Jessica will performing the role of Ángela Peralta in Mazatlán in November. Here she is performing “Era desso il figlio mio” by Donizetti

VI Concurso Canto Internacional Sinaloa 2014

Jessica Loaiza Pérez, segundo lugar, premio del Público y premio La voz Sonfonic.

Orquesta Sinaloa de las Artes
Mtro. Enrique Patrón de Rueda, director

Era desso il figlio mio de la Ópera Lucrezia Borgia de Donizetti


Channeling a countermelody

October 1, 2014

Georges_bizetMany of my faithful readers know that I channel dead composers from time to time. Well, not really, I pretend to and it makes for a good read.

But something eery happened recently that was very likely channeling something or someone. And I have a witness.

Conductor, Scott Dunn sat with me for several days going over the orchestration of my opera [on my computer using notation/playback software called Sibelius] with meticulous detail. While going over part of Act 2, I heard an amazing countermelody. I tried to not say anything. I scrolled to look at the horn part as the countermelody was in the horns. There was nothing there. I played it again. There was a fabulous countermelody in the horns. But there was not a single note in the horn part.

Who’s there? Hello? Was it Lenny? Or was it Georges? Both names I evoke from time to time as the godfathers of this opera.leonardbernstein1

I asked Scott whether he heard it and he said “yes.” I grilled him on the exact notes and what instrument it was in and he got it spot on. I exclaimed “OK OK, I’ll put it in.” So I put in the channeled horn countermelody. We have no idea who it was. But it’s in the music now. And I have a witness.

It must have been Rosemary Brown playing tricks on me again.

[Photos: Georges Bizet, composer of “Carmen”; Leonard Bernstein, composer of “West Side Story”: Godfathers of “La Paloma y el Ruiseñor”.]


Sketches for the scenery

September 29, 2014



The first sketch is for the opening of Act 1 where the opera company is boarding the S.S Newbern.

The second sketch is for the opening of Act 2 where the mazatlecos welcome Ángela Peralta to their city.


Sets are being made

September 28, 2014

la foto It’s exciting to see an opera come to life, bit by bit. Raúl Rico has been sending me pictures of the opera in progress: here is a shot of the set from Act 1 being built. I’m fairly sure it’s going to be a boat!


Biography of Ángela Peralta

September 27, 2014

Angela_Peralta_full_length_portraitÁngela Peralta (6 July 1845, Mexico City – 30 August 1883, Mazatlán) (baptised María de los Ángeles Manuela Tranquilina Cirila Efrena Peralta Castera) was an operatic soprano of international fame and a leading figure in the operatic life of 19th century Mexico. Called the “Mexican Nightingale” in Europe, she had already sung to acclaim in major European opera houses by the age of 20. Although primarily known for her singing, she was also a composer as well as an accomplished pianist and harpist.

Ángela Peralta was the daughter of Manuel Peralta and Josefa Castera de Peralta. She showed an early talent for singing and music. At the age of 8, she sang a cavatina from Belisario by Gaetano Donizetti with great success, and went on to study at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música in Mexico City. At 15 she made her operatic debut as Leonora in Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore at the Teatro Nacional in Mexico City. Accompanied by her father, and financed by a wealthy patron, Santiago de la Vega, she then went on to study singing in Italy under Leopardi. On 13 May 1862, she made her debut at La Scala in Milan with an acclaimed performance of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. She sang Bellini’s La sonnambula before King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy at the Teatro Regio in Turin where she received 32 curtain calls. Between 1863 and 1864, she sang in the opera houses of Rome, Florence, Bologna, Genoa, Naples, Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, St. Petersburg, Alexandria, and Cairo. The Second Mexican Empire invited her to return to her country to sing in the National Imperial Theatre, and in 1865 she accepted the invitation. In 1866 she sang before Maximilian I of Mexico and Charlotte of Belgium and was named “Chamber singer of the Empire”. In December 1866 with the downfall of the Second Mexican Empire imminent, she returned to Europe, performing in New York and Havana along the way. In Madrid, she married her cousin, Eugenio Castera, and for a while retired from singing, although she continued to compose songs and piano pieces. Her most well-known work is Álbum Musical de Ángela Peralta. Her marriage was an unhappy one due to her husband’s mental illness which manifested itself in the first year of their marriage. (Castera was later committed to a mental hospital in Paris where he died in 1876.)

On a visit to Mexico in 1871, Peralta established her own touring opera company for which she frequently sang her signature roles – Amina in La sonnambula and Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor. (In her lifetime, she sang Amina 122 times, and Lucia 166 times.)

In the mid-1870s she began an affair with the Mexican lawyer and entrepreneur Julián Montiel y Duarte, which caused a scandal in Mexico City. The city’s social elite boycotted her performances and hired hecklers to harass her during performances. Her reputation recovered following her performance in Linda di Chamounix, but she kept her vow never to sing in Mexico City again. In 1883, with her reputation (and economic situation) again in decline, she began a tour of northern Mexico with her troupe of Italian opera singers. The tour began in Guaymas and proceeded to La Paz, Baja California Sur. It was in La Paz that she sang for the last time on stage – the title role in Maria di Rohan – with the performance taking place in a theatre improvised from a disused sand pit. On 22 August, the troupe arrived in the port city of Mazatlán, where they were to perform Il trovatore and Aida. The city of Mazatlán prepared an elaborate welcome for her. Her boat docked at a pier decorated with garlands of flowers, and she was greeted by a band playing the Mexican National Anthem. When her carriage arrived, her admirers unhitched the horses and pulled it themselves to the Hotel Iturbide, where she once again saluted the crowds from her balcony. However, within a few days, she and 76 of the troupe’s 80 members were to die in the yellow fever epidemic that swept the city shortly after their arrival.

Ángela Peralta died in the Hotel Iturbide in Mazatlán at the age of 38 on 30 August 1883. She married her lover Julián Montiel y Duarte on her deathbed. According to an eyewitness account of the marriage ceremony, she was already unconscious when it took place. One of the singers from her company, Lemus, supported her by the shoulders. When asked if she took Montiel y Duarte as her husband, Lemus moved her head to make it appear that she was nodding her assent. Before her burial in Mazatlán, her body lay in state, dressed in one of her opera costumes and her best jewels. In 1937, her remains were disinterred and brought to the Rotunda de Hombres Ilustres (the Rotunda of Illustrious People) in Mexico City’s Panteón de Dolores. Both Mazatlán and San Miguel de Allende have theatres named in her honour.

Voice and repertoire
A Mazatlán opera-lover and journalist, who watched Peralta rehearsing in the Teatro Rubio on 22 August 1883, wrote in his diary:

“She is a woman with an agreeable presence, slightly obese, with bulging but very lively eyes. She has a wonderful voice that produces notes from the very highest to the lowest with astounding ease; she sang several variations with such delicate notes, like the trill of a goldfinch…”

Peralta’s wide-ranging repertoire included: Leonora in Il trovatore, Violetta in La traviata; Elvira in I puritani; Marie in La fille du régiment; Amina in La sonnambula; Adina in L’elisir d’amore; and the title roles in Aida, Dinorah, Linda di Chamounix, Maria di Rohan, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Norma. She also created the leading female roles in three operas by Mexican composers: Ildegonda (1866) and Gino Corsini (1877) by Melesio Morales, and Guatimotzin (1871) by Aniceto Ortega del Villar.

[From Wikipedia entry on Ángela Peralta.]


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


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.