Mariachi Vargas & other artists announced for EL PASADO NUNCA SE TERMINA at Lyric Opera of Chicago in March 2015

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20 North Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New mariachi opera coming in March!

Artists confirmed for world premiere of
El Pasado Nunca Se Termina

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán to appear at
Civic Opera House performances March 28 and 29

Mariachi Aztlán to appear at performances in
Pilsen (March 13-15) and Waukegan (March 22)

Abigail Santos Villalobos, Daniel Montenegro, Paul La Rosa,
Ricardo Rivera, Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo, Kirstin Chávez,
Luis Ledesma, and Sebastien de la Cruz

CHICAGO – Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera Chicago, today announced the artists for El Pasado Nunca Se Termina  (The Past Is Never Finished), the new mariachi opera commissioned by Lyric Unlimited that has its world premiere in Chicago in March 2015.

The acclaimed Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, the “World’s Best Mariachi,” will return to Chicago for the world premiere performances on March 28 and 29 at the Civic Opera House. Mariachi Aztlán, an award-winning group from the University of Texas Pan-American, will appear in the preview performances in Pilsen on March 13-15 and in Waukegan on March 22.

Appearing in all performances are Abigail Santos Villalobos as Amorita and Daniel Montenegro as Luis (both making Lyric debuts), and Paul La Rosa (Enrique), an alumnus of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, Lyric’s premier artist-development program. The cast also features Ricardo Rivera (Acalan, debut), Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo (Juana), Kirstin Chávez (Isabel/Dolores, debut), Luis Ledesma (Augustino, debut), and Sebastien de la Cruz (Daniel, debut)—the talented young mariachi who has gained a national following both as a  semifinalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent in 2012and from his two performances of the National Anthem during the 2013 NBA Finals. Cerda-Alonzo appeared in Lyric’s 2013 presentations of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna.

All performances will feature the mariachi performing on stage in full costume; the opera will be fully staged. It is performed in English and Spanish, with projected titles in both languages.

“After our incredibly successful performances of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna in 2013, it is thrilling to bring a brand-new work to Chicago that again fuses mariachi and opera,” said Freud. “El Pasado  raises universal questions about identity, home, and family that will resonate with our audiences both here at the opera house and at our performances in the vibrant communities of Pilsen and Waukegan.”

Cayenne Harris, director of Lyric Unlimited, noted, “We have assembled a dynamic young cast of singing actors from the realms of opera and mariachi for this world premiere. We’re so pleased that international operatic talents will share the stage with young mariachi singers, a blending of genres and styles that embodies Lyric Unlimited’s mission of collaboration and exploration.”

El Pasado begins on a hacienda in Morelos in 1910, on the eve of the Mexican Revolution. The lives of two families—one indigenous and one European—become deeply entwined. The story spans multiple generations, also introducing the modern-day ancestors who now must reconcile their pasts in the current context of life in the U.S. and Mexico.

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán performed at the sold-out performance of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna at the Civic Opera House in 2013. Now in its fifth generation, Mariachi Vargas is known around the world as the most influential ensemble in the development of mariachi, appearing in more than 200 films and on a wealth of recordings. Since the 1950s it has held the title of “World’s Best Mariachi.” The ensemble actively participates in international mariachi festivals to promote pride in the genre and to encourage young mariachis to pursue lifelong careers.

Mariachi Aztlán is part of the acclaimed mariachi program at the University of Texas Pan-American and has appeared with the Houston Symphony and at the Hollywood Bowl. In Chicago, Mariachi Aztlán performed Cruzar la Cara de la Luna in Pilsen and Waukegan in 2013, and returned to Pilsen in April 2014 as part of the sold-out Lyric Unlimited program Canciones y arias, which explored the close ties between the traditional art form of opera and the modern sounds of mariachi music.

El Pasado is composed by José “Pepe” Martínez with a libretto by Leonard Foglia (who will also direct). Martínez has been the music director of Mariachi Vargas since 1975, and his work as a composer and arranger ushered in a new era for mariachi. This will be his second opera and second collaboration with Foglia. The duo collaborated on the highly acclaimed Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, the world’s first mariachi opera. Foglia is an acclaimed theater and opera director who directed Terrence McNally’s 1996 Tony Award-winning play Master Class on Broadway. In addition to Foglia’s numerous Broadway and off-Broadway directing credits, he has a particularly close association with the works of composer Jake Heggie, having directed The End of the Affair (2004), Last Acts (2009), and Dead Man Walking (2010) at Houston Grand Opera.

The world-premiere performances are Saturday, March 28 at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 29 at 2pm at the Civic Opera House in downtown Chicago with the full cast and Mariachi Vargas.

Five preview performances of El Pasado precede the world premiere at the Civic Opera House in March 2015, with the full cast and Mariachi Aztlán. Four performances will be held at Benito Juaréz Community Academy in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood on Friday, March 13 at 7:30pm; Saturday, March 14 at 2pm and 7:30pm; and Sunday, March 15 at 2pm. A single performance will take place at the historic Genesee Theatre in Waukegan on Sunday, March 22 at 2pm.

These performances mark Lyric’s return to Pilsen and Waukegan, building on the sold-out presentations of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna at these venues in March 2013 and Canciones y arias at Benito Juaréz in April 2014. Through community partnerships Lyric Unlimited will collaboratively plan and implement a host of community-focused activities including  pop-up concerts, school programs, mariachi, singing and instrumental workshops, and community music-making.

Tickets for all performances are available now at the following prices: Benito Juaréz Community Academy tickets are $10; Genesee Theater tickets are $10 to $25; and Civic Opera House tickets are $25 to $125. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 312-827-5600.

Major catalyst funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was essential to the successful launch and formulation of Lyric Unlimited, and continues to be vital to the program’s growth. In 2014-15, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is providing major support for El Pasado Nunca Se Termina.

Cosponsorship is provided by An Anonymous Donor, Kenneth R. Norgan, OPERA America, and United Scrap Metal.

Lyric Unlimited is supported by a generous leadership grant from the Hurvis Family Foundation.

About Lyric Unlimited
Launched in 2012, Lyric Unlimited is a long-term, evolving initiative that encompasses company activities that are not part of Lyric’s mainstage season. Its mission is to provide a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area and to advance the development of opera by exploring how opera as an art form can resonate more powerfully with people of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. Lyric Unlimited leads the development of innovative partnerships with a wide range of cultural, community, and educational organizations to create a breadth of programming through which Chicagoans of all ages can connect with Lyric. In the 2013-14 season, more than 111,000 children, students, and adults participated in Lyric Unlimited activities.

For more information about Lyric Unlimited program offerings, visit


Performance Details

Artists, programs, and prices subject to change
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or
call 312-827-5600

El Pasado Nunca Se Termina

José “Pepe” Martínez, composer
Leonard Foglia, librettist and director
Abigail Santos Villalobos (Amorita)
Daniel Montenegro (Luis)
Paul La Rosa (Enrique)
Ricardo Rivera (Acalan)
Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo (Juana)
Kirstin Chávez (Isabel/Dolores)
Luis Ledesma (Augustino)
Sebastien de la Cruz (Daniel)

Preview Performances
Featuring Mariachi Aztlán UTPA

Benito Juárez Community Academy
1450 W. Cermak Rd., Chicago
Friday, March 13, 2015, 7:30pm
Saturday, March 14, 2015, 2pm
Saturday, March 14, 2015, 7:30pm
Sunday, March 15, 2015, 2pm
Tickets: $10

Genesee Theatre
203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan
Sunday, March 22, 2015, 2pm
Tickets: $10-$25

World-Premiere Performances
Featuring Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán
Civic Opera House
20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago
Saturday, March 28, 2015, 7:30pm
Sunday, March 29, 2015, 2pm
Tickets: $25-$125


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