Scott Ball / Rivard report
The Tricentennial-themed original opera production Sueños de Béjar, or Dreams of Bexar, originally set for a Commemorative Week performance on May 5, has been postponed.
With assurances that the show will go on, the Bexar County Commissioners Court has tentatively set a performance date of Oct. 13, said Monica Ramos, the public information officer for Bexar County. The tentative date depends on availability of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, where the opera is to be performed, and could still change, Ramos said.
Sueños de Béjar has been postponed largely due to the recent travails of the San Antonio Symphony, a partner in the production, which benefited from a diversion of County matching funds totaling $350,000.
The $350,000 combines funds from other Tricentennial events, including $120,000 originally meant for the Sueños production. However, the money will be replaced during the County’s next fiscal year, said County Commissioner Nelson Wolff, a supporter of the production since its inception.
“We’ll get the production done,” Wolff said. “We figured our most important thing was to stabilize the Symphony. When things got chaotic there for a good while,” he said, “we immediately began to make plans to change the day of [the opera performance], and give them a little bit more time to get everything together.”
“Of course there’s some measure of disappointment,” said Betty Bueché, director of the Bexar Heritage & Parks Department, of the postponement. “However, I support the Symphony, and the effort that the Commissioners Court is making” to ensure its survival, she said.
Sueños de Béjar originated with Bueché, who brought the idea and concept to the Commissioners Court in 2015. “I felt it was important to create an artistic and compelling way to convey the story of our community,” and that the opera form was a “no-brainer,” Bueché said.
An original, newly composed production aligned with Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert’s desire for Tricentennial events to look beyond the music of the past. “We need to be thinking about how to show ourselves as a city of vitality, and a city of the future, our next 300 years,” he said, and that the Sueños opera would reflect that.
The multifaceted nature of opera also resonated with county commissioners, who saw the production as an opportunity to involve many San Antonio nonprofit arts groups, from the Symphony and Ballet San Antonio, to Opera San Antonio and Alamo City Opera, and others. Noted California composer Joseph Julian Gonzalez was hired to score the opera, and has completed his initial work, Bueché said.
Bueché appreciates opera, she said, because it combines all other art forms, from the performing arts, to visual art, music, and writing, “fully integrated into a very complex arrangement. That’s what opera represents, and that’s the story of our community. It’s complex, and layered, and rich, and it’s compelling.”
Ultimately, Bueché said, the opera would be “something that could be enjoyed, and a learning experience for, the whole community.” After its San Antonio debut, she said, “the community can then share it with the rest of the world,” because opera is “exportable.”
The Commissioners ultimately allocated $750,000 towards the multi-year project, in three budget cycles of $250,000, for each act of the three-act final production, Bueché said. The only portion of the opera to be staged thus far, Act I was performed for the groundbreaking of the San Pedro Creek Improvement Project in September 2016, and came in under budget. Act II, which was intended to be performed on the San Pedro and Nueva Street site slated for a new federal courthouse, was postponed in part because of downtown street construction.
The final, three-act version of Sueños de Béjar at the Tobin Center will be free and open to the public.
The original May 5 debut date was selected because “that is the actual historical date when the Presidio named San Antonio de Béjar was founded on San Pedro Creek,” Bueché said.
Beyond her mild disappointment at the delay, “as long as we actually get to do the opera, I’m good,” she said, crediting the commitment of the County Commissioners in seeing the project through.
“What makes me really proud is that we have a community being led by people who really get it, who understand the richness of our heritage, and they’re willing to make sure that the whole community gets to enjoy it,” Bueché said.