The Center for Contemporary Opera, San Francisco International Arts Festival and Scolavox are pleased to present the first public rendition of the score and libretto of a new opera titled The Lariat as part of the Center for Contemporary Opera's Atelier Development Program.
The Lariat is by composer Lisa Scola Prosek based on the novella by Jaime De Angulo, directed by Jim Cave and conducted by Sara Jobin.
The libretto created in collaboration with the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation of Monterey County will be in both the English and Esselen languages. The opera reveals intimate cultural details and beliefs of the Esselen tribe of Big Sur as its people face the influx of Spanish Missions towards the end of the 18th Century. It describes the difficult relationships between the Missionaries and the Esselen and the gulf between the two religious worlds. The exacting spiritual practices of both cultures are shown to be similar yet irreconcilable.
Anthropologist Jaime De Angulo documented many types of indigenous songs. These archives form the source for the opera score. However, although the action in The Lariat focuses on the Esselen, the original lyrics of the songs he notated were in Modoc, Miwok and Achumawi. Louise K. Miranda Ramirez, the Costanoan/Ohlone Esselen Tribal Chair and the Esselen Tribal Council have translated these songs into Esselenan indigenous language that had been considered extinct until the Esselen people themselves revived it.
Father Luis (Philip Skinner) is a Franciscan friar obsessed with learning the Esselen language to better convert the tribe to Christianity. His plan becomes more complicated when he falls in love with a young Esselen woman named Ashi Akxi (Desirae Harp) who has abandoned her shaman husband and found refuge in the Carmel Mission. The brokenhearted shaman (Clifton Romig) puts a curse on any future suitors she may have that torments them with dreams of wild animals and death. Human relationships become a metaphor for tensions in the interactions between the Spaniards and the Esselen. This eventually becomes personified as a love triangle between Fray Luis, Ashi Akxi and Ruiz Bendera (Mark Hernandez), a handsome vaquero (named Kinikilali by the Esselen) that she falls in love with.
The Lariat will premiere at California State University Monterey Bay in January 2015 and will then be presented at the Festival at the Fort Mason Center in May 2015.
Pictured (from the top): Lisa Scola Prosek, Mark Hernandez, Clifton Romig, Louise K. Miranda Ramirez, Desirae Harp, Sara Jobin, Maria Mikheyenko and Jaime De Angulo (right) with Achumawi medicine man Old Blind Hall.
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