Pilgrimage to Mazatlán

January 22, 2012

Angela Peralta

Internationally renown opera star, Angela Peralta (1845-1883) travels to Mazatlán with her company, where they struggle to make music in the face of a plague. As the death toll mounts, Angela and those closest to her come to terms with their complex feelings for one another.

Last week, I went to Mazatlán with friend, colleague and librettist of my opera, Mitchell Morris, to do some final research on Angela Peralta, the heroine of our new opera, ANGELA PERALTA. I wanted Mitchell to see where our Angela met her untimely demise. We found two books with extensive information on her, and an article written by her great-niece (sitting in a display case which I photographed and sent to Patricio and Marta Duarte who are helping us with translations and 19C Mexican customs). We visited the Teatro Angela Peralta to experience the hall, and identified the hotel where she spent her final days. We dined under the corner of that hotel, looking up at her balcony, imagining ourselves to be the impatient crowd shouting ¡VIVA MEXICO! ¡VIVA LA PERALTA! We spent time in the Plaza Machada, which is where the crowd gathered in hopes of hearing the Mexican Nightingale.

Although I wrote a treatment of the opera in 2005, I gave it to Mitchell with permission to make any changes he wishes. We are now both on sabbatical with the goal of finishing the opera by September for a workshop performance at UCLA.

The primary characters in the opera are Angela and her lover, Julián Montiel y Duarte, his (fictitious) wife, Rosa, and a captain who ferries their opera company from La Paz to Mazatlán. We have both enjoyed doing research on the actual story. So much continues to be unearthed that can’t help but make its way into the story. But then, the work will be “Inspired by a true story” and certain liberties will be taken to make an amazing story even more amazing.

One of the questions we solved in Mazatlán was whether to quote Yradier’s “La Paloma” — we decided to write our own, and did so while we were there: “The Dove in the Tree”. The Duartes have done a Spanish translation as well. If I do say so myself, I think we have a hit on our hands. For the moment, I’m hearing k d lang sing it in my head, but I wrote it for Juliana Gondek, who will have a blast with the role.

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