Opera Offerings

Two new contemporary operas will premiere on campus this spring.

Composer Anthony Davis’ Lear on the Second Floor—workshopped at Princeton last year—is a collaboration with librettist Allan Havis, a professor in the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear. Susan Narucki, a music professor and Grammy-winning soprano, is working with Mexican writer Jorge Volpi and four renowned composers on Cuatro Corridos, an opera about human trafficking along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Lear on the Second Floor tells the story of Nora Lear, a celebrated neuroscience researcher who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s. As she sinks into dementia, she also finds herself at the mercy of her three quarreling daughters. The music goes beyond traditional opera to include jazz, reggae, and Broadway standards.”

Narucki’s Cuatro Corridos is based on an incident of human trafficking that occurred in the San Diego region. The opera combines Narucki’s voice and Volpi’s libretto (the author is best known for his 1999 novel En busca de Klingsor) with music by Mexican composers Hilda Paredes and Hebert Vázquez, and American composers Arlene Sierra and Professor Lei Liang.

“In Cuatro Corridos Jorge takes the poetic form of corridos—narrative folk songs traditionally sung by men—and transforms them into the testimony of the four women in the story” says Narucki, who portrays all four characters. “Two of the women have endured lives of prostitution and slavery; one has led them there and one leads them away. Their lives are intertwined and changed forever.”

The production will use theatrical imagery along with new media, and draw from historical documentation, contemporary art and border culture. “The focus will be on Latina women as they have been represented to date, as well as the artistic strategies used to subvert stereotypes and effect empowerment,” says Judith Dolan, a Tony-award winning professor in the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, and the director of Cuatro.  

Lear plays at UC San Diego’s Conrad Prebys Music Center on March 6, 8 and 9; Cuatro Corridos plays at the same location on May 8, 10 and 11.

Dirk Sutro