LA Opera commissions new Spanish-language opera from composer Carla Lucero
The Three Women of Jerusalem will premiere next spring at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
(Los Angeles) April 1, 2021 — LA Opera has commissioned composer and librettist Carla Lucero to write The Three Women of Jerusalem (Las Tres Mujeres de Jerusalén), an opera to be performed in 2022 by a cast of hundreds in a monumental staging at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, with hundreds of additional performers joining in virtually from around the world.
Sung in Spanish, the opera is based on the Passion narrative of the Eighth Station of the Cross, depicting the women who weep for Jesus as He is forced toward the crucifixion. The opera imagines who these unnamed women were, showing the experiences of ordinary people sharing their compassion when confronted with evil.
Presented through the LA Opera Connects series of community engagement programming, the opera will mark many firsts for the company:
- It is the first by a female composer and the first Spanish-language opera to be commissioned for LA Opera performances at the Cathedral.
- It will be LA Opera's first production at the Cathedral since the pandemic forced the cancelation of planned 2020 and 2021 performances there.
- It will also be LA Opera's first large-scale public performance to incorporate musicians participating via online conferencing, something that the company has embraced throughout the pandemic via the LA Opera On Now platform of digital programming.
With two performances taking place at the Cathedral on March 19, 2022, The Three Women of Jerusalem will premiere under the baton of James Conlon, the company's Richard Seaver Music Director.
Eli Villanueva will direct the production, which will feature LA Opera's professional singers and orchestral musicians performing alongside hundreds of nonprofessional cast members and musicians drawn from local Catholic schools, churches, nonprofit organizations and public schools.
Not only is Carla Lucero the composer of The Three Women of Jerusalem, she also wrote the libretto. While the opera will be performed in Spanish, neither cast members nor audience members will need to understand Spanish to participate; the presentation will include projected English translation of the lyrics.
"I grew up hearing my father and grandparents speaking Spanish," said Lucero. "It’s a passionate and beautiful language that I am proud to have as part of my heritage. My siblings and I understood it and spoke it on a basic level until learning it formally in school. Then, as an adult, my music has taken me all over Latin America and Spain, and my parents retired in Mexico 30 years ago. I am able to speak it more naturally now and really love the nuances of the language, some of which don’t exist in English. I’m hoping that the Spanish-speaking communities of Los Angeles and beyond will accept this as a love letter from me to them."
Lucero notes that the major themes of her opera, while drawn from the New Testament, "are universal concepts to me, and not specific to any religious belief. The Passion can be uplifting and motivating and I really hope this comes through in The Three Women."
Traditionally, participation in LA Opera's productions at the Cathedral—one of many LA Opera Connects engagement initiatives—hasn't been limited to the hundreds of performers appearing on the stage. The entire audience, numbering in the thousands, is also encouraged to take part by singing congregational hymns incorporated into each opera.
The Three Women of Jerusalem will take audience participation several steps further. Singers from around the world—particularly from Spanish-speaking nations—will be invited to participate virtually in the performance by singing the congregational hymns that Carla Lucero is including in her score. Angelenos who are unable to attend the Cathedral presentations in person can also participate by singing along on their home screens. These global performances will be shown on large screens inside the Cathedral during the performance, bringing everyone together.
Major support for this production is provided by a generous grant from the Dan Murphy Foundation, which has underwritten these community productions at the Cathedral since their inception in 2007.
COMPOSER/LIBRETTIST CARLA LUCERO
Originally from Los Angeles, Carla Lucero studied composition at CalArts with Rand Steiger, Morton Subotnick and Leonard Rosenman. Her work has been performed internationally by orchestras, chamber ensembles and soloists in Mexico, Chile, Cuba, Canada, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Her 2001 opera Wuornos, about the tragic life of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, premiered at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, winning “10 Best of Stage” from Advocate and Out magazines. Her second opera, Juana, with co-librettist Alicia Gaspar de Alba, premiered in 2019 with Opera UCLA. A Spanish-language opera about 17th-century feminist icon, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Juana will have its New York premiere later this year with dell’Arte Opera. Currently in development is an opera about Helen Keller, with co-librettist Marianna Mott Newirth, which will premiere at Opera Birmingham in 2024.
She recently completed two dance commissions: House of Names for San Francisco's Marika Brussel Dance and Reckoning Ramona for Heidi Duckler Dance in Los Angeles. Later this year, her song cycle El Castillo Interior will have its UK premiere during the London Festival of American Music.
Community Opera at the Cathedral
Beginning with the hugely popular company premiere of Britten's Noah's Flood in 2007, LA Opera has opened its stage doors to aspiring performers of all ages in the Los Angeles community—including singers, dancers and musicians—to perform along with professionals in those fields in a fully-staged springtime opera. The Cathedral at Our Lady of the Angels has generously donated their facility for the program's use since its inception. Participation isn't limited to the hundreds of performers on the stage; the entire audience is also encouraged to join in the fun by singing along. While the stories of the operas presented at the Cathedral are based on biblical subjects, people of all beliefs and backgrounds are encouraged to participate and attend.
ABOUT LA OPERA
Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be with thrilling performances, thought-provoking productions and innovative programming. The communal and curative power of opera is needed now more than ever before, given the extraordinary challenges of the time. As LA Opera awaits its cue to return to the stage with world-class productions in theaters, the company is offering a multitude of content including live recitals, opera broadcasts and learning opportunities via its LA Opera On Now digital offerings, which have accumulated more than 800,000 views since launching last spring. The company is grateful to its supporters for helping to ensure that it has the resources needed to get through this unprecedented period through the LA Opera Relief Fund. Those wanting to support LA Opera can visit LAOpera.org/donate.
LA OPERA MEDIA CONTACT
Vanessa Flores Waite
Director of Communications
LA Opera is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.