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El Paso Opera stages a cross-border story in the first-ever “mariachi opera”

Leora Zeitlin

As part of its 25th anniversary year celebrations, El Paso Opera chose a production that would fully reflect life on the southern border. “Cruzar la Cara del la Luna,” billed as “the world’s first mariachi opera,” crosses both artistic and musical borders even as it tells a story of a family crossing national borders.

“People think ‘mariachi opera,’ what does that mean?” asked Arianne Marcee, executive director of El Paso Opera in this interview with Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin. “But within minutes… it just makes perfect sense. Whoever had the idea shows a love of both arts. It shows respect for opera; it shows respect for mariachi. It’s truly a love and marriage of the two.”

Written by Jose “Pepe” Martinez and Leonard Foglia, and commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera in 2010, the opera combines other border elements as well, as it is sung in a combination of Spanish (for the older characters) and English (for the younger, American-born characters), and includes both classically- and mariachi-trained singers. “It felt like something that was very true to who are,” Marcee said of her reaction when she first saw the opera staged.

El Paso Opera’s production includes the Grammy Award-winning group Mariachi Los Camperos, who will be on the stage the entire time. Performances are Friday and Saturday (April 5 and 6) at 7:30 p.m. at the Abraham Chavez Theater. Listen here for more about this groundbreaking opera and El Paso’s production:

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