Houston Symphony Presents World Premiere of CONQUEST REQUIEM, 5/5

Houston Symphony Presents World Premiere of CONQUEST REQUIEM, 5/5

The Houston Symphony will perform the world premiere of Conquest Requiem from Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank at 8 p.m. May 5-6 and 2:30 p.m. May 7 at Jones Hall. Considered Frank's most ambitious project to date, the requiem is the composer's musical interpretation of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire composed for orchestra, chorus, soprano and baritone soloists.

The work is inspired by the true story of Malinche, a Nahua woman from the Gulf Coast of Mexico, who played a key role in this pivotal era in history, first as a young slave and later as an advisor and lover. Her ever-evolving prowess as an interpreter of her native Nahuatl, various Mayan dialects and Spanish elevated her position to such that she would convert to Christianity and become a mistress to Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés during his war against the Aztecs.

"I've long been a collector of the testimonials of the conquest's many chroniclers - the conquistadores, the priests and friars, and the natives," Frank said. "Tackling one aspect of the conquest for this piece comes from a personal connection to an event of such magnitude. At the same time entire societies were decimated, we witnessed the birth of new music, literature, food, political philosophies and, yes, even religions."

Malinche, viewed in various legends as a feminist hero, treacherous villain, conflicted victim, and symbolic mother of the mestizo people, will be interpreted by Peruvian-American soprano Jessica Rivera. The role of her son Martín, one of the first mestizos of the New World, will be sung by American baritone Andrew Garland, who will be making his Houston Symphony debut.

The seven-movement requiem fuses European and Native American influences and incorporates the rhythms and inflections of three different languages: traditional Latin, Aztecan Nahuatl and Spanish. Frank commissioned Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Nilo Cruz to link the Latin and Nahuatl text with original Spanish text that tells the story of Malinche and Martín. The requiem is the seventh collaboration between Cruz and Frank.

Following intermission, the orchestra will perform Shostakovich's gripping and powerful Symphony No. 5.