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CSUB to stage Spanish opera
  January 20, 2006
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456,,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138,

California State University, Bakersfield Singers Opera Theatre invites the community to enjoy a “first-ever” English translation of the Spanish zarzuela “The Festival of La Paloma.” The Spanish light opera by Tomás Bretón with English translation by Peggy Sears, CSUB vocal instructor and director, is scheduled for a three-day run Jan. 27-29 in the Doré Theatre on campus.

“CSUB only produces one complete opera with an orchestra once every three years, so this is a big event,” Sears said.

CSUB’s orchestra, conducted by CSUB director of instrumental music Patricia Childress, will perform the score, with a mix of CSUB music students, a CSUB theatre faculty member, one Bakersfield College student, and one community person singing the parts.

“The CSUB Opera Theatre has been performing zarzuela scenes as part of their opera scenes for years, but there are no translations of these opera available,” Sears explained. Sears has been interested in Hispanic literature and culture for years and used her sabbatical last year to translate the libretto of Ricardo de la Vega's “The Festival of La Paloma.” She said, “The music of Bretón this libretto is set to is tuneful and accessible and the ‘Habanera Concertante’ from this opera is known by all in Spain.”

The light romantic opera is set in 1894 in a plaza in Madrid. It is the day of the summer festival and the action centers on lovers who fight and make up and dance the night away. “It’s a neighborhood where everybody knows everybody,” Sears said. “And everybody is in everybody’s business.”

Paloma is a Madrid street, famous for a statuette of the Virgin, which performed popularly attested miracles in the late 18th century. This was celebrated by the annual verbena or local religious festival spilling over into dancing and street carnival revelry. Vega’s text depicts a slice of life during the festival and his characters are drawn from the working people he’d have observed any and every day in Madrid.

One of the characters the audience will meet is Julián, a typesetter in a printing works, model of the educated working-class young man whose honesty and intelligence set him apart from the mob. Julián has been courting Susana, but Susana has now started gallivanting around town with another man. “Because she is bored and wants to spark his interest she decides to date the rich but older pharmacist to make her true love jealous,” said Amanda Locke, a CSUB music education major who plays Susana. Meanwhile, Julián’s godmother gets involved and he must decide to either fight for Susana or let her go.

“This has been a lot for the students to do,” Sears said. “This is very much an ensemble cast. Everybody has an important part.” Sears said the cast learned similar dances to what individuals of that time period would do. “I have put a lot of time learning the music and dialogue,” said Bryce Loo, a CSUB history major who plays Julián.

Loo feels this is a wonderful cultural opportunity for Kern County. “This is a great opportunity for the local public not only to experience the refined art of opera but also to experience a little bit of classical Spanish culture,” he said. “Especially as Bakersfield is rapidly diversifying and opening up to the outside world.”

Sears said there would be supertitles shown on a screen above the performers to translate the Spanish music lyrics but all dialogue is in English.

The sold out opening-night gala and the Sunday Sangria Brunch will help underwrite the production of the opera as well as provide funding for the Fine Arts Merit Award Scholarship Fund.

Tickets for the 12:30 p.m. brunch, which includes tickets to the 2 p.m. performance slated for Jan. 29, are $40 per person. For information on the gala or brunch, please call (661) 654-2136.

The curtain will rise at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27-28, with a matinee performance on Sunday, Jan. 29, beginning at 2 p.m. Tickets for “The Festival of La Paloma” are $15 general admission, $10 for seniors and students with ID. For more information, please call (661) 654-2168.



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