World Premiere Of EL ÚLTIMO SUEÑO DE FRIDA Y DIEGO Opens San Diego Opera's Season In October

Performances mark Company debut by baritone Alfredo Daza as Diego Rivera, soprano Maria Katzarava as Catrina, and countertenor Key'mon Murrah as Leonardo.

By: Aug. 30, 2022
World Premiere Of EL ÚLTIMO SUEÑO DE FRIDA Y DIEGO Opens San Diego Opera's Season In October

San Diego Opera will present the world premiere of Gabriela Lena Frank's El último sueño de Frida y Diego (The Last Dream of Frida and Diego) on Saturday, October 29, 2022 at the San Diego Civic Theatre for four performances.

Additional performances are November 1, 4, and 6 (matinee), 2022. El último sueño de Frida y Diego is a fictional story, inspired by the lives of the two Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Three years have passed since the death of Frida, and Diego grieves for his wife. On the Día de Muertos he prays for her return, and La Catrina, keeper of the underworld grants his wish allowing Frida and Diego to rekindle their passionate relationship one more time.

El ultimó sueño de Frida y Diego is the first opera by Grammy-Award winning composer Gabriela Lena Frank with the libretto written by Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Nilo Cruz. El ultimó sueño de Frida y Diego is a co-commission with San Francisco Opera, Ft. Worth Opera, the DePauw University School of Music, with additional support from the University of Texas at Austin College of Fine Arts. These performances star mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz as Frida, who last heard locally as Mercedes in 2019's Carmen. She is joined by baritone Alfredo Daza as Diego, soprano Maria Katzarava as Catrina, and countertenor Key'mon Murrah as Leonardo all in Company debuts. The director is Lorena Maza and the conductor is Roberto Kalb both in Company debuts.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera have inspired generations of artists and this new opera explores the relationship between these two great Mexican artists. During the celebration of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), surrounded by candles and the fragrance of marigolds, the great muralist Diego Rivera longs to see his deceased wife Frida Kahlo once more. Catrina, the keeper of the souls, approaches Frida in the afterlife, and explains that Diego desperately needs his beloved wife as the end of his life approaches. For only twenty-four hours, Frida and Diego will relive their tumultuous love through their paintings and embrace the passion they shared.

Composer Gabriela Lena Frank said: "Frida Kahlo has been a hero since my girlhood. Before I could read, I found her in the pages of an art book in my mother's home library, the only woman in a multi-volume set of 'great artists.' My mother pointed out how Frida was small, brown and creative like us; moreover, of thick brow, disabled and a daughter of both Europe and Latin America like me. Images in her paintings danced in my dreams for years. Now with my first opera with librettist Nilo Cruz, it has been a privilege to lose myself in this fantastical story exploring Frida's tumultuous love affair, even beyond life itself, with Mexican painter Diego Rivera against the vibrant backdrop of the Day of the Dead. I am grateful."

This is a new production, built at the San Diego Opera Scenic Studio and San Diego Opera Costume Shop. The set designer is Jorge Ballina, the costume designer is Eloise Kazan, and the lighting designer is Victor Zapatero. This is a co-production between San Diego Opera and San Francisco Opera. El ultimó sueño de Frida y Diego is the 4th world premiere presented by San Diego Opera after Medea in 1972, La Loca in 1979, and The Conquistador in 1997. El ultimó sueño de Frida y Diego will be performed in Spanish with English translations above the stage. El ultimó sueño de Frida y Diego is only available to San Diego Opera subscribers at the moment. Single tickets will be on sale for this opera on August 29, 2022.

These performances are made possible in part by The Conrad Prebys Foundation, San Diego Opera's Fall Season Sponsor. This opera is a co-commission with San Francisco Opera, Fort Worth Opera, DePauw University School of Music, and with support from The University of Texas at Austin College of Fine Arts.

Artist Bios

Guadalupe Paz, Frida

Mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz made her Company debut as Mercedes in Carmen in 2019. Notable appearances include Melibea in Il Viaggio a Reims and Hansel in Hansel and Gretel with Bellas Artes National Opera, Rosina in The Barber of Seville and Angelina in Cinderella with Teatro del Bicentenario and Bellas Artes National Opera, Isolier in Le Comte Ory with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jalisco, and Maddalena in Il Viaggio a Reims at the Rossini Opera Festival. Her concert repertory includes Glagolitic Mass at the International Cervantino Festival, Ode to Common Things with La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, Tres Canciones para Orquestra y Mezzosoprano at International Festival Instrumenta, and Seven Deadly Sins at the Aspen Music Festival.

Alfredo Daza, Diego

San Diego Opera debut. Notable debuts include Stankar in Stiffelio, Francesco Moor in I masnadieri with Konzerthaus Berlin, Rodrigo in Don Carlo with Staatsoper Berlin, Ford in Falstaff with Staatsoper Berlin, Staatsoper Hamburg, and Teatro Communale di Bologna, and Renato in A Masked Ball with Staatsoper Berlin. His interpretation of Giorgio Germont in La traviata, for unter den Linden brought him to Staatsoper Hamburg and the Tokyo National Theatre where he sang the part in a production directed by Phillip Boussard and conducted by Yves Abel. Other notable appearances include Paolo Albiani in Simone Boccanegra with Placido Domingo in the main role and Daniel Barenboim in the pit. He also appeared as Scarpia in Tosca at Theater St Gallen. He started his vocal studies at the Puebla Conservatory in Puebla (Mexico) at the age of 12. Later he continued studying in the Mexico City Conservatory. The Mexican baritone started his international career as an Adler Fellow in San Francisco Opera's world renown young artists program at the age of 21. Shortly after his fellowship he debuted in several theaters of North America and Europe including Schaunard in La bohème at San Francisco Opera, Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, and Canadian Opera Company, Valentin in Faust at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genua, and as Dandini in La Cenerentola at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. For Washington National Opera he sang Marcello in La bohème and the title role of The Barber of Seville, which became one of his most celebrated roles. He also performed Marcello at New York City Opera. As Ford in Falstaff, he appeared at the Teatro Communale di Bologna and Staatsoper Hamburg conducted. As a baritone of the ensemble of the Staatsoper Berlin he has sung roles such as Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Guglielmo in Cosí fan tutte, Belcore in The Elixir of Love, Figaro in The Barber of Seville, Prosdocimo in Il turco in Italia, Yeletzki in Pique dame, the title role in Hans Zender's world premiere of Chief Joseph, Marcello, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Ping in Turandot, Lescaut in Manon, Valentin, Ford, Germont, and Conte di Luna in Il trovatore. Recordings include DVD of La bohéme (as Marcello) with the New York City Opera, The Elixir of Love DVD (Belcore) with the Glyndebourne Festival for OPUS ARTE, the albums Stolen Notes Verdi Arias and Angel & Demon, and the DVD of Massenet's Manon as Lescaut with the Staatsoper Berlin.

Maria Katzarava, Catrina

San Diego Opera debut. Soprano Maria Katzarava is the 2008 winner of Operalia in the Opera and Zarzuela category. Other awards include Oscar della Lirica (Arena di Verona, 2010) and Miami Life Award. The Mexican soprano has already sung in some among the world's leading theaters, including ROH Covent Garden in London, Teatro alla Scala in Milano, Opéra de Lausanne, Florida Grand Opera, Teatro Filarmonico in Verona, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari, Teatro Liceu in Barcelona, Teatro Regio di Parma, working with such conductors as Zubin Mehta, Donato Renzetti, Daniel Oren, Michele Mariotti, Gustavo Dudamel and Daniele Callegari. In 2010 she made her Royal Opera House London debut as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette. In the same role she triumphed at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Opéra de Lausanne, Florida Grand Opera, Teatro Filarmonico in Verona, St. Etienne and in Moscow. Other notable performances include Gilda in Rigoletto during a Japan tour with Teatro alla Scala; Desdemona in Otello for her debut at Liceu de Barcelona; La traviata at Grand Théâtre de Genève and at Florida Grand Opera; La Muette de Portici by Daniel Auber and I pagliacci at Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari, Amelia d'Egmont in Le Duc d'Albe at Opera de Oviedo; Leonore in Fidelio at Opera Carolina in Charlotte, Antonia, Stella and Giulietta in The Tales of Hoffmann in Piacenza, Modena and Reggio Emilia, Micaëla in Carmen at Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova, Liù in Turandot at Teatro Lirico di Cagliari and at Terme di Caracalla with Opera di Roma, Madama Butterfly and Carmen at Massimo in Palermo, Carmen at Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Stiffelio at Festival Verdi in Parma in a new production staged by Graham Vick, Elisabetta in Don Carlo at Palau de les Arts de Valencia alongside Placido Domingo, Amelia in Simon Boccanegra at Opéra de Lausanne, Aida at Royal Opera Stockholm, among others.

Key'mon W. Murrah, Leonardo

San Diego Opera debut. Countertenor Key'mon Murrah has been heard with University of Kentucky Opera Theatre and Bluegrass Opera in performances of Die Fledermaus, The Magic Flute, Tales of Hoffman, and La bohéme. His most notable roles are Mingo in Porgy and Bess and creating the role of the Spiritual Man in Ernst Bacon's A Tree on the Plains and has sung the role of Tolomeo from Handel's Giulio Cesare with Red River Lyric Opera and Asprano in Vivaldi's Montezuma with America Baroque Opera Company. Murrah was recently featured in a Masterclass with Joyce DiDonato in for Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute and continued his studies at the International Vocal Arts Institute. In 2009 Murrah received the Second Place Undergraduate Award at The Alltech Vocal Competition, and in 2010 he won the second-place award at the National Association of Negro Musicians and Bellarmine's University's "Traditional Negro Spiritual' Voice Competition. In 2014, Murrah was a finalist in the Juanita Peterson Vocal Competition, won 2nd place at the Emerging Soloists Competition, and was a finalist in the Opera MODO Opera Competition. Recently, Murrah toured with the American Spiritual Ensemble and in the summer of 2020, he was a young artist with the Glimmerglass Opera Festival.

Lorena Maza, Director

San Diego Opera debut. Born in Mexico City, stage director Lorena Maza has directed more than 50 plays, 5 operas and 5 musicals. She has been director of Mexico´s National Theater Company, director of Teatro Helenico and of Teatro UNAM, where she managed 3 venues and produced 35 plays a year. She has been an acting teacher for more than 20 years, in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the National University of Mexico as well as at CUT - UNAM. She has been recognized with 11 awards for best direction and best play of the year. With her work she has participated in 6 national and international festivals; has translated more than 40 dramatic texts, and was the translator for National Theater LIVE. In the private sector, she founded and directed the Ocesa theater department of Grupo CIE, producing his first musical Disney´s Beauty and the Beast, with more than 650,000 spectators. She wrote, directed and co-produced Bésame Mucho, Ocesa's first original musical with more than 500 performances and 350,000 spectators. In 2017, she opened her own production company, 19TEATRO, together with other theater professionals.

Roberto Kalb, Conductor

San Diego Opera debut. Mexican-born conductor Roberto Kalb makes multiple debuts in the 2022-2023 season, including with San Francisco Opera, Compañía Nacional de Ópera and at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. The 2021-2022 season marked a debut with the Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier, as well as return collaborations with Wolf Trap Opera and the National Symphony Orchestra for La traviata, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, for the world premiere of Tobias Picker's Awakenings. In 2019, Kalb concluded his five-season tenure as resident conductor and head of music at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis with a critically acclaimed run of Rigoletto in collaboration with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, which Opera News lauded: "The orchestra sounded sublime under the baton of Roberto Kalb, whose buoyant conducting simultaneously led and followed the singers." Additional highlights include productions at the Michigan Opera Theatre, Florida Grand Opera, Tulsa Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Maine, as well as performances with the Orquesta Carlos Chavez in Mexico City, and the Orquestra Sinfonica da USP in São Paulo. Kalb also worked as cover / assistant conductor for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. Kalb is one of the recipients of the 2021 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and currently resides in Berlin, Germany with his wife, soprano Mane Galoyan.

Gabriela Lena Frank, Composer

San Diego Opera debut. Currently serving as Composer-in-Residence with the storied Philadelphia Orchestra and included in the Washington Post's list of the 35 most significant women composers in history (August, 2017), identity has always been at the center of composer/pianist Gabriela Lena Frank's music. Born in Berkeley, California (September, 1972), to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Gabriela explores her multicultural heritage through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, Gabriela has traveled extensively throughout South America in creative exploration. Her music often reflects not only her own personal experience as a multi-racial Latina, but also refract her studies of Latin American cultures, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own. In 2020, Gabriela was a recipient of the prestigious 25th anniversary Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanity category with an unrestricted cash prize of $250,000, a meaningful portion of which was donated by Gabriela to the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. The award recognized Gabriela for breaking gender, disability, and cultural barriers in the classical music industry, and for her work as an activist on behalf of emerging composers of all demographics and aesthetics. Winner of a Latin Grammy and nominated for Grammys as both composer and pianist, Gabriela also holds a Guggenheim Fellowship and a USA Artist Fellowship given each year to fifty of the country's finest artists. Her work has been described as "crafted with unself-conscious mastery" (Washington Post), "brilliantly effective" (New York Times), "a knockout" (Chicago Tribune) and "glorious" (Los Angeles Times). Gabriela is regularly commissioned by luminaries such as cellist Yo Yo Ma, soprano Dawn Upshaw, the King's Singers, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano with guitarist Manuel Barrueco, Brooklyn Rider, and conductors Marin Alsop and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. She has also received orchestral commissions and performances from leading American orchestras including the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony. Before her current residency with the Philadelphia Orchestra for which she will compose the 45-minute Chronicles of the Picaflor (Hummingbird), in 2017 she completed her four-year tenure as composer-in-residence with the Detroit Symphony under maestro Leonard Slatkin, composing Walkabout: Concerto for Orchestra, as well as a second residency with the Houston Symphony under Andrés Orozco-Estrada for whom she composed the Conquest Requiem, a large-scale choral/orchestral work in Spanish, Latin, and Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Gabriela's most recent premieres have been Apu: Tone Poem for Orchestra commissioned by Carnegie Hall and premiered by the National Youth Orchestra of the United States under the baton of conductor Marin Alsop; and Suite Mestiza, a large-scale work for solo violin premiered by Movses Pogossian. In the 2018-19 school year, Gabriela also became visiting Artist-in-Residence at the Blair School of Music with Vanderbilt University, and currently serves as Composer-in-Residence at the Caines School of Music at Utah State University through 2024, adding to her long list of residencies at universities and conservatories through the US. This is her first opera.

Nilo Cruz, Librettist

San Diego Opera debut. Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz gained national prominence in 2003 when he won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for his play Anna in the Tropics, for which he also received a Tony Award nomination. The immigrant experience is a common theme in many of Cruz's plays and he has become known for his ability to successfully weave strains of magic realism and other literary traditions into his works. In addition to the Pulitzer, he has received numerous awards, including those from the Kennedy Center Fund, American Theatre Critics and the Humana Festival for New American Plays; as well as grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. His plays include Dancing on Her Knees; A Park in Our House; Two Sisters and a Piano; A Bicycle Country; Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams; Lorca in a Green Dress; Beauty of the Father; Hurricane; and A VERY OLD Man with Enormous Wings, as well as translations of Doña Rosita the Spinster; The House of Bernarda Alba; Life Is a Dream; and ¡Ay, Carmela! His work has been seen at numerous theaters around the country including, among others, South Coast Rep, the Mark Taper Forum, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Washington D.C.'s Studio Theatre and New York's Public Theater; and around the world in Canada, England, France, Australia, Germany, Belarus, Costa Rica, Colombia, Japan and Spain. As a lyricist, he is a frequent collaborator with composer Gabriela Lena Frank. He has written the libretti for The Conquest Requiem and The Santos Oratorio for Ms. Frank and the text of orchestral songs, La Centinela y la paloma. Cruz also adapted Ann Patchett's 2001 novel Bel Canto for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, with Peruvian composer Jimmy López and recently premiered the oratorio Dreamers by López at Cal Performance in Berkeley, California. Cruz, who received an M.F.A. from Brown University and an honorary doctorate degree from Whittier College, has twice previously served as a playwright-in-residence: In 2000, for the McCarter Theatre, in Princeton, N.J., and in 2001 for the New Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida, which commissioned Anna in the Tropics. Cruz has also taught drama at Yale, Brown and the University of Iowa. During the 2019/20 academic year, he was the Hearst Theater Lab Initiative Distinguished Visiting Playwright-in-Residence at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. He is a member of the New Dramatists.

Jorge Ballina, Scenic Designer

San Diego Opera debut. Jorge Ballina was born in Mexico City. He graduated as an architect at Universidad Iberoamericana. He is a member of the Mexican National System of Art Creators. His work has been exhibited in five Prague Quadrennial festivals of Stage Design where he won a Honorary Mention in 2003. He also won the Gold Medal for Set Design at the World Stage Design Toronto 2005 exhibition. He has designed more than one hundred sets for Mexican productions of opera, theater, musicals, and dance including The Magic Flute, Macbeth, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro (also National theatre in Zagreb), Cosí fan tutte, L'italiana in Algeri, Fidelio, Rusalka (also Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires), Les Contes les contes d'Hoffmann, L'amour de Loin, Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci, Carmen and Wagner's Ring Cycle. He directed and designed Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice. Plays include Beyond, Copenhagen, Phaedra and other Greek Women, End of Circus Erotica, The Shape of Things, Touché, All About my Mother, Sleuth, Cock, Dervish, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Red, The Illusion, Glengarry Glen Ross, Salome, Constellations, Let the Right One In, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Privacy, Richard III, As You Like It, The Glass Menagerie, Egmont, Coriolanus, No Exit, Blue Room, and A Soldier in Every Son (Royal Shakespeare Company), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Si nos dejan, Man of la Mancha, Rent, Next to Normal, Seven Times Goodbye, and Mentiras. Dance work includes THR3E, Evening in Mogador, 3.1416, The Glance of the Deaf, Romeo & Juliet, The Rite of Spring, Snow White, King and King, Omphalos (also Kampnagel, Hamburg), Filling the Emptiness, and Giselle-she´s el (also stage director).

Eloise Kazan, Costume Design.

San Diego Opera debut. Eloise Kazan studied fine arts at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City and in 1999 she graduated from a postgraduate design course at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the UK. She has worked internationally as a designer on more than seventy productions including theatre, dance, opera, interior architecture and film. Her credits include costume design for the Royal Shakespeare Company production of A Soldier in Every Son directed by Roxana Silbert (2012), costume design for the critically acclaimed play The Good Canary directed by John Malkovich (2008) and the production design for award winning director Deborah Kampmeier's independent feature film Split, released in 2016. Her design work for opera includes Macbeth (Ópera de Bellas Artes), Rusalka (Teatro Colòn, Ópera de Bellas Artes), The Marriage of Figaro (Croatian National Opera), The Barber of Seville (Teatro del Bicentenario), Madama Butterfly (Festival de Mayo), Bastien and Bastienne (CC Salamanca), Jenufa (Ópera de Bellas Artes, Festival de México), Winterreise (The Universal Forum of Cultures), Lucio Anneo Seneca (CCU, México D.F), Cosí fan tutte (Festival Mozart), El Cimarrón (FME, Mexico City). She was a recipient of the top prize for costume design at the Prague Quadrennial 2007 and she was a member of the internationally jury for PQ 2015 and World Stage Design 2017 and 2022.

Victor Zapatero, Lighting Designer

San Diego Opera debut. Víctor Zapatero's career as a lighting designer covers opera, theater, and dance; collaborating on the most outstanding productions in Mexico. In 2010 he was selected as Lighting Director for the Bicentennial Celebration in the traditional and commemorative Noche del Grito (Night of the Scream) under the production of the Australian Olympic Games producer, Ric Birch held in the Plaza Zócalo in Mexico City. In 2012 he collaborated as lighting coordinaor on the opera Einstein on the Beach at the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes), under the production of Robert Wilson. In the same year he illuminated the inauguration of the scenic amphitheater designed by James Turrell at Hacienda Ochil, Yucatan, with the participation of the musician Philip Glass. At the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts in México City, among the many operas he has collaborated on, the most notable productions for him are The Magic Flute (2000); Death in Venice (2011); Rigoletto (2014), Don Giovanni (2015), Rusalka (2018) and L´amour de loin (2019). For theatre, he collaborated on the productions of Privacy, Macbeth and Man of La Mancha, the latter awarded as the best lighting design in a musical work at the Metropolitan Theater Awards. In dance he recently collaborated in Omphalos by the renowned belgian choreographer Damien Jalet. In recent years, he has begun ventures as a visual artist creating notable and thought provoking immersive light installations that place the viewer as the protagonist of each piece. The Forest (El Bosque), his first piece, premiered in 2019 at the Cervantino International Festival. SOMA The Tree of Life is his second installation made with multicolored light projections on the surface of the trees which symbolizes a reconciliation between Heaven and Earth. He is currently collaborating in a project to illuminate a large cenote cave in the nature reserve of Xibalbá, Yucatan.

Ruby Tagle, Choreographer

San Diego Opera debut. Choreographer Ruby Tagle's work has been seen in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, England, Scotland, France, Ecuador, Spain, Denmark, Canada, and Germany. She has created work for theater, opera, dance, and cinema, working with directors and ceators such as Peter Greenaway, Sergio Vela, José Caballero, Mauricio Garcia Lozano, Lorena Maza, Claudio Valdes Kuri, Jorge Vargas, Sergio Catano, Benjamin Cann, Tony Castro, Alicia Sanchez, Raul Parrao, Sabina Berman, Enrique Singer, Monica Raya, among others. She has collaborated in more than 70 dance, theater, and opera productions. Notable work has been seen at the Edinburgh Festival, Sao Pedro Theater, Opera Sao Paulo, XVII Amazon Opera Festival, Mercosul Biennial, Theater Der Welt, National Theater Company of Mexico, Theater of Certain Inhabitants, International Cervantino Festival, Real Theater, Festival of the Historic Center of Mexico City Bicentennial, Theater Roberto Plasencia Saldana, Fine Arts Opera of Mexico, National Dance Ensemble of Ecuador, 3-Legged Dog NYC, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Shadow Line Theater, Nemian Dance Company, Contemporary Dance Company of Oaxaca, Contemporary Dance Production Center, Impulse Festival of National Autonomous University of Mexico, Nezahualcoyotl Room, among others. She is currently a jury member for Mexico on Stage.