Scott Horton Communications
OPERA PARALLÈLE PRESENTS CHILDREN’S OPERA, XOCHITL AND THE FLOWERS, BY CHRIS PRATORIUS GÓMEZ BASED ON THE BOOK BY JORGE ARGUETA
STUDENTS FROM SAN FRANCISCO’S COMMUNITY MUSIC CENTER PERFORM AS PART OF OPERA PARALLÈLE’S “HANDS-ON-OPERA” PROGRAM MAY 18 AND 19
San Francisco, CA, April 22, 2019 – As part of its unique annual Hands-on-Opera education and youth performance program, Opera Parallèle (OP) will present Xochitl and the Flowers, by OP composer-in-residence Chris Pratorius Gómez. Based on the children’s book of the same name by Jorge Argueta and with a libretto by Roma Olvera, three performances will be presented Saturday, May 18, at 4 and 6 pm, and Sunday, May 19, at 2 pm at the Community Music Center Mission Branch, 544 Capp Street in San Francisco. Admission is free; past Hands-on-Opera performances have filled up quickly, so audience members are encouraged RSVP to ensure their seats. For more information, visit www.operaparallele.org .
Based on real-life events in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, this quintessentially American immigration story tells the moving tale of a family’s determination to put down roots in a new country, while still preserving the heritage of their homeland. The 40-minute opera, sung in Spanish and English, was created and premiered in 2016 with the Alvarado Elementary School as part of OP’s acclaimed annual “Hands-on-Opera” program, which features children center stage as full project participants and performers. This is the third commissioned work for Opera Parallèle by composer Chris Pratorius Gómez. The production is supported by grants from the Kimball Foundation.
About the Production
The production team includes Martha Rodriguez-Salazar, Conductor; Beth Wilmurt, Stage Director; Rachael Heiman, Production Designer/ Costumer; and pianist Taylor Chan. In addition to members of CMC’s Coro de Camara and Children’s Chorus, the cast features soprano Sabrina Romero-Wilson as Xochitl, mezzo-soprano Yemonja Stanley as Mami, tenor Sergio González as Papi, baritone Jorge Ruvalcaba as Don Roberto, and baritone Lauro Lara as Abuelo.
Each year as part of its growing community engagement programming, Opera Parallèle presents a work with young performers expressly designed for families and children. “For our Hands-on-Opera, we treat our young participants as collaborators and develop works that are relevant to our times and sophisticated,” says Artistic Director Nicole Paiement. “These productions are extensions of our vision to engage our youth in the making of opera, rather than being observers of the art form. It is an active way to immerse our young generation into the operatic culture.” Librettist and former OP Education Director Roma Olvera adds, “We try to choose themes for our Hands-on-Opera productions that revolve around children’s journeys of awareness and self-discovery. Xochitl and the Flowers addresses the very timely immigrant experience and a sense of belonging. When the children in the program identify with the characters in the operas, this self-affirmation through artistic engagement can be an amazing experience for the cast and audiences alike. Rehearsals and performances are filled with wide-eyed curiosity and the confident and original perspectives of the students.” Last year, OP’s Hands-on-Opera produced the world premiere of jazz composer Marcus Shelby’s Harriet’s Spirit. Past productions have included Pratorius’ Amazing Grace, preceded in 2014 by My Head is Full of Colors and in 2013, Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Spiders’ Revenge, in which all parts were performed by 4th-grade students and guest soloists.
About Chris Pratorius Gómez
Chris Pratorius Gómez is a composer and pianist based in Santa Cruz, California. He has written pieces for solo voice, choir, chamber ensembles, orchestra, and electronic media that have been performed in San Francisco, Istanbul, New York, Guatemala, and other spots around the world.
A recent highlight is Claroscuro en Flor, a concerto for harp commissioned by the American Harp Society and San José Chamber Orchestra which saw its premiere in 2013. Other projects include the chamber concerto Untogether, not Apart, commissioned and premiered by New Music Works, a fresh setting of Pablo Neruda’s Poema XX, commissioned by Nicole Paiement for the BluePrint project; Contraponientes, a choral song-cycle based on poetry by Federico García Lorca commissioned by Ariose Singers; and Being of One’s Hour, commissioned by Robert Kelley for Santa Cruz Ballet Theater.
As composer-in-residence for Opera Parallèle, he has written three children’s operas for their Hands-on-Opera educational program. The first opera, My Head is Full of Colors, premiered in 2014, and the second, Amazing Grace, premiered in 2015. He teaches theory, history, composition, and piano at the University of California, Santa Cruz and at Cal State Monterey Bay.
About Roma Olvera
Formerly OP’s Education Director specializing in curriculum development that integrates music into every subject of standardized elementary and high school education, Roma now brings her gifts as an educator to the students at Woodland School in Portola Valley. She taught music for several school districts in southern California, as well as developed music programs for underserved communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx. She worked with Midori and Friends on a pilot music outreach program and Hofstra University on a teacher development through music program. She is the librettist for OP’s children’s opera commissions, Harriet’s Spirit (2018), Xochitl and the Flowers (2016), and Amazing Grace (2015). A lyric soprano, Roma holds a Bachelor of Music from UC Santa Cruz in Vocal Performance and a Masters of Music Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Opera Parallèle’s innovative program gives students from various age groups the opportunity to participate in producing and performing an opera. The students will be immersed in the complete operatic experience by:
- Learning and preparing the music, accompanied by orchestral instruments.
- Developing a character with singing and movement.
- Telling a story in two languages.
- Designing costumes and make-up.
- Working with a conductor, stage director, and professional singers.
- Performing on stage in front of a live audience.