UTRGV Opera Theater to present ‘Carmen’ online

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has launched Patron of the Arts Online, a free online concert series to lift spirits during the COVID-19 emergency.

On April 23-24 the series will feature UTRGV Opera Theater in one of the greatest operas of all time, “Carmen,” in Spanish. The production features music and spoken dialogue in Spanish, translation by Eduardo de Bray, said Dahlia Guerra, UTRGV assistant vice president for public art.

“ During these difficult times, we turn to music to bring comfort to our students, friends and patrons. Our Patron of the Arts Online series will share the musical talents of our School of Music faculty and students with a variety of wonderful concerts that everyone can enjoy in the comfort of their homes,” Guerra said.

Set in 1820 in Seville, Spain, “Carmen” is offered in opera comique style — that is, with spoken rather than sung dialogue. It’s a simple plot — boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets revenge — but the wonderful, dramatic melodies have made this 1875 opera the most performed in the world. Almost everyone can hum the Habanera and the Toreador Song, Guerra said.

Angel Gomez, who plays Don Jose, the male lead, said for him it is therapeutic and rewarding to perform in front of an audience. The performance to be shown is of Carmen at the Camille Lightner Playhouse last May in Brownsville. At the time Gomez was also working on his junior recital.

“ I remember I had to learn a lot of songs,” he said. “At the time I was fundraising for a trip to Europe and I was preparing my repertoire. In addition Carmen is quite challenging. The opera’s in French and we had to learn the placing of the words. … We learned it as is and added the Spanish to it.”

“ Opera here in the Valley is very small,” he added. “I think it’s a fantastic idea that we’re offering it for free. Everybody has access, just tune in.”

“ Carmen” will be presented at 6 p.m. in two parts on April 23 and 24 at facebook.com/utrgvpatron.

In coming weeks, concerts will feature faculty, guest artists and student ensembles on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 p.m.

The concerts will include premieres as well as concerts from years past.

“ This will be a great way to keep the concert series going and also give folks an outlet to be inspired by great music diverting their attention from the current health crisis we are facing,” said Kurt Martinez, UTRGV professor of music.

The online concert series launched April 7 with UTRGV School of Music professors Krista Jobson and Hector Rodriguez. They have performed all over the world together as the flute and guitar duo “Duo Aldebaran.”

The second concert on April 10 featured the award winning UTRGV Mariachi Aztlan and was a look back at some wonderful memories from the university’s nationally recognized mariachi program. The concert included a sampling of performances when the mariachi students performed with the Houston Grand Opera in 2010 and 2012, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2013 and 2015.

The concert also included excerpts from the premiere performances of two original mariachi operas, Cruzan la Cara de la Luna, and El Pasado Nunca Se Termina , both composed by Jose”Pepe” Martinez of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and libretto by theater director and novelist, Leonard Foglia. The performances were taped live during a television broadcast of Chicago Tonight! in Chicago in 2012.

The online concert series will be broadcast via, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. For information on future concerts, visit www.patron.utrgv.edu