THE CONQUISTADORIn the beginning...



The Making of the Opera
How it began
The Libretto 
Donald Moreland 
Myron Fink
Myron's Works
The Music
Karen Keltner
Creating the Role
The Staging
Set / Costumes

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One day in 1983, Myron Fink, composer and teacher, thinking his 14-person office too cramped and too noisy for inspiration, thought he'd spend a few hours in the library. As he wandered somewhat aimlessly about the stacks, a purple book caught his eye...

Like most creative people, composers don't sit around staring at a blank wall, worrying about where the next musical idea is going to come from. And like most bright ideas, musical ones just happen.

Here's how the music and the poetry of The Conquistador came to be. During a visit to the library while he was still a professor at Hunter College in New York City, Myron Fink chanced upon a book. It may have been the purple cover that first caught his eye, but it was the title that grabbed him: The Martyr, The story of a Secret Jew and the Mexican Inquisition in the Sixteenth Century by Martin Cohen. He checked it out and on the train commute back to his Connecticut home read page after page after page.

Instantly he knew - this was going to be the subject of his next opera! A subject unknown to him and to most Americans, it was fascinating from a historical point of view - who had ever heard of Jews escaping from Mexico into the American southwest; indeed, who had ever heard of 16th century Jewish conquistadors - merchants, scholars, yes, but conquistadors!? And it made a fascinating study in psychology - of a man in denial, torn between his blood heritage and his religious faith; and of a society bedeviled by human intolerance - a demon that has not been stilled by time and a theme that is as modern now as it was then.

Convinced he had the elements of an exciting music drama, Myron Fink who does not write his own libretto, called his friend - librettist Donald Moreland.. ..

"What?!!! Another opera?!!
Nah, it'll just be another Don Carlo...
              And will it ever get produced?"

The librettist's first impulse was to hang up the phone! But Myron was persistent and gave his friend the book to read. He did, and after a series of give-and-take with Myron, Don Moreland was, in his own words, "hooked". He signed on to the project. It would take him nine years to complete the text. After all, crafting a libretto (about the distant past) that works (for modern audiences) is no easy task, especially when one has to distil historical events that take place over decades into 3 hours of musical drama. The Conquistador was going to be an OPERA, not merely a pageant! (Click HERE to read Don Moreland's own vivid account of his role in the genesis of the opera.)

With libretto in hand, Myron set about his task of completing the music - he already had a potpourri of musical ideas in his head. He played the first bars of the music in his mind, and everything soon flowed from there. In nine months he had a piano score. And when finally the work was commissioned for a world-premiere performance, he produced the orchestration within a year. To Myron, composing music is not unlike writing a literary piece. Only instead of forming phrases from words, and sentences from phrases, the composer starts off by thinking in tones, which he then assembles into musical phrases which then develop into themes. With the orchestration, the work becomes magically multi-dimensional; in the case of opera, as Don Moreland puts it, the libretto, "the skeleton of the text", is given "flesh and blood". But only with the mounting of a stage production does the opera reach its full incarnation - as The Conquistador did in San Diego in the year 1997.

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The Making of the Opera

How it began
    The Libretto   Donald Moreland   Myron Fink   Myron's Works  The Music   Karen Keltner
Cast     Creating the Role  The Staging   Set / Costumes


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