Saturday, December 2, 2023

Mexican director’s Kahlo-inspired opera opens today in London

A Mexican theater director will make her debut in London this weekend with a Mexico-inspired opera based on Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman.  

María Inés Olmedo’s A Fantastic Bohemian will open today for a two-weekend run concluding August 12 at the Arcola Theatre in the English capital.

Described as “a unique, immersive opera experience, performed across three spaces,” the opera features appearances from fictional versions of the renowned 20th-century artist Frida Kahlo and intellectual and arts patron Antonieta Rivas Mercado.

Olmedo told the news agency Notimex that the audience will accompany the protagonist Hoffman on a very different journey to that he takes in the opera’s original version.

“The opera takes place during the golden age of Mexican cinema and one of the main spaces is inspired by the [Mexico City dance hall] Salón Los Angeles. Consequently, a new arrangement that includes danzón will be presented to remember the great composer Agustín Lara, among other Mexican characters,” she said.

Olmedo explained that one of the aims of her new production is to introduce opera to a new, younger audience by making the art form more inclusive, accessible and relevant.

“Because I’ve always had this love for opera and it has always seemed to me an incredibly magical art, I wanted someday to bring new generations [of people] to the opera,” she said.

The Arcola Theatre website says the production “pushes the boundaries of the opera experience, breaking down established physical and conceptual walls and introducing contemporary theater practices to the art form.”

The director previously worked in theater in Mexico for six years before moving to London to study a master’s degree in directing at the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

“All my research was [focused on] how to adapt contemporary formats to the traditional format of opera,” Olmedo explained.

“A little bit of it is breaking the rules in order to maintain the tradition of opera but [also] to take the audience member to the center of the dramatic action,” she added.

The opera is performed in English and has a cast of seven singers from England and Spain backed by an international production team.

The audience can expect an opera experience “where vice, love, death and passion all mingle throughout one epic evening,” the theater website said.

“Join the great Bohemian artist Hoffman on a journey to uncover the mystery of his three lost loves . . . ”

Olmedo presented her first opera production — The Human Voice — at Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) in 2016.

Source: Notimex (sp)

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