The challenge I faced when I was chosen to write the libretto of this opera, was that both Frida and Diego were painters who were natural storytellers; they were chroniclers of time, history and their personal lives. The question in my mind was always, how do I represent these two artists in an innovative way?
Diego Rivera would examine the vestige of antiquity through the prism of his murals. In his frescoes, which capture the imprint of time, Rivera always reminds us that there is nothing that cannot be recorded through the vividness of his brushstrokes. As with Diego, the paintbrush of anguish of Frida Kahlo also depicts those things that cannot pass as unseen: human pain and suffering.
What became more significant to me, as I studied their lives, was that these two artists painted each other despite their ups and downs in their tempestuous relationship as husband and wife. Frida was obsessed with painting Diego’s face between her eyebrows, as if he was always in her thoughts. Diego painted Frida as his muse in several of his frescoes. But it was Frida’s painting The Love Embrace of the Universe, Myself, Diego and Señor Xolotl that gave me the idea of setting the opera during the Day of the Dead, Mexico. In this painting, Frida holds a naked Diego Rivera whose forehead contains a third eye, and next to them is Xolotl, considered to be a soul-guide for the dead. In this piece, it almost seems as if Frida is carrying a dying Diego to the infra world.
Diego Rivera’s famous mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central was also inspirational. This work of art, which features Frida standing next to characters from other epochs, depicts how people from different moments in history were brought together by Diego on a Sunday afternoon. Through this artistic concept, I played with time by mixing reality and fiction to bring Frida and Diego back to the world in a fantastical fiesta of color, music and sound, since it was Rivera’s desire to have his ashes mixed with Kahlo’s when he was at the end of his life.