The Santa Fe Opera

Skip to main content Skip to search
Conductor flipping pages of musical score

Commissions

Hometown to the World

Synopsis

Hometown to the World is set in 2008, in the aftermath of the nation’s largest Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid of North America’s biggest kosher meat processing plant, in Iowa. The small agrarian town of Postville had been brought back to economic viability by the influx of a group of Hasidic Jews—from the Lubavitcher sect—who moved from Brooklyn to Iowa, where hogs outnumber people five to one. One Lubavitcher family took over the failing slaughterhouse and brought it back to life in the community of primarily Lutheran farmers of Scandinavian descent. Postville’s prosperity attracted workers from around the world. They emigrated mostly from Central America, especially Guatemala, but also hailed from Eastern Europe, East Africa, Israel, even Palau. A vast number of these workers were hired even though they were known to be undocumented. Many came in desperation, to escape poverty, violence and repressive regimes, seeking a new life in the U.S.

During its renaissance, Postville evolved into a model of multi-culturalism, summarized perhaps most accurately by the sign on the edge of town, which reads: “Hometown to the World.” An ICE raid in May 2008 resulted in the deportation of approximately a quarter of the town’s population, which led to another quarter of the citizens fleeing. Families were destroyed, the meatpacking plant was forced to close, and Postville’s ability to function was decimated. With this history of Postville—a microcosm of America’s great immigrant experiment in multiculturalism—as the backdrop, Hometown to the World tells the story of how the worlds of three characters from the community’s main ethnic/religious/linguistic groups collide in the wake of a brutal ICE raid. The result is a complex tale that ends with a message of hope and equity. Today, as the many issues surrounding immigration, citizenship, economic viability, and cultural cohesion are at the center of national discourse, Hometown to the World is a critical piece of contemporary opera that seeks to create greater awareness, thoughtful dialogue, and impactful response.

Premiere
World Premiere, Friday, December 17, 2021, Santa Fe, NM
With additional performance on Sunday, December 19

Cast
Linda Morales – Mezzo-soprano
Abraham Fleischman – Baritone
Linda Larsen – Mezzo-Soprano
Chorus – SSA or SSATB

Instrumentation
Clarinet in B flat, violin, viola, cello, contrabass, percussion (1 player)

Publisher
Bill Holab Music

Length
ca. 60 minutes

Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun

Synopsis

A celebrated Artist takes the stage to perform and is alarmed to find that an opera is about to start in the same space. Before the mix-up can be sorted out, the opera begins. The dismayed Artist watches and reacts as the opera unfolds.

In a rooftop garden inhabited by a family of humans and other creatures, the trouble-making Sweet Potato –partly out of curiosity, but also just for the fun of it –kicks the sun out of the galaxy. Sweet Potato’s friend, 89, is devastated, but Sweet Potato relishes seeing a big orb become a tiny blip in the sky. Things go from bad to worse when, as Squirrel plays the sacred prayer instrument, the Cosmic Cord, Sweet Potato blithely cuts the Cord. Shock is followed by heartbreak when Grandmother Seed-Keeper departs for her secret cellar to prepare for the garden’s survival. Grandfather Beekeeper orders Sweet Potato to the summit of City Park Mountain to gain insight and asks 89 to go as well. And thus their adventure begins.

Premiere
October 26, 2019, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Cast
Artist – Beatboxer – Vocal artist (this role could be portrayed as any vocal performer: jazz artist, etc.)
Sweet Potato – Soprano
89 – Baritone
Grandfather Beekeeper/Grandmother Seed Keeper/City Dweller #2 – Mezzo Soprano
Stage Manager/City Dweller #2 – Actor
Youth Chorus

Instrumentation
Flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion – very small set up (small marimba, vibraphone, chimes and small table pieces: triangle, maraca, claves, woodblock, etc.)

Publisher
Nimbus Music Publishing

Length
90 minutes

The Pigeon Keeper

Synopsis

A fictional Mediterranean island.  Orsia, 12, lives in a village by the sea.  Her father, Thalasso, is a fisherman, but the ocean has not been kind in recent years; the waters have been overfished; there are days when Thalasso comes home empty-handed.  But what’s worse, ever since Orsia’s mother died seven years ago, Orsia’s father has forgotten how to laugh. On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Thalasso takes Orsia fishing.  In the distance, they spot a large fish.  Coming closer, they discover a boy hanging on to a piece of broken boat.  They rescue this refugee from a faraway land and bring him home, but Thalasso is adamant: they cannot keep him.  Orsia, who sees in the strange, silent child the brother she lost when her mother died in childbirth, pleads with Thalasso, who relents, allowing him to stay – but only for three days.  Orsia sets out to find the boy a home in the village – to no avail.  It is the Pigeon keeper, himself an emigrant from a faraway land, who stirs the boy to find his voice through song.  Just as Thalasso is about to banish the child, the boy sings, warming Thalasso’s heart.  This tale, which speaks to today’s mass migrations of peoples traversing the globe, explores how we respond to those in need in a time of hardship and scarcity; and celebrates the kindness of strangers, the power of human connection, and the unexpected places we find family.

Premiere
October 28, 2022

Cast
The Pigeon Keeper/Grocer/Schoolteacher – Leggero Tenor
Thalasso, Orsia’s father – Lyric Baritone
Orsia, 12 – Light Soprano, played by a young adult
Kosmo, 7 – Boy Soprano
Chorus: Children’s mixed chorus of birds/schoolmates.  Although a true children’s chorus is most ideal, 3 women can stand in for the children’s chorus.

Instrumentation
Violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), harp, percussion

Length
ca. 75 minutes

This Little Light of Mine

Synopsis

This Little Light of Mine dramatizes the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a former sharecropper who rose to national prominence at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.  As a black woman of humble origins, she spoke truth to power no other civil rights leader.  Adopted daughter Dorothy Jean Hamer tells how Fannie Lou and her husband ‘Pap’ took in foster children as their own; how the injustices of the Jim Crow South emboldened her to demand the right to vote for African-Americans; and how she shook the political world during “Freedom Summer” by helping found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.  Describing to the Convention Credentials Committee her harrowing story of harassment, arrest and beating by the police, Hamer pointedly asked: “Is this America?”  Her efforts achieved limited success, but her voice resonated throughout the country and helped lead to the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Determined to keep fighting injustice, the restless Hamer risked her own health and well-being, even as her family cautioned her to slow down.  Dorothy Jean, the story’s narrator, unexpectedly becomes an agent of tragedy when, in the final scene, she is refused admission to a white hospital and dies in childbirth.  The drama ends as it began, with the song of hope, “This Little Light of Mine,” still haunted by the reality of an unjust world.

Premiere
To be announced

Cast
Fannie Lou Hamer – Mezzo-Soprano
Dorothy Jean Hamer, adopted, pregnant daughter of Fannie Lou and Pap Hamer – Soprano
June Johnson, teenager who went to Winona with Fannie Lou Hamer – Soprano
Perry ‘Pap’ Hamer – Bass-Baritone
Chorus: Children’s mixed chorus – 15 to 20 singers

Instrumentation
2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, steel-stringed guitar, piano, light percussion (one player)

Length
ca. 75 minutes

Kentucky Opera Presents a Workshop of "This Little Light of Mine"

Theater baffles at sunset

For more information, please contact:

Anna Garcia
Community Engagement Assistant
505-946-2423
agarcia@santafeopera.org