- Terelle Jerricks
By John Farrell, Contributing Theater Review Writer
Camelia la Tejana – Only The Truth, which the Long Beach Opera is presenting at the Terrace Theatre of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center March 30 is not so much a work in progress, as it is an art project that is continually changing.
Even the title isn’t quite sure: it was called Unicamente la Verdad in Long Beach Opera’s mailing. It has had several titles since it was developed, given its Mexican premier two years ago. This is the U.S. premier (though it was originally work-shopped in the United States). That’s an indication of how new the subject matter is: a narcocorrida and a Mexican tabloid article come together to make a statement about what is and what isn’t true against a background of illegal aliens, drug trafficking and feminism in the current world of the Mexican-U.S. border.
With music by Gabriella Ortiz and a libretto by her brother Rubén Ortiz Torres the one act opera is an electrifying mixture of Ortiz modern, driving score and snatches of Mexican songs, ending with the narcocorrida, which inspired the work.
That song was written in 1970 by Ángel González and became a huge hit for Los Tigres del Norte. The story, which is about a woman who smuggles drugs into the United States with her lover, only to be abandoned by him, shooting him in revenge, wasn’t true but since then the song has inspired several stories about Camelia, interviews and press reports with the “real” Camelia.
The opera takes place on a square platform with a bridge that represents the U.S.-Mexican border with the orchestra hidden underneath. Backed by projection screens that feature videos and pictures created by Ortiz Torres, who shot the original videos. The videos are an integral part of the work, with additional video by Jose Maria Serralde in Mexico City for the opera’s premier there and video design and additional video for LBO by Adam Flemming. The work is fluidly presented in one act with Andreas Mitisek conducting.
All these serves as a background for the story told by Enivia Mendoza, the Mexican soprano who plays both Camelia herself and Augustina, who claims to be the real Camelia. She dazzles as she tells her story, real or otherwise. John Atkins is the writer (El Escritor) who tells one version of the Camelia story. John Matthew Myers is El Periodista, and he looks the part of a not-too-neat journalist. Nova Safo is El Tigre, and Adam Meza plays three roles: El Compositor, El Blogger and El Señor del El Paso.
The story is compelling, the music often electrifying and accessible. It is yet another triumph for Long Beach’s innovative opera company.
Tickets range from $29 to $160. One performance remains March 30 at 8 p.m.