Cuatro Corridos - A Chamber Opera

Cuatro Corridos – A Chamber Opera

Donald Rosenberg

Cuatro Corridos – A Chamber Opera

The American soprano Susan Narucki was so horrified by the human trafficking rampant on the border between the United States and Mexico that she decided to address the subject head-on: she commissioned a chamber opera for soprano and three players, a collaborative work that tellingly crosses borders. The result, Cuatro Corridos, comprises four scenes with libretto by novelist Jorge Volpi and music by two American-based composers (Lei Liang and Arlene Sierra) and two Mexican composers (Hilda Paredes and Herbert Vázquez).

Each corrido – based on the popular Mexican narrative song form – depicts trafficking from a different point of view. In Vázquez’s ‘Azucena’, a young woman tells of her dreadful circumstances to music full of insinuating colours. The anti heroine in Sierra’s ‘Dalia’, with its relentless flow of anxious sonic ideas, is an old woman who knows she will be doomed for her trafficking activities. The irate female police officer who announces the arrest of traffickers in Liang’s ‘Rose’ utters her spiky Sprechstimme lines in English to bursts of vibrant percussion figures.

Paredes’s ‘La tierra del miel’ has an ironic title, telling of the ‘land of milk and honey’ to which Iris, the young friend of the narrator, Violetta, goes to seek a good life but winds up being raped and murdered. The music is brutal and prismatic, a powerful conclusion to an opera that doesn’t flinch from its lurid topic.

Narucki is fearless and expressive as she inhabits each character. She shares the stage with equally intrepid colleagues: guitarist Pablo Gómez, pianist Aleck Karis and percussionist Ayano Kataoka.

Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone
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