A Chamber Opera (Libretto by Caitlin Vincent)
For 5 singers (sp., mezzo-sp., 2 tenors, bass-baritone (baritone alternate), violin, viola, cello, guitar, piano, percussion.
Read the review from the premiere here.
Commissioned by The Schubert Club. Premiered May, 2019 at TPT Studios in St. Paul, and at the Neighborhood House.
Cast for the premiere:
Adrián Rosas, Old Luis
Matthew Valverde, Young Luis
Juan Carlos Mendoza, Aarón/Javier
Clara Osowski, Edith
Bergen Baker, Clara
Sarah Grimes, violin
Susan Janda, viola
Teresa Richardson, cello
Maja Radovanlija, guitar
Adam Rappel, percussion
Ahmed Anzaldua, piano
Rafael Rodriguez, conductor
Jon Cranney, Director
Look at images from the premiere below. Recordings and video available upon request
Between 1929 and 1936, nearly two million men and women of Mexican heritage were deported from the United States and repatriated to Mexico. Prompted by the economic downturn of the Great Depression and wide-spread anti-Mexican sentiment, national repatriation efforts took the form of mass raids, government coercion, and harassment, in which anyone who looked Mexican could be targeted by immigration agents and relief workers. One of the most infamous raids occurred at La Placita Park in Los Angeles in February 1931, with immigration agents ambushing nearly four hundred Mexican men and women. While Los Angeles and Detroit were focal points of the deportation frenzy, the small Mexican colonia in St. Paul, Minnesota did not escape notice: on November 10, 1932, eighty-six people from sixteen families, or 15 percent of the local Mexican population, were put on a train to the Mexican border. In the end, approximately 60% of all those sent “home” to Mexico were American citizens. Two years later, another 328 Mexicans were repatriated from St. Paul.
Set against the framework of these repatriation efforts, Tienda tells the story of Luis Garzón, a Mexican musician who immigrated to Minneapolis in 1886 and opened a small Mexican grocery store, or tienda de abarotes, in St. Paul in the 1920s. Although Luis was fully integrated into Minneapolitan society, his store served as a community hub for the newest arrivals from Mexico, many of whom had fled the Mexican Revolution to work as betabeleros on the sugar beet farms of rural Minnesota. Shifting between scenes in Luis’s shop in the 1930s and his early years in America, Tienda explores the immigrant experience, asking what is left behind—and what cannot be forgotten—on the journey to a new home.
Mid-1920s, Luis Garzón’s General Store, St Paul
Luis Garzón is taking inventory. The chorus reflects on the importance of the store (tienda) to their community. Aaron, a farm worker and recent arrival in St Paul since the farming season is over, enters the store. Luis welcomes him. They discover they are from the same Mexican city, Oaxaca. Both Luis and Aaron lose themselves in memories of life in Oaxaca.
Young Luis is writing a letter to his sister Natalia asking her to help get his mother’s forgiveness for leaving on an orchestra tour of the United States without telling her. Fellow orchestra member, Javier, comes to fetch him for their next concert. They translate together a newspaper review of the last concert. Luis attempts to go with Javier, but is too sick to leave.
1930s, Depression era, Luis Garzón’s General Store, St Paul
Luis and Aaron (who now works for Luis) are taking inventory. Stocks are low. Luis practically gives away rice and beans to a customer who has very little money. Aaron expresses concern that Luis’s charity to his customers will lead him to financial ruin. Edith Walker from the department of Public Welfare enters. She asks Luis for the names and addresses of the community so that the government can provide welfare. Luis complies, happy to think that his community will be helped. Aaron is suspicious but is unsuccessful in talking Luis out of giving information. The chorus shares whispers about immigration raids in other cities and expresses nervousness about what might happen in St Paul.
Young Luis is a music teacher. He and Clara (his landlady) are secretly in love, but Luis especially knows that they will never be accepted as a couple by society. Luis reflects on the fact that he never meant to stay in Minnesota but has now been there ten years.
1930s, Luis’s General Store St Paul
Luis is on the phone with Clara (now his wife). He tries to soothe her concern about rumored immigration raids. As Luis reminisces, Aaron arrives to report that deportation has indeed begun in St Paul. Edith Walker follows him into the store and it becomes clear that the public welfare for the families of Mexican immigrants is actually repatriation. Aaron is taken along with numerous families. Old Luis understands the role he played by providing the names of the families. Though he himself is not deported, Edith reminds him that he is not “one of us”.