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Mazatlán premiere of grand opera by music faculty earns accolades

Composer Roger Bourland and librettist Mitchell Morris are honored by Mazatlán mayor

Roger bourland-opera cast

Roger Bourland and cast members of 'La Paloma y el Ruiseñor.'

The premiere of the grand opera “La Paloma y el Ruiseñor” (“The Dove and the Nightingale”) on Nov. 14 at the Teatro Angela Peralta in Mazatlán, Mexico, prompted ovations as well as awards for the work’s creators. The opera was composed by Roger Bourland, UCLA professor emeritus of music, with libretto by UCLA musicology professor Mitchell Morris.

The opera centers around the life of 19th-Century operatic soprano Angela Peralta, with the second act taking place in historic Mazatlán, where the legend of Peralta as the "Mexican nightingale" was forged following her tragic death from yellow fever.

Local reviews of the opera were enthusiastic, remarking on the performances as well as the costumes and scenery. Noted the news outlet RN Noticias, “Certainly in the first half of the show, one of the elements that stood out were the beautiful costumes inspired by the fashion of the 19th century, which shone in all its glory at the time the ship sighted the beaches of Mazatlán.”

Reviewers also enjoyed the legend of their hometown diva who, as Ángel Vargas of La Jornada pointed out, was known for her tumultuous love life: “It is, as with any opera, a story of love, passion, betrayal, deception and greed -- with the attraction that it is based on the real life of the singer, whose romantic relationships were stormy. To start, her first marriage to her cousin Eugenio Velázquez Castera de la Cadena was unhappy due to his mental illness. Then [there was] the scandal caused in Mexican society by her romance with the lawyer and national promoter, Julian Montiel y Duarte.”

The staging of “La Paloma y el Ruiseñor” was accomplished in collaboration with many artists and performers in Mazatlán, including the Symphony Orchestra Mazatlan, which was directed by Scott Dunn, assistant director of the L.A. Philharmonic Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Maestro Ramón Gómez Polo Rico and Raúl González, director of the Institute of Culture of Mazatlan, provided stage direction. Students in the School of Singing of Mazatlán and Guillermo Sarabia Choir performed, under the direction of Maestro Enrique Patrón de Rueda and Martha Felix. Also performing was the Professional School of Dance, directed by Claudia Lavista and Victor Ruiz, and the Folkloric Ballet of Mazatlán Cultural Institute, directed by Javier Arcadia.

Placido Domingo Jr. adapted the text from English to Spanish. The opera was originally commissioned by L.A.'s Pacific Serenades chamber music ensemble. Bourland and Mitchell further developed it in collaboration with voice and opera students in the UCLA Opera Workshop, who performed it in May 2013.

Mazatlán Mayor Alcalde Carlos Felton unveiled two plaques — one of which will remain on permanent display at the Teatro Angela Peralta — in recognition of “those who made possible the rescue of the last days of the diva.” He commended Bourland and Morris for their contributions to the cultural life of Mazatlán. Their efforts, and those of their counterparts in Mexico, are an example of the types of collaborations being sought by UCLA’s Center for Mexican Studies through its newly forged partnership with the Consulate of Mexico in Los Angeles.

Learn more about the opera in Bourland's blog: La Paloma y el Ruiseñor premieres at the Teatro Angela Peralta in Mazatlán; Background of “La Paloma y el Ruiseñor. See the complete opera here:

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