Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric presents Cruzar la Cara de la Luna

For immediate release:
Thursday, March 7, 2013 7:30pm 

Lyric Opera of Chicago presents
 the Midwest premiere
of the world’s first mariachi opera,
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna
(To Cross the Face of the Moon)

by José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia
Premiere performance to take place April 7, 2013, 3:30 p.m.
at the Civic Opera House with world-renowned
Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán
Subsequent performances April 19 and 20
at Benito Juárez Community Academy (Chicago)
April 21 at the Genesee Theatre (Waukegan)
with the original cast joined by Mariachi Aztlán
from University of Texas Pan-American

Lyric Opera of Chicago will present the Midwest premiere ofCruzar la Cara de la Luna, the world’s first mariachi opera, featuring Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán,on Sunday,April 7, 2013, at 3:30p.m. at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. “Lyric Opera is delighted to present its first-ever Spanish-language work – and the fact that it is the world’s first mariachi opera makes us doubly proud!” says Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud.  

Tickets start at just $25 and can be obtained online at or by calling 312-332-2244. 

Cruzar la Cara de la Luna is a poignant story of family, of place, and of a long-kept family secret. Early on patriarch Laurentino leaves his Mexican birthplace in the province of Michoacán and moves to the U.S., where his children and grandchildren are born. Laurentino grows old in the U.S. and his dying wish is that his ashes be transported back to Michoacán. His family honors his request but in so doing, the family learns about the wife and child Laurentino had left behind in Mexico! One family divided by countries and cultures is now confronted with difficult questions of national and personal identity, family bonds, and just where is home. “This very human story asks the question, where is home? Is it the country where we live or the country where we were born?” says Freud. “All of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, and Cruzar la Cara de la Lunais a compelling stage work that echoes that collective experience. This is our story!” 

Cruzar la Cara de la Luna ’s music is by José “Pepe” Martínez, who joinedthe famed Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán as music director in 1975. This is his first opera. His work as a composer and arranger ushered in a new era for mariachi. Lyrics are by Martínez and Leonard Foglia, whodirected Terrence McNally’s 1996 Tony Award-winning play Master Class on Broadway. He has numerous Broadway and off-Broadway directing credits and has a particularly close association with the works of Jake Heggie, having directed The End of the Affair (2004), Last Acts (2009), and Dead Man Walking (2010) at Houston Grand Opera.

World-renowned as the greatest mariachi, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán has appeared in more than 200 films and has made numerous 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. “It’s easy to see why they’re the world’s leading mariachi,” says Freud. “Their musicality, virtuosity, and sheer energy are nothing short of amazing.”

Cruzar la Cara de la Luna will be performed in Spanish and English, with projected translations in English and Spanish. This presentation is part of Lyric Unlimited, a multifaceted program of expanded community engagement and artistic initiatives aimed at exploring ways in which opera can resonate with individuals and communities with little or no prior interest in opera.

Lyric is promoting Cruzar la Cara de la Luna in the Latino community through a collaboration with the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St., in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.  “The National Museum of Mexican Art is very excited about partnering with Lyric Opera on the mariachi opera project,” says Carlos Tortolero, the museum’s founder. “This fantastic project will be a catalyst in reaching out to the Mexican community.”

Commissioned by Anthony Freud when he was general director of Houston Grand Opera, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna marked the celebration of the 2010 Mexican anniversaries of independence and revolution. It is an emotionally compelling piece that remains true to its mariachi culture. “The opera is real mariachi,” says Freud. “It encompasses nearly every classic rhythmic and stylistic structure of mariachi. I didn’t want to create something that was a pastiche or ‘mariachi lite’ – I wanted it to be the real thing.”

Cruzar la Cara de la Luna received its world premiere in Houston in December 2010 and was performed at Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet in 2011. 

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and the original multi-ethnic cast (a mixture of classically trained and mariachi singers) will all make Lyric debuts. The cast members include:  Octavio Moreno (Laurentino), Brian Shircliffe (Mark), Brittany Wheeler (Diana), Cecilia Duarte (Renata), David Guzmán (Rafael), Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo (Lupita), Saúl Avalos (Chucho), and Juan Mejía (Victor). 

Additional performances of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna:

Benito Juárez Community Academy, 1450-1510  W. Cermak Rd., Chicago  
Friday, April 19 at 7:30pm  
Saturday, April 20 at 2pm and 7:30pm

Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan  
Sunday, April 21 at 7:30pm

For the performances at Benito Juárez Community Academy performances and Waukegan’s Genesee Theatre, the original cast will be joined by Mariachi Aztlán, an award-winning mariachi from the University of Texas Pan-American whose recent performances include appearances with the Houston Symphony Orchestra, numerous concerts at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and an appearance at the Hollywood Bowl.

Tickets for the Benito Juárez Community Academy performancesareavailable at or 312-827-5998 (on sale Feb. 22). Tickets are also available at the National Museum of Mexican Art and before performances at the venue. $5 per ticket, free admission with Benito Juárez Community Academy student ID.

Tickets for the Genesee Theatre performance is available at the theater’s box office or via Ticketmaster at or 800-982-2787. Ticket prices are $5, $10 & $18 (on sale Feb. 22).

In addition to the public performances listed above, free performances for invited student audiences are planned in both Pilsen and Waukegan.

Lead Sponsor: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Cosponsors: An Anonymous Donor, Maria C. Bechily and Scott Hodes, The Chicago Community Trust, The Chicago White Sox, Goya Foods, Inc., Ingredion Incorporated, JPMorgan Chase & Co., The McDonald's Owners of Chicagoland and Northwest IndianaKen NorganThe Quaker Oats CompanyManny Sanchez and Pat Pulido Sanchez, Mr. and Mrs. Alejandro SilvaSurge Innovations, and Walgreens.