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FWO Archives: 'Cruzar La Cara De La Luna' (2017) - Cruzar: The Background & Article by Pépé Martinez

Updated: Jul 17

José "Pepe" Martinez and Leonard Foglia's groundbreaking mariachi opera kicked off Fort Worth Opera's Noches de Òpera programming, celebrating Spanish language operas, culture, composers and librettists.

Cruzar: The Background by

Director, Librettist, and Novelist Leonard Foglia

Cruzar La Cara De La Luna began with a phone call from Anthony Freud, then General Director of Houston Grand Opera. The morning after he had attended a Mariachi Vargas concert, he called me and asked what I thought about creating a mariachi opera. At the time I was living part-time in Mexico and was very familiar with mariachi music. Because mariachi music is so filled with emotion as well as being character driven, I knew that it would lend itself beautifully to the operatic stage.

Renata (Cecilia Duarte) and Laurentino (Octavio Moreno) join Lupita (Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo) and her husband Chucho (Saúl Ávalos) in a dance; photo by Karen Almond.
Renata (Cecilia Duarte) in 'Cruzar la Cara de la Luna;' photo by Karen Almond.

The directive I was given was to create a story that would have meaning for the Mexican ­ American community but also with the hope that it would be universal. As I began speaking to people both in the US and Mexico, I started to focus in on the theme of displacement. Soon questions began to emerge - Where is home? Is it where we are born? Or where we live most of our lives? Is it with the family we leave behind or with the new ones we create? I soon realized that these were the questions debated in my own family who had emigrated from Italy - were we Italians, Italian-Americans or Americans?

Daniel Montenegro as Rafael in 'Cruzar la Cara de la Luna'; Photo by Karen Almond.

The piece has been performed now in Houston twice, San Diego, Chicago and Paris, France. Bringing the opera to Paris was the most instructive. The piece was written with a very specific audience in mind and I wondered how it would fare in a place that was completely removed from that population as well the immigration issue we are dealing with here in the US. France is not very familiar with mariachi music. One of the administrators of the theater told me after the final dress rehearsal that she had brought her children with their Croatian nanny to see the piece thinking they would enjoy the music. After the performances he went to see how her children liked the music and found the nanny crying. She explained, "This is my story." The success of the piece in Paris at the Théatre du Chatelet was especially satisfying because it proved that the piece is indeed universal.

Read the Dallas Morning News review HERE
Diana (Brittany Wheeler), left, and Mark (Brian Shircliffe), right, sit beside the bed-ridden Laurentino (Octavio Moreno); photo by Karen Almond.

Because of the success of Cruzar, Anthony Freud, now General Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, has commissioned a second mariachi opera from Pépé Martinez and myself. It's entitled El Pasado Nunca Se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) and it will premiere at LOC in March of 2015 before playing at Houston Grand Opera and San Diego Opera.

Leonard Foglia is an American theatre director, librettist, and novelist. He made his Broadway debut as the assistant director of The Heidi Chronicles in 1989. He also directed revivals of Wait Until Dark and On Golden Pond. He made his Houston Grand Opera debut in 2004 directing the world premiere of Heggie's The End of the Affair. Other opera credits include Heggie's Dead Man Walking for Pacific Opera and the world premieres of Three Decembers at Houston Grand Opera and Moby Dick at the Dallas Opera. He is the Librettist of Cruzar La Cara De La Luna as well as the director.

Left to right, Renata (Cecilia Duarte), Mark (Brian Shircliffe), Rafael (Daniel Montenegro), and Diana (Brittany Wheeler) on stage as thousands of Monarch butterflies fall from the skies; photo by Karen Almond.

Cruzar La Cara De La Luna: A Composer's Thoughts

This article first appeared in Volume II of Arizona Opera’s Soundtracks, Fall | Winter 2014. The late Pépé Martinez wrote...

The experience of having created the first mariachi opera, with a theme of people migrating to another country for the well-being of their family, made me remember my youth when I had to work in the United States, in order to be able to send a little money to my parents who had to sustain a family of nine children. Watching the audience from many different nationalities crying, reminded me of all those people who lived through similar experiences, showed us that the main topic was not only about United States and Mexico. We are talking about a worldwide feeling.

Renata (Cecilia Duarte), left, and Lupita (Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo) in 'Cruzar la Cara de la Luna;' photo by Karen Almond.

In Paris the response was exactly the same, and the monarch butterflies, a special symbol of Cruzar La Cara De La Luna, means much more than Michoacán, a State of the Mexican Republic where that kind of butterflies belong; it means the freedom to go all through the world feeling happy and prosperous. Since 1979 I have written music to merge Mariachi music with Symphony Orchestras. However as I developed Cruzar with Leonard Foglia and a team of Houston Grand Opera, I realized that they did not want to simulate a symphony orchestra with the mariachi but to create an original score respecting the style and genre of mariachi. This made the work much easier.

Lupita (Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo) and Chucho (Saúl Ávalos) dancing in front of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán; photo by Karen Almond.

The Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán has interpreted different genres of Mexican music: huapangos, boleros, sones, jarabes and so on. The Mariachi Vargas has been one of the privileged mariachis being "the first” in many experiences: The first to accompany the most famous and international singers, the first to merge the mariachi music with philharmonic and symphony orchestras worldwide, the first mariachi performing at the most important stages around the world, and the first who climb from being the Musical Accompaniment and becoming the lead artist in the entertainment industry. Cruzar La Cara De La Luna places Mariachi Vargas the first to represent Mexico in the opera world.

Victor (Juan Mejia) in 'Cruzar la Cara de la Luna;' photo by Karen Almond.

The future of the mariachi music is increasingly stronger in the United States and all around the world, because the combination of the instruments that comprise it and the force and lyrical virtuosity of Mexican music, which make the audience’s emotions explode. In the one hundred and fifteen years of life of the Mariachi Vargas, we have traveled around the world and we see, in Japan, the Czech Republic, Venezuela, France, the United States or any country, the same answer. No matter whether they understand the Spanish lyrics, it's enough to allow ourselves to be carried away by the fusion of sounds that characterize mariachi.


Laurentino — Octavio Moreno*

Rafael — Daniel Montenegro*

Diana — Brittany Wheeler*

Mark - Brian Shircliffe*

Renata — Cecilia Duarte*

Lupita — Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo*

Chucho — Saúl Ávalos*

Victor — Juan Mejia*

Ensemble — Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán

Director — Leonard Foglia

Music Supervisor – David Hanlon

Music Director – Chía Patiño

Scenic Designer — Leonard Foglia

Costume Designer – Cesar Galindo

Lighting Designer — Brian Nason

Assistant Director — Keturah Stickann

Choreographer – Keturah Stickann

Spanish Supertitle — Gabriela Lomónaco

*denotes FWOpera debut


Fort Worth Opera partnered with Telemundo and Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth to bring the community a live simulcast of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from Bass Performance Hall. The event, called Fiesta Fort Worth, featured guest performances by local Ballet Folklórico de Fort Worth and other incredible guest artists. See the full impact in the photo album below. Photos by Nine Photography and Paulina Magdaleno.


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