Rodríguez’ Frida Highlights 19-20 Season
Robert Xavier Rodríguez’s 1991 opera Frida, based on the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, has become one of the most acclaimed and often-performed contemporary operas in the United States. Four productions are planned for the 19-20 season. In August, 2019, Opera Steamboat in Colorado will stage the 18th production of the opera, followed by the Atlanta Opera in October. 2020 will see productions at the Anchorage Opera in February and at the Long Beach Opera in June, with additional productions scheduled by Opera Cultura in San Francisco and Michigan Opera Theater, making a total of 23 productions to date. There will also be a production of Rodríguez’ opera La Curandera at Texas State University in San Marcos in October, 2019. In May, 2020, the Orchestra of New Spain and Ballet Dallas will jointly present Música, por un tiempo.
Reviews from the Miami production of Frida included, “…a brilliant, energetic read on the iconic Mexican artist…The energy level soared from first note to last. The subject matter was serious and thought provoking, but always entertaining and oddly optimistic…The exuberance of a Broadway musical, the gravitas of grand opera and the intimacy of chamber drama co-existed in a fantasy world… mesmerizing score…Rodriguez gives each character simultaneously a credible musical language of his or her own.” (Palm Beach Arts Paper)
The New York Times named Frida the “best opera/musical theater of 1991.” Previous presenters have included the Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival, American Repertory Theater in Boston, the Houston Grand Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Cincinnati Opera, Festival de Mayo in Guadalajara, the Vienna Schauspielhaus and productions in Recklinghausen, Nordhausen and throughout the United States.
World premieres of Rodríguez’s works in the 18-19 season included Romance with a Double Bass for narrator, contrabass and piano with Daniel Nix, contrabass, Mikhail Berestnev, piano and Mary-Margaret Pyeatt, narrator on February 8, 2019 at the University of Texas at Dallas. Gary Karr commissioned the work, which is based on a comic short story by Anton Chekhov. Another premiere was Rodríguez’s Menasherie for SSA chorus and piano, based on animal poems by Ogden Nash. The Young People’s Chorus of New York City commissioned the work, and Francisco Nuñez conducted the premiere on the YPC’s Radio Radiance series.
Also in 18-19, the Florida Grand Opera gave six performances of Frida. Part of those festivities included the east-coast premiere of Rodríguez’s Above All, Women: Four Images by Gustav Klimt by the Amernet Quartet. Other performances that season were Flight by the Northern Duchess Symphony, Seven Deadly Sins at Texas Christian University, Ursa at the University of Texas at Dallas, Música, por un tiempo by the Pit Stop Players in New York and A Colorful Symphony at the Evanston Symphony. In addition, there were multiple touring performances of the children’s opera Monkey See, Monkey Do by Opera in the Ozarks.
In the 17-18 season, Edwin Outwater and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s gave the New York premiere of Rodríguez’ The Dot and the Line (2011) for narrator and orchestra at Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall on October 14, 2017. John Lithgow, 2017 Emmy Award-Winner, was the narrator. Commissioned jointly by the Dallas Symphony and Carnegie Hall, the work is based on the classic children’s book of the same name by Norton Juster. Originally for narrator and chamber ensemble (2005), the orchestral version had its world premiere in Dallas in 2012 with Jamie Bernstein, Narrator. A recording by Bernstein and the Music from Copland House Players is in preparation, along with a recording of the original version of Xochiquetzal by Nicholas Kitchen, violin and the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble, conducted by Frank Epstein.
17-18 also saw the world premiere of Above All, Women. The work was commissioned by The University of Texas at Dallas for performance by the Amernet Quartet. The Amernet subsequently recorded Above All, Women, along with Rodriguez’s first string quartet, Meta 4. The recording was released on the Albany label along with Xochiquetzal, for violin and piano, performed by Chloé Trevor and Jeff Lankov. Critical acclaim for the recording includes: “Transcendental music… Ignore it at your own peril… Robert Xavier Rodríguez writes expressively and approachably. His music is satisfyingly complex, both texturally and emotionally… Rodríguez is clearly a major voice; his music demands exploration.” Fanfare Magazine
Rodríguez’s music has been performed by conductors such as Sir Neville Marriner, Antal Dorati, Eduardo Mata, Andrew Litton, James DePriest, Sir Raymond Leppard, Keith Lockhart and Leonard Slatkin and such organizations as the New York City Opera, the National Opera of Mexico, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Boston Repertory Theater, American Music Theater Festival (now Prince Theater), Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Pennsylvania Opera Theater, Michigan Opera Theatre, Orlando Opera, The Aspen Music Festival, The Juilliard Focus Series, The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mexico City Philharmonic, Toronto Radio Orchestra, The Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Knoxville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Boston and Chicago Symphonies, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra. Rodríguez’s chamber works have been performed in London, Paris, Dijon, Monte Carlo, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, The Hague and other musical centers.
Rodríguez’ music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer, and twenty CDs of his work have been recorded on the Newport, Crystal, Orion, Gasparo, Urtext, Pro Arte Musicae, ACA, CRI (Grammy nomination), Albany, First Edition and Naxos labels. Rodríguez has served as Composer-in-Residence of the Dallas Symphony and the San Antonio Symphony. He holds an endowed Chair of Art & Aesthetic Studies and is Director of the Musica Nova Ensemble at The University of Texas at Dallas. He is also active as a guest lecturer and conductor.