After a five-year journey, Peruvian composer Jimmy Lopez is seeing his first opera, Bel Canto, come to life. The gestation of this work was uneventful, well organized and conscientiously nurtured by the creative team at Lyric Opera of Chicago, headed and curated by famed American soprano Renee Fleming.
It was through Peruvian conductor, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, that Renee Fleming learned of Jimmy Lopez. Out of a talent pool of over 100, Jimmy Lopez’ intrinsically new and fresh musical style was the one chosen for the task of bringing Ann Patchett’s award winning novel, Bel Canto, to the stage.
From the beginning, it was undeniable that the composer and Pulitzer Prize winner, dramaturge Nilo Cruz — who had been tasked with writing the libretto — had great creative and working ‘chemistry,’ as Jimmy Lopez himself expressed. Adding to brewing expectations was the fact that this is the first time that two Latin Americans are commissioned with a work of this kind and magnitude.
Jimmy Lopez explains about his creative process, ‘I finished with the end but I didn’t start with the beginning. I don’t work like that.’ They were certainly very explicit due dates to meet and the composing routine was quite intense, consisting of a full day of writing music with a small break half way through.
No one could have guessed, five years ago, how current, relevant and even controversial Bel Canto‘s storyline would be at the moment of its world premiere. Ann Patchett was inspired while watching CNN cover the Lima Crisis of 1996, during which members of the terrorist group known as Tupac Amaru took hostage, for three months, the Japanese embassy with several diplomats and heads of state.
Paris, Lebanon, San Bernardino…all speak volumes to the relevance of this story line. Adding to the mix is the coincidental release of ‘New York’s most notorious revolutionary tourist — ‘sandalista’ Lori Benson.’ According to the New York Post she is now back in Manhattan from Peru where she served 15 years in prison for terrorism after joining Tupac Amaru.
Behind the apparent evidence of guerrilla covered faces, camouflaged outfits and blazing gunshots lies the true message of Bel Canto. As cliché as it might seem, it’s all about music’s ability to reach peoples of different worlds that otherwise would never be able to communicate; rather, maybe, only collide.
Bel Canto premiered at Lyric Opera of Chicago this Monday, December 7, with six performances left on December 10 & 12 and January 5, 8, 13 & 17. For more information, visit Lyric Opera of Chicago – Bel Canto.