Under the theme of the “The Era of Marie Antoinette Rediscovered” the Opera Lafayette New York Festival redraws three French Baroque operas in a Tejano, Caribbean and West African context at El Museo del Barrio in “El Barrio” East Harlem, Tue-Thu, Jun 7-9, 2022 at 7pm. operalafayette.org 🇫🇷🇬🇳🇲🇽🇵🇷
Opera Lafayette New York Festival Relates Historical Women to the Music of Their Times
Opera Lafayette is beginning a multi-year series that relates historical women of 18th century France to the music of their times. The 1st Opera Lafayette New York Festival reconsiders music from the time of Marie Antoinette (1755-93), last queen of France before the French Revolution (1789-99) ended French royalty.
We no longer think Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake,” but the expression captures her point of view very well.
Opera Lafayette Silvain is a favorite opera of Marie Antoinette, set in Colonial Mexico, at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem on Tue, June 7 at 7pm. From $30. operalafayette.org 🇫🇷🇵🇷🇲🇽
The opera is directed by Mexican filmmaker Tania Hernandez Velasco and stars Puerto Rican soprano Camille Ortiz.
“Silvain” was the first opera performed in New Orleans in 1796. The story honors the rights of peasants to use land owned by nobles. Opera Lafayette recasts the story in Colonial Tejas, a state stolen from Mexico that is now Texas. In some ways, things haven’t changed much.
The Musical Salon of Marie Antoinette & Gala
Opera Lafayette Le Salon de Musique de Marie Antoinette brings German, Caribbean and West African music typical of the French queen’s salon to El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem on Wed, June 8 at 7pm. From $30. operalafayette.org 🇬🇳🇫🇷
The performance is followed by a Gala dinner at the Colony Club honoring Emily K. Rafferty, President Emerita of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. From $750. operalafayette.org 🇫🇷
Concert Spirituel aux Caraibes
Opera Lafayette Concert Spirituel aux Caraibes presents spiritual music of the French Caribbean at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem on Thu, June 9 at 7pm. From $30. operalafayette.org 🇫🇷
We Can’t Change the Past, But We Can Change How We Relate to It
Opera Lafayette reinterprets European opera of the 17th-19th centuries in a contemporary American context. That’s important because the music is beautiful, but the colonial context of racism, misogyny, and violence is unsupportable. It’s a problem with very old culture and even a lot of recent culture because most people don’t think the same way today that we did even three years ago.
Lafayette’s focus is on French opera. That’s a special challenge because the French national motto, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” often applies to elites only. What the French did to Haitians and other colonized peoples is the exact opposite of the motto.
Haiti was the richest land in the Caribbean. France sucked the life out of both the land and the people. The Haitian people are still paying a horrific price for all those beautiful old buildings and estates in and around Paris.
France also tried to colonize Mexico in order to join the U.S. Civil War on the side of the confederate traitors. Cinco de Mayo actually celebrates the defeat in the Battle of Puebla (1862) that blocked the French for a season. If the people of Pueblo weren’t so valiant, we might be a very different country today.
The past is the past, but we have a lot of rewriting to do. Evil only has power when it is hidden in the shadows. We can’t create a better future without accepting both the good and the bad of our shared histories.
We can’t change the past, but we can change how we relate to it. Opera Lafayette presents our shared history in an entirely new light. Bravo!