Operas in Spanish are a rarity in modern performance venues, but Alamo City Opera is bringing the art form center stage this month.
With La Hija de Rappaccini, or Rappaccini’s Daughter, Alamo City Opera General and Artistic Director Mark Richter is hoping to turn more of the local community on to opera by staging a production that is contemporary, affordable, and in a language familiar to many San Antonians.
It could be a smart move, considering Bexar County is home to the largest number of Spanish-speaking residents in Texas, according to the Texas Tribune. Richter claims the production will be the first contemporary opera ever sung in Spanish in San Antonio.
"Alamo City Opera feels a commitment to the communities of San Antonio, not just a couple of them, but all of them," he said, "and [many people] in San Antonio speak Spanish."
As part of its Spanish outreach, the organization plans to put on a Spanish-language opera each performance season, Richter said, adding that La Hija de Rappaccini seemed like a good place to start.
Composed by the late Mexican composer, writer, and professor Daniel Catán, La Hija de Rappaccini is based on the play by Octavio Paz and the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
The story is about Dr. Giacomo Rappaccini, a scientist in medieval Italy who grows a garden of poisonous plants, and his daughter, Beatriz, who tends to the plants and becomes immune to their poison. She, in turn, becomes poisonous herself, creating a barrier between her and her love interest, Giovanni.
"[Hawthorne's] stories are wonderfully engaging and haunting at the same time," Richter said, and the opera features "melodic ... gorgeous music" by Catán, who is widely known for bringing Spanish-language operas into the international repertory.
The production will be sung in Spanish, with English supertitles projected above the stage. It will be conducted by Kristin Roach and stars Sandra Lopez Neil as Beatriz, Nicholas Simpson as Giovanni, Blas Canedo Gonzalez as Rappaccini, Nora Graham-Smith as Isabela, and Jacob Valadez as Dr. Baglioni.
Typically, operas cater to more affluent crowds and are sung in Italian, German, and French. But Alamo City Opera, Richter said, is hoping to change that – at least in San Antonio.
"I've always had requests from people [for operas in Spanish], and our demographics are becoming more and more Hispanic and younger in age," Richter said. "We need to take where we’re at now and really build on it ... and really celebrate the Hispanic culture that is in San Antonio."
La Hija de Rappaccini will be featured at the Palo Alto Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 20, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 21, at 2:30 p.m.