Gabriela Lena Frank : La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove)
Nilo CruzFirst performance:
February 17 2011
Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Joana Carniero, conductor
St. Paul, MNComposer note:La centinela y la paloma (The Keeper and the Dove)
, for soprano and chamber orchestra, finds its inspiration in two national treasures of Mexico: its annual Día de los muertos
(Day of the Dead) folk-Catholic festival and iconic painter Frida Kahlo. A distillation of a large-scale opera in progress by playwright Nilo Cruz and composer Gabriela Lena Frank, this cycle of four songs features two characters: Catrina, the keeper of souls (also known as the Lady of Death), who bestows a gift but once a year to the spirits in her charge whereby they can visit their loved ones still living; and Frida, who, having predeceased her beloved husband Diego Rivera, yearns to see him once again.
The four songs are:
- La centinela de los fieles difuntos (The Keeper of the Faithful Departed): Catrina, regal, all-powerful, and elusively ironical, announces the start of the night, watching as her spirits return to the cemetery grounds paved with petals by the living. Her favorite spirit is her dove Frida (¡Mi palomita!).
- ¡Que viva la vida! (Long Live Life!): Frida now takes center stage, reveling in her return to worldly pleasures. Most of all, she is dying to see Diego, her little frog (¡Mi sapito!).
- La ley de la muerta (The Law of Death): The night of visitation is coming to a close, and Frida is feeling Death's inevitable claim as her physical form disintegrates. She can no longer experience either a satisfying semblance of life or her reunion with Diego.
- El descenso (The Descent): Catrina calls to her spirits to return, angrily realizing that Frida is late, resisting the summons. As Frida tries to flee, Catrina admonishes and gives chase, ultimately triumphing to bring the night to a close.
Gabriela Lena Frank
Frank's cycle is the distillation of an opera-in-progress with a text by Pulitzer Prize-winning Cuban playwright Nilo Cruz. The setting is the Mexican festival Dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead), where Catrina, the Keeper of souls, releases her spirits. One of them is the Dove of the title, internationally famed artist Frida Kahlo.
The work is keenly dramatic, from the eerie and ethereal conjuring of the spirit realm to Frida's sensuous and earthy evocation of life.
Upshaw delivered a committed performance....
She was more successful as Kahlo, anticipating the carnality of the physical world. The tragedy of her not being able to embrace her husband, the artist Diego Rivera, was movingly expressed in a devastating a cappella lament.
William Randall Beard, Star Tribune, 18/02/2011
La centinela y la paloma (The Keeper and the Dove) is a collaboration between composer Gabriela Lena Frank and Pulitzer-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, a song cycle that imagines painter Frida Kahlo passing through the earthly realm again on the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos.
Most will find themselves on far more comfortable terrain with Frank's song cycle. The composer has created an evocative soundscape, having Upshaw give voice to an earthy shepherd of the spirits and a grieving Kahlo. Mariachi trumpets sound fanfares and alarms erupt before transforming into church bells, yet the interesting orchestration is often eclipsed by Upshaw's captivating take on the demanding vocals.
Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press, 18/02/2011