Opera Modesto, formerly Townsend Opera Players, has received the first National Endowment for the Arts Grant in the 37-year history of the company.
Modesto, California – April 19, 2021
The $13,000 NEA Art Grants for Arts Projects Opera Grant will support Opera Modesto’s 2021-22 Story Into Song Literacy Initiative production of two one-act bilingual operas: the US premiere of DULCINEA by Mauricio SOTELO (based on Don Quixote de la Mancha by Cervantes) and a new one act version of BLESS ME ULTIMA (based on the famous Chicano novel by Rudolfo Anaya) by Hector Armienta (commissioned by Opera Modesto).
Story Into Song Literacy Initiative (SISLI)
Opera Modesto’s SISLI is an annual literacy/ESL community collaborative project centered on the production of a literature-based opera, leading to mutually beneficial educational partnerships.
SISLI Year #1 2019-20: Jonathan Dove’s Jane Austen based opera MANSFIELD PARK and the first ever Central Valley Jane Austen-Con, benefitting audiences and downtown businesses.
SISLI Year #2 2020-21: Opera Modesto’s international award-winning world premiere ESL/literacy youth opera movie, THE RACE (an Aesop’s Fables mash-up), by Deborah Kavasch & Linda Sarhad. THE RACE is currently streaming on-demand through April 30 (tickets and info: www.OperaModesto.org), after which it will begin a long life as an educational tool – subtitled in English, captioned in 20 languages, with ASL Interpretation and be accompanied by a free multi-lingual graphic novel.
SISLI Year #3 2021-22: If theaters are again open, Opera Modesto will produce an exciting double bill of bilingual one act operas: the US premiere of DULCINEA by Mauricio SOTELO (based on Don Quixote de la Mancha by Cervantes) and a new one act version of BLESS ME ULTIMA (based on the famous Chicano novel by Rudolfo Anaya) by Hector Armienta, performed at the historic The State Theatre in downtown Modesto.
SISLI Year #4 is planned to be a year of Edgar Allan Poe!
Hector Armienta, Mexican-American Opera Composer
(Note: “Mexican-American” is Armienta’s choice, though he also is happy to be identified as Latino, Latinx and Hispanic. “I’m neither Mexican or American, but Mexican-American. Like my work, I exist in and in between these two cultural worlds. Drawing on my training as a classical composer, my mission is to reinvent classical musical forms by incorporating music from both sides of the border.”)
Hector Armienta, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, a nationally recognized opera composer, focuses on creating work that explores the Mexican and Mexican-American cultural experience. His awards and commissions include those from Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts International, Opera Pacific, the Pacific Symphony, Opera Southwest, Oakland East Bay Symphony, and Western Stage Theater. His work for orchestra, theater, and opera has received support from six NEA grants in artistic excellence. As an opera and music theater composer, he draws on stories and music that represent his bi-cultural roots. His music theater trilogy, Aguas Ancestrales/Ancient Waters, is such an example. Inspired by the life of Mr. Armienta’s grandmother, the trilogy draws upon the natural and spiritual element of water. Parts of the trilogy have been performed by Opera Pacific, Western Stage Theater, The York Theater in New York, Philadelphia’s Center City Opera, and most recently in Barcelona Spain.
Bless Me Ultima, which had its world premiere in New Mexico and west coast premiere in California, had sold out performances. It’s based on Rudolfo Anaya’s epic novel of the same title. Upcoming projects include Zorro – a Mariachi Opera, Mi Camino – An Immigration Song Cycle, and La Muerte – part III of his Aguas Ancestrales Trilogy.
Mr. Armienta is also the founder and director of Opera Cultura, whose mission is to explore music theater and opera through a cross-cultural lens. He holds a BM degree in composition from California Institute of the Arts and an MM degree in composition from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Armienta is a Board Member for Opera America.
Opera Modesto commissioned Armienta to create a one act reduction and orchestration of Bless Me Ultima, which will receive its premiere in the 2021-22 Story Into Song Literacy Initiative, performing at The State Theatre.
Mauricio Sotelo, Spanish Composer
Mauricio Sotelo, based in Barcelona (Spain) is a one of this era’s leading European composers. He studied composition with Francis Burt at the Vienna University of Music, where he was unanimously awarded the Prize of Honour for graduate studies in 1987. Sotelo has been awarded numerous prizes including the Spanish National Music Prize (2001), the Queen Sofía International Prize for Composition (2000) and the Förder Preis of the Foundation Ernst von Siemens (1997). His works have been selected for the UNESCO International Composers’ Tribune in Paris and have been recognised by international institutions such as the Körber Foundation in Hamburg, the Alban Berg Foundation in Vienna and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany. Sotelo’s works have been premiered in nternationally recognized series including the Salzburg Festivals, Wien Modern, Biennale di Venezia, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Munich Biennale, Granada International Festival, Berlin Philharmonic and Konzerthaus, Bonn Beethovenhaus, Köln Philharmonie, Vienna Musikverein and Vienna Konzerthaus, the Netherlands Opera, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Madrid’s Teatro Real and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Mauricio Sotelo is Composer in Residence at the Berlin Wissenschaftskolleg [Institute for Advanced Study]. He is a Composition professor at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya in Barcelona and has been invited as a composition lecturer by prestigious institutions in Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the USA. Sotelo is also a member of the High Council of Art Education for the Spanish Ministry for Education. The music of Sotelo is strongly connected to the cultural heritage of Spain, especially flamenco and Spanish literature.
His youth literacy opera, Dulcinea, based on Miguel Cervantes’ famous Spanish language novel, Don Quijote de la Mancha, was commissioned by and premiered by the major international opera companies of The Liceu of Barcelona, Teatro Real of Madrid, and Ópera de Oviedo in 2006. Opera Modesto will present the US premiere of this opera, a true passion project for Sotelo.