Feliz Navidad

HGO's Christmas Opera Celebrates the Yuletide in Mexico

El Milagro del Recuerdo, a prequel to the hit mariachi opera, recalls the past.

By Holly Beretto December 9, 2019

When the Houston Grand Opera premiered the mariachi opera Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon), it was an immediate hit that ended up touring around the world. Now, the opera company offers a prequel to the story, El Milagro del Recuerdo (The Miracle of Remembering), bringing audiences back to where it all began in Michoacán, Mexico. It takes place during Christmas and offers a loving look at family and traditions against a backdrop of wanting and dreaming of something more.

“The most beautiful and special thing about this show and that really speaks to me, is the message to have compassion, tolerance to one another in society,” says Daniel Noyola, a Houston Grand Opera Studio artist who sings the role of Laurentino. “Laurentino and Chucho go to the United States as immigrants trying to give their families a better life, and this goes parallel to the pastorela (nativity scene) which we celebrate in this show, where Joseph and Mary are immigrants asking for an inn to have baby Jesus. In both cases they are treated as strangers, outsiders by society. That’s something we can relate to nowadays.”

Like its sister production, El Milagro is also a mariachi opera, and Noyola says that he loves being able to share that style of music with audiences. “It’s so rewarding to be singing this music which literally taught me how to sing from a very young age,” he says. “Remembering when my parents used to listen to Pedro Infante or José Alfredo Jimenez around the house and I used to imitate those voices and tunes. This is music that invites you to be expressive in such beautiful way.”

He also loves the way the show brings together a group of people who “grew up immersed in both cultures between Mexico and the United States, to share between us everyone’s traditions and see how close to the heart we have those.”

El Milagro explores how we are much more alike than different, and Noyola finds that the depictions of the Mexican community are spot-on.

“I see how each of us relate to this story and these tender characters filled with beautiful values, which I see as a perfect description of the Mexican community: people that work really hard, dream, share; welcoming people and people that always put their family first,” he says.

The opera is the 67th world premiere for the company, further demonstrating HGO’s commitment to launching new works from new artistic voices. Sung in Spanish with English subtitles, El Milagro del Recuerdo should prove to be a show that demonstrates how opera as an art form is contemporary and ever-evolving. And the holiday setting ought to make it a perfect piece for families looking to see what opera is all about.

“Leonard Foglia and Javier Martinez, our librettist and composer, have created an uplifting beautiful piece that reminds us how important it is to connect with your people, roots, and to enjoy simple things like a good tamale!” says Noyola. “And we have in the cast both incredible mariachi trained singers and classically trained singers. This unique combination, plus having an orchestra in the pit and three wonderful mariachi players on stage as part of our village, makes a very special and unique experience.”

He calls the show “a spectacular traditional Mexican Christmas party,” and thinks it will resonate with audiences, no matter what their background. “El Milagro has a sense of togetherness and shows the importance of being connected with your loved ones,” he says. “That’s why I consider this opera a great holiday piece. To bring back the awareness of sharing with your people, to connect deeply with them and celebrate life together.”

Runs thru Dec. 20 at the Wortham Theatre Center. Tickets start at $30. Go to houstongrandopera.org for more information.  

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