like a god,
In no way escapes the dust and ashes,
And when the last hour strikes,
So that he is carried to the earth,
And the foundation of his highness is shattered,
He is completely forgotten.

6. Chorale [Verse 13]

Ah, how fleeting, ah, how trifling
Are mankind’s affairs!
All, all that we see,
Must fall and vanish.
The person who fears God stands firm forever.

[trans. Francis Browne]


In a band

October 9, 2013

231121144_640What better way to launch my post UCLA reality than to play in a band, or at least part time. I was asked to sub for a couple of gigs for Megan Keely, a new talented singer songwriter from the Bay area, and I had a blast. I learned many of her songs very quickly, and then we did a variety of covers: Beatles, CSN, Johnny Cash, and more. I played bass, guitar (6 & 12 string), piano and sang harmonies and a few leads. So much fun and amazing that I still remember all those songs from the 60s.