Opera Santa Barbara: Z Is for Zorro

By Steven Libowitz   |   April 23, 2024
Zorro is a smash hit, with tickets sold out (photo by Lance W. Ozier for Opera Southwest)

One hundred and five years after Zorro first appeared in the 1919 novel The Curse of Capistrano by American pulp fiction writer Johnston McCulley, the dashing vigilante hero who defends the commoners and fights for his fellow indigenous people of California, shows up with all of his swordplay, cunning, and romantic flair to take the stage of the Lobero in the company of Opera Santa Barbara. 

Set in Los Angeles when it was still a colony of Spain, the re-telling of the Zorro legend follows Diego de la Vega, aka Zorro, the original caped crusader, in an operatic adaptation from Hector Armienta, who both composed the music and wrote the libretto. 

“I’ve always done that because there are stories in my community that need to be told, and there weren’t a lot of Latinx composers or creators when I first started out,” he said. “It’s also the most efficient way to make sure the words work with the music.” 

Armienta, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, said his interest in Zorro was in the opportunity to explore both his own cultural heritage as well as the timeless myth of the hero. 

“It’s a story of a young man of nobility who’s in search of his destiny, like Luke Skywalker. He finds it through the eyes of the people, the poor and the destitute, while also empowering them,” he said. “He meets a young woman and it’s through her eyes that he truly understands the plight of the people.” 

Armienta said his opera incorporates the archetypes of the traditional Zorro – including humor and lots of thrilling sword fights – with the operatic form adding to the landscape and the colors. But his main goal was to incorporate the music of Mexico and California, including Mariachi, Azteca, corridos and flamenco, with the classical Eurocentric operatic tropes. 

“I want those who are not familiar with opera, particularly those who are Latinx, to be in the theaters. I want Zorro to be a bridge to the great masters. It’s one of my missions in life.”

OSB’s production is just the second following the opera’s 2022 premiere at Opera Southwest, with conductor Anthony Barrese reprising his role. But as of this writing, Z is also for zero, as in no tickets remain for the April 19 & 21 shows, although a waiting list is available. 


You might also be interested in...