Montsalvatge’s Puss in Boots will be presented in English and Spanish
By Peter Alexander Jan. 30 at 3:15 p.m.
“It’s a purrr-fect introduction to opera,” Dianela Acosta says about the Boulder Opera’s current production of Gato en botas (Puss in boots) by Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge.
Acosta is the company’s executive artistic director and a cast member, and she is excited about the upcoming performances, which will be offered in both the original Spanish (with English titles) and in English. “The music is gorgeous,” she says.
”There’s moments of Puccini, there’s Mozart, there’s Handel, there’s recitative, it’s very melodic. It’s also very surprising, the music. It’s beautiful.”
With two separate casts, one for each language, the production will be presented six times over the next two weekends, Thursday Jan. 30 through Saturday Feb. 8 (see dates and times below). Performing in both the original Spanish and in an English translation is part of Boulder Opera’s outreach to area schools—in this case bilingual schools in particular.
“We have a lot of partnerships with schools in the area that are bilingual,” Acosta says. “They’re super interested, because there are not a lot of cultural activities in Spanish. We’ve been really successful with this opera in doing outreach.”
Acosta says that they have arranged for 600 students from 10 different school to attend performances. “We tie it to an educational study guide that talks a little bit about the different elements of the opera, a little bit of the history of the composer, and the history of opera,” she says.
Though unfamiliar to American audiences, Montsalvatge (mont-sahl-VAHT-jeh) is well known in Spain. Acosta, who is Spanish, has sung his art songs, but had not known the opera until she was looking for fairy-tale operas for outreach to families and younger audiences. He wrote Gato con Botas in the 1940s, combining traditional operatic forms and styles with contemporary styles including jazz.
The opera is based on the familiar tale of “Puss in Boots,” a conniving cat who uses various tricks to pass off his owner, a poor miller, as a nobleman. He saves his own life in the process, kills an ogre, and arranges for the miler to marry a princess. Naturally, everyone lives happily ever after.
Ashley Gulbranson, music director of the production, says “This is a very accessible opera. It’s two acts with five scenes, and will last less than 60 minutes. So it’s a really great introduction to opera.”
The two casts are entirely separate, with most of the Spanish cast members native Spanish speakers. Having two casts does add to the time needed for rehearsals—”We’ve been having three hour rehearsals, and usually we do about half with one cast, half with another,” Gulbranson says.
That also adds to the cost to the company, but Acosta, who sings el Gato (the cat) in the Spanish cast, said it would have been nearly impossible to perform in both languages with only one cast. “It’s difficult to keep it straight, to keep [the different texts] separate,” she says. “So we just went ahead and hired a Spanish cast.”
To Boulder Opera, the expense is worth it because it contributes directly to their mission of making opera accessible and developing new audiences. “One of the reasons I wanted to do this opera is that it’s part of our children’s series,” Gulbranson says.
“Those performances are reaching a greater audience and getting children and families introduced to the operatic art form.”
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Puss in Boots by Xavier Montsalvatge
Boulder Opera, Michael Travis Risner, artistic director and stage director
Nadia Artman, executive producer, set and costume designer
Performances at E-Town Hall, 1535 Spruce St, Boulder:
10 a.m. and 12 noon Thursday, Jan. 30 (performed in Spanish with English titles)
2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 (performed in English)
4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 (performed in Spanish with English titles)
3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2 (English)
Performance at Center for Musical Arts, 200 E. Baseline Rd., Lafayette:
3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 (performed in English)