Kai Oliver-Kurtin | Downtown News
San Diego’s close proximity to Mexico has had obvious affects on its population, food and culture, and that impact is now also emerging on the local performing arts scene.
On March 16 the San Diego Opera will host the world’s first mariachi opera, presenting Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon).
The acclaimed Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán will replace the orchestra and take the stage alongside the opera singers for two performances, with subtitles displayed overhead. While the singers switch between English and Spanish, subtitles will follow in alternate languages.
“While doing our research, we discovered that there are more than 800 students in San Diego studying mariachi,” said Ian Campbell, San Diego Opera’s CEO and general and artistic director. “Even the world’s first college degree in mariachi music was established here at Southwestern College.”
Finding a huge local interest in mariachi, matched with a sizable Hispanic population and well-known orchestra; the San Diego Opera felt compelled to reach out to a new audience who may choose to attend the civic theater for their first and only time specifically to see Cruzar.
“Many people haven’t heard the best of mariachi music before—this is a 16 to 18 person- band, not just a couple violin players like we’ve seen in local restaurants,” said Campbell.
After conducting thorough research, the San Diego Opera has organized the first Mariachi Week to showcase the region’s talented high school and college mariachi bands.
In addition to the West Coast premiere of Cruzar, events will include a presentation to the San Diego Downtown Rotary Club 33 by local expert Jeff Nevin on March 7; a mariachi celebration at the University of San Diego March 8 – 9 with performances by high school students; a “mariachi and margaritas” tasting and talk in Old Town; a presentation of “mariachi and masterpieces” at Balboa Park art museums; and free performances held at various popular destinations including Seaport Village and Horton Plaza.
On March 16, the culmination of Mariachi Week will include performances at Civic Center Plaza in an atmosphere designed to resemble Garibaldi Square in Mexico City.
“Mariachi is pop music and it’s being written every day and performed in front of live audiences,” Campbell said. “I think Mariachi Week is going to open up a lot of eyes— including my own—about how big mariachi music is within the San Diego community.”
Having opened to sold-out audiences first in Houston and later in Paris, Cruzar will play in Chicago during the next opera season.
“Cruzar is a work for everybody and will touch the heart,” Campbell said. “It deals with family on both sides of the border and raises questions like, who are we? Where do we belong?”
Opera performances for Cruzar la Cara de la Luna will be held March 16 at 2 and 7 p.m. at the San Diego Civic Theatre Downtown, 1100 Third Ave. Each show will last 75 minutes. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit sdopera.com. Find out more about Mariachi Week at sdopera.com/mariachi.
Kai Oliver-Kurtin is a local freelance reporter who also works full-time doing social media marketing for the U.S. Navy. She enjoys covering events, restaurant news, culture and entertainment. Contact her at email@example.com