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‘Kamchatka’ is a new opera about a boy’s view of Argentina’s Dirty War

Americas Society presents the U.S. premiere of Kamchatka, a new Argentine – French opera at Dixon Place in Manhattan’s Lower East Side on Tuesday & Wednesday, June 5 – 6, 2018 at 7 pm. $10 – $20

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Kamchatka Peninsula

The Kamchatka Peninsula is a Russian peninsula north from Japan between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk.

The region of forest, tundra and muskeg bogs is about twice the size of Florida. It is famous for volcanoes and brown bears.

If you had nowhere else to hide, Kamchatka is a big empty place far from the action.


Kamchatka, the Book

Kamchatka, the book, is Marcelo Figueras 2002 book translated into English by Frank Wynne for Grove Atlantic publishers.

It recalls a man’s experience as a ten-year-old boy, Harry, growing up hiding in a safe house during Argentina’s Dirty War in the 1970s.

His parents supported the opposition, but the military seized power and people began disappearing. His parents pulled the boy and his brother out of school before anything else happened.

They moved into an empty summer house in the countryside to start a new life with new identities. What choice did they have? Yet, tension and worry drowns everything.

Harry fantasizes about the escapes of Harry Houdini, the magician.


The Dirty War and the Disappeared

Argentina’s Dirty War from 1976 – 1983 under the military dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, marked two generations of Argentines:  the adults who lived through it, and those who were children at the time.

In the name of fighting communists, the Argentine military turned on its own people.  So many people disappeared that the word became a verb. The most commonly reported number of disappeared is 30,000.

Most were tortured. Many were killed. Many were drugged, tied up, loaded onto helicopters or planes and then dumped helpless but alive into the sea over the Rio de La Plata.

Those who were pregnant were allowed to have their babies, who were taken away and given to military families and their mothers were killed. Every year Argentina discovers one or two of these kids. You can’t imagine the horror of such a discovery. That will turn your world upside down.

All this was done with American support both politically and on the ground. Remember the CIA Operation Condor? Argentines of a certain generation flinch any time they see an old Ford Falcon driven by someone wearing aviator sunglasses. Back in the day the people hiding behind those sunglasses weren’t Argentine.

There were only a handful of actual communist guerillas. More damage has been done by people fighting communists, than by communists themselves. Operation Condor affected Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

It all seems long ago and far away, but if you grew up in that time in Argentina, you are unavoidably marked. How do you explain it, even after all these years when the kid who sits next to you in class in high school, doesn’t show up one day, is never seen again, and nobody says a word? We’re talking about high school kids and talking from experience.

Many Americans of the United States  look down on Argentina for the Dirty War without understanding our own complicity, and thinking things like that don’t happen in the United States.

They do. Maybe not in exactly the same way, but our own U.S. American government has imprisoned an entire community, kills for no reason with impunity, and now delights in tearing apart immigrant families. I was not raised to believe it could be like that here.

Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas offered another perspective on what happened in his Theater of Disappearance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

Starting in 1977 a few mothers of the disappeared started holding a vigil in the plaza right in front of the Pink House, the Argentine presidential residence in the center of old Buenos Aires.

Every Thursday afternoon for over thirty years they came wearing white scarfs on their heads. You dared not be openly critical of the government, but everybody understood what the mothers were about. It’s an image that all Argentines know.

Now they are the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo.


Kamchatka, the Movie

Kamchatka, the movie is Marcelo Piñeyro’s 2002 Argentine film. It was Argentina’s official entry for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 2002 Academy Awards.


Kamchatka, the Opera

Kamchatka, the opera, is a French contemporary opera written by Argentine composer Daniel D’Adamo to a libretto by Marcelo Figueras, the author of the book.

The opera works and reworks the themes of travel, exile and rain.

Like New York City, Buenos Aires has strong theatre traditions. Kamchatka had its world premiere in Buenos Aires in 2016 and European premiere at the Théâtre Dunois in Paris in 2017. This is the opera’s U.S. premiere.

The U.S. version of Kamchatka is co-produced by Americas Society, Centro de Experimentación del Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires) and Ensemble ALMAVIVA. It was originally co-production of Ensemble ALMAVIVA, Teatro Colón, Théâtre Dunois and Opéra de Reims.

There is a saying about how you are never really gone as long as someone remembers you. Kamchatka, the opera, is part of Argentina’s process of keeping these people alive.

It is important for Americans of the United States to understand what happened so we never go there again.

Nunca Mas. Never Again.

Kamchatka, the opera, creative

  • Producer: Pierre Riandet
  • Stage Director: Marc Daniel Baylet
  • Singers:
    Soprano Johanne Marie Clotilde Cassar
    Tenor Fabien Hyon
    Baritone Julien Stéphane Clément
  • Artistic Director / Piano: Ezequiel Spucches
  • Clarinet: Iván Solano
  • Cello: Elisa Cécile Huteau
  • Percussion: Maxime Echardour

Ensemble Almaviva

A chamber ensemble that focuses on classical and contemporary Latin American repertoire. Ensemble Almaviva was founded by Ezequiel Spucches, guitarist Pablo Márquez and flutist Mónica Taragano.

Daniel D’Adamo

The Argentine – French composer is a tenured professor of composition at the Conservatory of Strasbourg and the Haute École des Arts Du Rhin, (Hear) Mulhouse in western France.

He is a winner of the 2006 Boucourechliev Prize, 2009 SACEM Spring Prize, and the Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros.

Americas Society

Americas Society was founded by David Rockefeller in 1965 to explore contemporary issues that affect all the Americas and raise awareness of our diverse cultural heritage.


Kamchatka Tickets

$20 general
$10 students & seniors

Box Office

Online

Get tickets


Visiting Dixon Place

161A Chrystie St, New York, NY
Lower East Side, Manhattan

(212) 219 – 0736

Dixon Place is a 130 – 150 person theatrical space with a lounge and a rehearsal space.

Subway

  • (F) to Second Ave
  • (M) to Essex
  • (J) (Z) to Bowery
  • (B) (D) to Grand
  • (6) to Spring

 

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