Updated: November 24, 2012 6:17AM
Mexico’s acclaimed Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan will perform in the Midwest premiere of “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna,” presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Billed as the world’s first mariachi opera, “Crossing the Face of the Moon” will be staged April 7 at the Civic Opera House, with additional performances later at the Genesse Theatre in Waukegan and the Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen. The work, which had its world premiere in 2010 at Houston Grand Opera, follows three generations of a Mexican-American family as they confront questions of national/individual identity.
The first Spanish-language work staged by Lyric Opera in its 58-year existence, “Cruzar” also represents the biggest project so far under the auspices of Lyric Unlimited. Launched in July, Lyric Unlimited is a program of community outreach and artistic initiatives to be presented outside Lyric’s mainstage season.
At a press conference Monday at the National Museum of Mexican Art, Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud released additional details of the “Cruzar” project, unofficially announced in spring 2011. He was joined by Carlos Tortolero, the museum’s founder and president; Beatriz Margain, cultural attaché for the Consulate General of Mexico; Cayenne Harris, director of Lyric Unlimited, and mezzo soprano Cecilia Duarte, who sang in the 2010 world premiere and will reprise her role here. The museum and the consulate are planning related activities to support “Cruzar.”
“This is a real opera and also genuine mariachi,” said Freud, who helped commission the work while he was general director at Houston Grand Opera. “I didn’t want to create something that was mariachi ‘lite.’ It needed to be the real thing.”
Mariachi Vargas is just that. Founded in 1898, it has helped to define what has become known as Mexico’s national sound. Jose “Pepe” Martinez, music director of Mariachi Vargas since 1975, wrote the music for “Cruzar,” and co-wrote the lyrics with Broadway veteran Leonard Foglia.
Tickets, $25-$125, for the April 7 performance are on sale at lyricopera.org. Dates and prices will be announced later for the Genesee and Benito Juarez performances, which will feature the Texas-based Mariachi Aztlan.