The Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) will formally announce the 2020 world premiere of The Last Dream of Frida & Diego this August 24 in Mexico City at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The opera which will feature a Spanish libretto was written by Nilo Cruz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and Gabriela Lena Frank, a pianist, classical composer and Latin Grammy winner.
“This compelling new work, featuring Nilo Cruz’s haunting libretto set to music by one of the most innovative composers working today, Gabriela Lena Frank, perfectly embodies FWOpera’s commitment to community-driven storytelling and programming,” said Tuomas Hiltunen, the general director of FWOpera, in a news release. “We look forward to presenting the world premiere in 2020.”
The opera will be unveiled during the fourth year of Noches de Ópera and at the conclusion of Opera of the Americas, FWOpera’s 10-year commitment to contemporary work. The news release said that it was co-commissioned with San Diego Opera, the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin and DePauw University.
“I am honored to be joining the Fort Worth Opera in this exciting new era, as we collaborate with San Diego Opera, the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin, and DePauw University to co-commission The Last Dream of Frida and Diego,” Hiltunen said in a news release. “Kahlo and Rivera greatly influenced American art and visual artists, muralists, graphic designers, and sculptors. Their idiosyncratic style and commitment to social equality continue to inspire artists and art enthusiasts around the globe.”
The news release said that the creative process was supported by OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers which aims to promote greater diversity in the creation of operas and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
“We’re delighted to be part of this collaboration to bring the lives of artistic icons Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to life onstage through music,” said Doug Dempster, Dean of the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin, in a news release. “Working on this production will provide a unique and immersive learning experience for our students, and we’re excited about the opportunities to engage and reach new audiences.”
The production will be announced at a bilingual press conference held at Mexico City’s concert hall and cultural arts center, Palacio de Bellas Artes, in the Manuel M. Ponce Hall. The news release said that it will feature a piano performance by Frank and a reading from the libretto by Cruz. They will also play audio samples from the nine works and comment on the evolution of their decade of partnership. At the end of the conference, there will be a Q&A for attendees and members of the local press.
“Creating and producing new, innovative works of opera helps us deepen connections with the diverse community of San Diego. In looking for the right subject matter, the lives of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera made perfect sense to us – their extensive bodies of work influence creative artists here in our community, on both sides of the border,” said the general director of San Diego Opera, David Bennet, said in a news release. “With the inspired vision of Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz, I know the result will be a new opera that will engage and entertain audiences.”
The opera is set in 1957 and will take place in Mexico during the festival of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Diego Rivera will be given the chance to see the deceased Frida Kahlo one more time before he dies. The news release said that “For only twenty-four hours, Frida and Diego will relive their tumultuous love through their paintings, embracing the passion they shared and the pain they inflicted upon one other.”
“Through her work, Frida gives us permission to find our own personal relationship to life as well as to make sense of life after trauma,” Cruz said in a news release. “Painting helped her to make sense of the universe. For Diego, painting has to do with humanist philosophical reflection, a way of documenting history and social injustice. They both rescue their roots, their Mexican identity from oblivion. As the Aztecs took out human hearts and offered them to the gods, they offer us their hearts through their art, through the lives they lead as witnesses of life in the universe.”
Before the opera is announced, the donors and guests will travel through historic neighborhoods of Mexico City for three days of cultural tourism. The news release said that they will visit many places including the Museo Diego Rivera, the National Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Modern Art. There will also be a reception in the courtyard of La Casa Azul which is Frida Kahlo’s home and museum in Coyoacán.
“Frida and Diego were Mexicans, but they were also global citizens. For me as an artist, I find great inspiration in how they used the specific colors and sounds of their culture to express what is universal,” Frank said in a news release. “You don’t have to be Mexican to be moved by their paintings nor their life stories. In other words, you can relate to them, and you can identify with them. I feel that Frida and Diego remind us of our humanity – so important as we currently navigate these early decades of the 21st century feeling so very politically and socially divided. Their art remains as relevant as ever.”