Eugenia Arsenis directs “El Cimarron” in the United States

El Cimarron

Skylight Music Theatre | 3-12 January 2014

Center for Contemporary Opera | Symphony Space | 16-17 January 2014

Eugenia Arsenis directs two different productions of the political opera El Cimarron in the United States.

Hans Werner Henze’s opera will be presented at the Skylight Music Theatre from the 3rd until the 12th January 2014, conducted by Viswa Subbaraman.

In her forth collaboration with the Center for Contemporary Opera, Eugenia Arsenis will direct the opera on the 16th and the 17th January 2014 at the Symphony Space in New York, conducted by Sara Jobin.

Eugenia Arsenis has presented the opera El Cimarron in 2005 at the Greek National Opera, conducted by Theodore Antoniou. Back then, she had met the ethnologist Miguel Barnet, who wrote the book on which the opera was based.

Director’s note

From Figaro to Cabaret 24

Paris, 2005. Somewhere between Cuba and Greece. The ethnologist Miguel Barnet and I on endless discussions. Esteban Montejo, the Cimarron, was «his» hero in the Autobiography of a Runaway Slave on which the opera was based. A story of loneliness and revolution. A true story of a real hero. Barnet speaks to me with affection about an intelligent man who surpasses major difficulties, establishes a profound dialogue with nature and, although becomes seemingly free, he is surrounded by many threats. A man of solitude who fights at the end for collective freedom.

Esteban was 103 years old when Miguel Barnet, only 25, approached him after noticing an article on veterans who learned how to read and write. Barnet and Montejo gradually establish a relationship of trust and communication that leads to a unique friendship until the end of Esteban’s life at the age of 113, in 1973.

Few years earlier, the poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger reads the Autobiography and suggests to Hans Wener Henze the creation of the opera. El Cimarron is a work for four musicians, whom the composer treats as “co-creators” since they often have to determine the pitch and the rhythms themselves. The relation between the music and the text alternates from Sprechgesang to lyrical singing and this enhances the theatricality of the work.

Apart from the unique structure of the opera, both musically and textually, one could observe that the artistic process is consistent with its ideological frame: the collectivity, which is one of the core themes of the work, is realized with the participation of the musicians to the development of the opera.

Through Esteban’s narration, the opera approaches the social and political life in Cuba. Yet, the work discusses cross-cultural and timeless values: oppression, injustice, racism, on the one hand and, on the other, struggle, friendship, companionship.

It is a challenge for the stage director to visualize memories and emotions. In our theatrical approach, Esteban’s world is gradually revealed. I welcome you to be part of this moving yet adventurous journey.

More information

A lecture about the production at the Greek National Opera (in Greek)

El Cimarron Audience Guide

Eugenia Arsenis’ interviews