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Houston Grand Opera to Present Second Mariachi Opera
Featuring Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán
May 13, 16, and 17, 2015
Houston, October 6, 2014—Houston Grand Opera (HGO) will present El Pasado N unca Se Termina/The Past Is Never
Finished, an opera featuring the internationally renowned ensemble Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, on May 13, 16, and 17,
2015 in the Wortham Theater Center, it was announced by HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers and Managing
Director Perryn Leech. HGO’s 2010 mounting of the world’s first mariachi opera, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna/To Cross the Face of
the Moon, with Mariachi Vargas, not only captivated audiences in Houston, but went on to hit runs in Paris, San Diego,
Chicago, and Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona. HGO brought Cruzar back to Houston in 2013 for three sold-out performances.
Now the company will present a second mariachi opera from the same creative team of José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard
Foglia, fresh from its March 2015 world premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Set on a Mexican hacienda in 1910, just prior to
the Mexican Revolution, the story traces how the country’s cultural conflicts and nationalistic struggles shape one family across
generations. El Pasado Nunca Se Termina/The Past Is Never Finished will be sung in Spanish and English with projected
Says HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers, “Mariachi songs, like Italian opera, seem to well up from long
national traditions of storytelling and family, and both traditions connect directly to the heart.” Adds HGO Managing
Director Perryn Leech, “HGO is very proud to have commissioned the first mariachi opera, and we are delighted that Cruzar’s
widespread appeal has led to the commissioning of El Pasado. This new opera, like Cruzar, explores the emotions around
family and homeland through a moving musical language that reaches across borders.”
Cruzar, the first mariachi opera, was described by the Chicago Tribune as “[a] moving story with universal appeal, performed
with enormous zest and color..." The Houston Chronicle observed, “The mariachi music by José “Pepe” Martínez…[is] suave
and melodious, [and] its almost unceasing glow reaches into the souls of the characters.”
Like its predecessor, El Pasado is presented under the auspices of HGOco, the company’s community collaboration and
education initiative, as part of its Song of Houston project. Song of Houston tells the stories of the diverse communities that call
Houston home. The award-winning program is currently developing new work including O Columbia, a chamber opera by
composer Gregory Spears and librettist Royce Vavrek that examines the past, present and future of the American spirit of
exploration. The creative process for this work has included gathering stories from NASA astronauts and other members of
Houston’s NASA community around their experiences of space exploration, with a focus on the Columbia tragedy of 2003. O
Columbia will premiere in October, 2015.
HGO’s presentation of El Pasado Nunca Se Termina/The Past Is Never Finished is made possible through the generous support of Mr.
and Mrs. Anthony G. Petrello, Mr. and Mrs. Harlan C. Stai, Bank of America, The Humphreys Foundation, Beirne, Maynard and
Parsons LLP, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith Ray.
Based in Mexico City, Mariachi Vargas has a storied past dating back to the group’s founding in 1898 by Gaspar Vargas.
Considered to be the most accomplished and recognized mariachi group in the world, the 13-piece ensemble includes violins,
trumpets, guitarrón, guitar, vihuela and harp. Internationally acclaimed, the group tours annually in the United States and
throughout the world, and has appeared in more than 200 films and 800 recordings. The origins of the mariachi orchestra date
back to the Spanish-derived string groups of the early 19th century in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and now the mariachi
orchestra serves as the basis of the regional Mexican son jaliciense form. By the early 20th century, mariachi groups had
established their ensemble collection of violins, guitars (and guitar relatives) along with trumpets and the harp, and were
regarded as semiprofessional groups in and around Jalisco.
José “Pepe” Martínez was born in Tecalitlán, Jalisco, Mexico, and joined his first mariachi band as a violinist at the age of 12.
He began writing music when he was 19 years old, and formed his own mariachi ensemble in 1966, called Mariachi Nuevo
Tecalitlán, which was one of the most dynamic mariachi bands in Mexico throughout the mid-1960s and early 1970s. In 1975,
he joined Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. His work with Mariachi Vargas established Martínez as a composer and arranger and
brought into being a sonic style that has become synonymous with "el mejor Mariachi del Mundo". "Somos Novios" and "El
Cascabel" are two of the first songs Martínez rearranged for his new group; original works such as "Violín Huapango," "Lluvia
De Cuerdas" and "Mexicanísimo" and the potpurri "Viva Vera Cruz," with its rapid violin ricochets—a Martínez signature—
followed. Today, Martínez continues writing, learning, performing and breaking new ground in the creation of mariachi music.
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna/To Cross the Face of the Moon was his first opera, in 2010. El Pasado Nunca Se Termina/The Past Is Never
Finished is his second.
Leonard Foglia is a theater and opera director as well as librettist. His opera credits include the premiere of Ricky Ian
Gordon’s A Coffin in Egypt at HGO and the premieres of three operas by Jake Heggie—Moby-Dick (The Dallas Opera and in
San Diego, Calgary, South Australia, and San Francisco Opera and seen on PBS’s Great Performances); Last Acts (Three Decembers)
(HGO, San Francisco, and Chicago), and The End of the Affair (HGO, Madison, and Seattle). His production of Heggie’s Dead
Man Walking has been presented across the country. After the premiere of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna/To Cross the Face of the Moon
at HGO, the opera went on to be performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, San Diego Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago,
and Arizona Opera. His theater credits include the original Broadway productions of Master Class (also national tour and West
End), Thurgood (also the Kennedy Center, where it was filmed for HBO), and The People in the Picture as well as the revivals of
Wait until Dark and On Golden Pond. He directed Anna Deavere Smith’s Let Me Down Easy off-Broadway and on tour; it was
also filmed for Great Performances. He has written five books with David Richards: the mystery novels 1 Ragged Ridge Road and
Face Down in the Park and the thrillers that form the Sudarium Trilogy: The Surrogate, The Son, and The Savior.
About Houston Grand Opera
Since its inception in 1955, Houston Grand Opera has grown from a small regional organization into an internationally
renowned opera company. HGO enjoys a reputation for commissioning and producing new works, including fifty-four world
premieres and seven American premieres since 1973. In addition to producing and performing world-class opera, HGO
contributes to the cultural enrichment of Houston and the nation through a diverse and innovative program of performances,
community events, and education projects that reaches the widest possible public. HGO has toured extensively, including trips
to Europe and Asia, and has won a Tony, two Grammy awards, and two Emmy awards—the only opera company to have
won all three awards.
Through HGOco, Houston Grand Opera creates opportunities for Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to observe,
participate in, and create art. Its Song of Houston project is an ongoing initiative to create and share work based on stories that
define the unique character of our city and its diverse cultures. Since 2007, HGOco has commissioned sixteen new works
along with countless innovative community projects, reaching more than one million people in the greater Houston
metropolitan area. The NEXUS Initiative is HGO’s multi-year ticket underwriting program that allows Houstonians of all ages
and backgrounds to enjoy world-class opera without the barrier of price. Since 2007 NEXUS has enabled more than 175,000
Houstonians to experience first-quality opera through discounted single tickets and subscriptions, subsidized student
performances, and free productions.
Houston Grand Opera
El Pasado N unca Se Termina/The Past Is Never Finished
May 13, 16, 17m, 2015
Music: José “Pepe” Martínez
Libretto: Leonard Foglia
with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán
Performed in Spanish and English with surtitles
Tickets and Information: / 713-228-6737
A co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago
Media Contact: Christine Cantrell, [email protected], (713) 524-0661
Director of Communications: Judith Kurnick, [email protected] (713) 546-0240
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