Community Support Brings History To Life
Lucien-Leon Lambert’s La Flamenca was the passion project for OperaCreole’s Co-Founders Givonna Joseph and Aria Mason (Mother & Daughter). They wanted to bring this forgotten opera piece to life with a full stage production and along the way honor the late composer’s ties to New Orleans and his creole heritage.
Not surprisingly, this labor of love turned to KickStarter - a platform for creatives to make their vision a reality with funding support from the community that believes in their brand and mission. It can be a nail biter as you wait to see how much support your project will get and a heartbreaker if you don’t achieve the monetary goals you aspire to. Happily, on July 15, 2016 - New Orleans’ OperaCreole raised $10,565 with the support of 125 backers, and with that achievement, history was on a momentous path.
With steadfastness and grit, OperaCreole pulled off the first production ever of La Flamenca in the United States. Needless to say, the performance we witnessed on Sat, May 20th was a resounding success. The community, made up of an eclectic crowd, all rose in admiration and applause as the performers took their respective and collective bow. Ms Joseph also reported that on closing night (May 21st), they performed ‘before packed and standing room only audiences’.
It was a proud moment for all who supported this grassroots project and a sense of pride that collectively we can accomplish so much. It was a night of full circles, as the performance of ‘La Flamenca’ honored the lives of those who once lived in this diverse city, those who continue to live in it and OperaCreole’s objective to impart - “Pride in our collective history, pride in knowing that opera IS for ALL of us.” (Givonna Joseph, For the Love of Opera: The Story behind OperaCreole, Aug 2016)
With some time to reflect on this historical achievement, we had a Q&A with the co-founders:
What were some of the challenges in making this project a reality?
Finding a Flamenco trained guitarist to add to the music. Four people wanted to do it but couldn't fit it into their schedules. Also, historical costumes, the period of the Spanish American War is not one that most costumers carry, so it was difficult. Historical accuracy also meant the Flamenco dresses had to be built. Most dresses that costumers keep have lower waistlines or are more of the mermaid cut, not fitting for our timeline. Lastly, teaching myself Flamenco dance steps on YouTube...LOL!!
There is an assumption that most stories are somewhat biographical, do you think Lucien was writing a story that he had a personal connection with?
I do not know if he had much personal connection to the war, but maybe he had a New Orleans relative that was in the "Immunes" battalion, the story we included in the program.
I echo my mom's thoughts that maybe he had family members in the American immunes unit. I also wonder if his own exposure to political revolts/uprisings in his time in South America and in France (in the 1870's) influenced the subject matter, particularly wanting to depict an artist's involvement in the underground. It would be great to know more about the librettists and their backgrounds as well, (especially since two were brothers) but a political triangle at the heart of an opera absent of a romantic one is unusual to say the least.
Apart from some well-deserved rest, what's next for OperaCreole?
I wrote a concert program for a winter offering of ours called Black Girl Magic, that juxtaposed art songs, spirituals and arias with primary source writings and biographical sketches of notable black women. We would love to make that a concert series!
I'm on NPR on Sunday (5/28) morning to talk about this project. Also,we are on hiatus for the summer, but looking at Treemonisha in the Fall, and preparing some projects for the Tricentennial.
Visit their facebook page for project updates - OperaCreole