Healthy Habitat for Howlers

By Mackey, Chris | Americas (English Edition), May-June 1995 | Go to article overview

Healthy Habitat for Howlers


Mackey, Chris, Americas (English Edition)


The stunning new Simon Bolivar is the first-ever opera in Spanish on the life of the leader who liberated five South American countries from Spain. Created by the Scottishborn composer Thea Musgrave, Simon Bolivar received its world premiere in Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia, earlier this year in a production by the Virginia Opera conducted by Peter Mark.

According to Musgrave, the idea for the opera grew out of a conversation in 1986 with a friend who had just returned from Colombia. Motivated by the story of Bolivar's striving for unity and liberty, Musgrave subsequently read Emil Ludwig's biography of the charismatic leader and researched the entire era, as well as musical styles reflecting Spanish, Quechua, and African influences. The result is a rich libretto based on historical events and the writings of Bolivar himself, all woven into a vibrant musical score. Musgrave's respect for the epic-making events is best seen in her use of the historic document "Letter to His People," which Bolivar wrote a little prior to his death. Says Musgrave: "Though in his own eyes he was not successful, for us he is a source of insight and understanding of the difficulties of achieving the goals he aspired to. …

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