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Center for Contemporary Opera presents El Cimarron
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overview

Composed by Hans Werner Henze
Text from book by Miguel Barnet
Libretto by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
English Translation by Christopher Keene

Eric McKeever El Cimarrón
Stage Direction Eugenia Arsenis
Music Direction Sarah Jobin

El Cimarrón (The Runaway Slave) is a composition by the German composer Hans Werner Henze, written when the composer lived in Cuba in 1969-1970. It is subtitled Biography of the Runaway Slave Esteban Montejo, and is based around the autobiographical passages recounted by Montejo to Miguel Barnet in 1963.

The work involves four musicians. They consist of a baritone who portrays El Cimarrón himself, a guitarist, a flutist and a percussionist, although all four musicians play percussion instruments during the work. The flutist also plays the Japanese ryuteki and the Italian scacciapensieri, as well as the four conventional orchestral flutes. El Cimarrón received its premiere at the 1970 Berlin Festival. As far as is known, this performance represents only the second time it has been performed in New York City.


Baritone Eric McKeever has been lauded for his "voice of power and brilliance" (Chicago Tribune) and recently received critical praise for his debut as Ferrando in Bronx Opera's "La Gazza Ladra." Opera News wrote: "Eric McKeever offered a good bass timbre, considerable flexibility and a communicative presence enhanced by expressive, crystalline diction." This season Mr. McKeever takes on a new role, Don Pizarro in Skylight Music Theatre's updated English-language Fidelio. He then makes his role and house debut as Valentin in Faust with Winter Opera St. Louis. Mr. McKeever returns to Opera Naples to sing Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia before returning to the Lebanon Symphony Orchestra singing Porgy and Bess. Mr. McKeever has performed with many leading companies including Nashville, Indianapolis, Kentucky, and St. Petersburg. This performance represents his main stage debut with CCO.

Eugenia Arsenis, has collaborated with international cultural organizations, Royal Albert Hall, San Francisco Opera, Center, Center for Contemporary Opera, Greek National Opera, Megaron Athens Concert Hall etc. Coordinator and Dramaturg of
the Experimental Stage of the Greek National Opera (2004-2011). Speaker at international conferences. Lecturer: University of Peloponnese, Hellenic American University. Coordinator of the Opera Departments: Athens Conservatory, National Conservatory. Eugenia's education includes dramaturgy and theater directing;University of London, musical analysis and opera directing Boston University, film directing; New York Film Academy, and holds a Doctorate in philosophical aesthetics, opera and Greek tragedy from the University of London. Holder of numerous scholarships, including a Fulbright.

Grammy-nomimated conductor Sara Jobin has a passion for new and American opera. Credits: San Francisco Opera: world premiere, The Secret Garden; performances of Tosca, Der fliegende Holländer, Norma, Philip Glass' Appomattox; production of Rachel Portman's The Little Prince. Music Director, Center for Contemporary Opera: William Mayer's A Death in the Family and the world premiere of Michael Dellaira's The Secret Agent in Hungary, France, and New York. This season also: Madama Butterfly, Opera Santa Barbara; Toledo Opera Gala; Matrimonio Segreto, Pittsburgh Opera; Susannah, Opera Idaho On disc: Volpone by John Musto and Dellaira's The Secret Agent.

Hans Werner Henze was a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life". His music is extremely varied in style, having been influenced by serialism, atonality, Stravinsky, Italian music, Arabic music and jazz, as well as traditional schools of German composition. Henze was regarded as Europe's leading contemporary opera composer, having composed over two dozen in total. His most recent opera, Gisela! Or the Strange and Memorable Ways of Happiness, was premiered in 2010. Henze died in Dresden on 27 October 2012 at the age of 86. Our performance pays tribute to this great composer.

Miguel Barnet was born in 1940 in Havana, Cuba. Though he underwent his early education in the U.S., Barnet maintained a high degree of interest and awareness of Cuban culture. In fact, in his early years he was a regular contributor of poetry and other writings to such Cuban publications as Lunes de Revolución and Hoy. This literary background can be seen as a precursor to the imaginative element Barnet introduced to anthropological writing.[2] In college, Barnet went to study anthropology and sociology at the University of Havana. Here, against the backdrop of the Cuban Revolution, he developed a strong relationship with Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortíz, who would introduce Barnet to an ethnographic model centered on indigenous religion, language and the oral tradition.

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