The Houston Grand Opera’s “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” (To Cross the Face of the Moon) is a mariachi opera about love, life and loss. The production is unique, relatable and above all beautiful. The story about family spans three generations, fifty years and two countries.
Opera and mariachi are two art forms that are not typically put together, but this crossover breaks the mold. Opera was born in Italy during the Renaissance in the fifteenth century, while Mariachi music was born across the Atlantic in Western Mexico three centuries later. Boldly putting these together is a gift to Houston and the world.
The idea for “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” came from a 2008 performance of the Mariachi Vargas group in the Houston Grand Opera’s home venue, the Wortham Theater. The opera’s general director at the time, Anthony Freud, noted their skillful musicianship and the audience’s reaction. Freud decided that night that they must create a mariachi opera. The rest is history; Cruzar has been performed in multiple cities including San Diego, Chicago, New York City and even Paris.
The Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano has been recruited to perform in Cruzar. The members of the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles-based mariachi ensemble are on stage instead of in an orchestra pit, making them the backdrop to the scenes of Cruzar.
The music makes this production incredible. Besides the mariachi musicians, the cast member all have incredible, strong voices—particularly Cecilia Duarte (Renata).
Monarch butterflies are the central image in the story. The symbolism weaves together the multiple layers of the tale in incredibly beautiful and touching ways. Monarchs migrate from north to south and back every year. The butterflies fly freely and see the world, but always know how to get back home where they belong. However, it takes four generations of monarchs to make the round trip. It is the great-grandchildren who return to the motherland.
While the theme of immigration may be even more salient today than eight years ago when Cruzar was first produced, the story is ultimately about family and belonging. I teared up at several points in the show, and I know I’m not the only one who left tears in the theater.
Two performances of “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” remain: Saturday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 20 at 2 p.m. Houston Grand Opera is performing at the makeshift Resilience Theatre inside the George R. Brown Convention center downtown because the Wortham Center is undergoing post-Hurricane Harvey repairs. Discounted tickets are available opera-goers under 25 as well as first-time attendees.