THE CONQUISTADORAn Overview




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IMAGE:cross&seal

(Photo credits: © Ken Howard and Martha Hart
Courtesy: San Diego Opera)

In 1994, the San Diego Opera (SDO) began showcasing works by North American composers. Called the North American Voices project, it was launched with the premiere of Rappacini's Daughter by Daniel Catan, followed by Gerhswin's Porgy and Bess in 1995 and by Carlisle Floyd's The Passion of Jonathan Wade in 1996.

In 1997, the SDO mounted an entirely new production of a never-before-performed opera The Conquistador, by the American composer Myron Fink. The opera world-premiered on March 1, 1997 and, with renowned tenor Jerry Hadley in the title role, played to a full house for three more performances. It marked a historic artistic event for San Diego and was celebrated county-wide with a symposium, exhibits and a lecture series.

Set in 16th-century Mexico or New Spain as it was then called, the opera is based on the true story of Don Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva, Conquistador and Defender of the Faith. But alas! of Jewish ancestry and inevitably, victim of the Mexican Inquisition.

And therein lies the source of the conflict and its many manifestations - so poignantly dramatized in both Donald Moreland's poetic libretto and Myron Fink's powerful music with its colorful interplay of tonality and dissonance.

The Conquistador is set in the distant past, yet its theme rings true even today - among residents of San Diego and other areas of the American Southwest that were once part of New Spain and in the hearts and minds of Jewish peoples all over the world and indeed, of modern-day victims of still unconquered hatreds.

Is The Conquistador to be earmarked for greatness? Of course, only time will tell. Critics may have their own ideas, but it is fair to say that everything about The Conquistador - the theme, the staging, the words and the music - touched the audience. These pages are FanFaire's way of spreading the word about this fine work, its creators, and the artists who gave it shape and form; they take you through a unique journey, the coming to life of an opera - beginning as a flash of an idea in the composer's mind and culminating as a full-fledged stage production celebrated with all the fanfare of a world premiere.

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