Performers in the Santa Monica College Opera cast were delighted and surprised to receive a visit from opera superstar Pl√°cido Domingo during their weekend show.

Over the weekend of June 5 – 7, the Santa Monica College Opera Theater mounted their inaugural production under the new leadership of music department professor, Dr. Janelle DeStefano, at The Broad Stage on the SMC Performing Arts Campus.

Dr. DeStefano has conducted doctoral research and has a personal interest in the genre of classical music known as zarzuela, the Spanish version of the operetta. She chose to present Federico Moreno Torroba’s “Luisa Fernanda” for her first show and the choice yielded a surprise visit by Domingo who is the General Director of Los Angeles Opera.

Domingo was extremely complementary of the cast, and came backstage both during the intermission, and after the show to congratulate them on such a high level performance, and to offer his support to future zarzuela productions at Santa Monica College.

Domingo has been at home on the world’s stages for more than 50 years, having sung more than 3,600 performances of an unprecedented 145 roles. Maestro Domingo has a strong bond with the zarzuela genre, and in particular “Luisa Fernanda.” His father, Pl√°cido Domingo, Sr., and his mother, Pepita Embil, were members of Torroba’s own theater troupe, celebrated performers of zarzuela, and considered the finest interpreters of the roles of Vidal and Luisa. Moreover, Domingo has sung both the roles of Vidal and Javier many times. He has made it a personal project to promote zarzuela and make it more accessible to an international audience in recent years.

The performance featured music and dialogue in Spanish, and English super titles. The production was jointly undertaken with SMC Symphony, and was a successful collaboration between several SMC departments including Cosmetology, Dance, and Film, with additional assistance of technical staff from the Broad Stage.

This production, which was funded in part by grants from the SMC Foundation, the SMC Associates, and the Associated Students of SMC, was both a musical and visual success, and found Dr. James Martin (June 5, 6, & 7) and Mercedes Juan Musotto (June 7, matinee) at the helm of the SMC Orchestra. The cast was largely made up of current SMC students, with the principal cast made up of several talented alumnae and current students, many of whom are in the process of transferring to major four year music schools and graduate conservatories.

“Luisa Fernanda” was written in 1932, just before the Franco regime took over Spain. It is set in 1868, during the uprisings against Isabel II. The use of popular Spanish dance rhythms and colorful orchestration, along with beautiful vocal lines and witty spoken dialogue, appeals to a wide audience. The plot revolves around the relationship between the title character interpreted by SMC Alumna, Meagan Martin, and the wealthy farmer Vidal Hernando, played by Bernardo Bermudez. To win the love of the beautiful young Luisa Fernanda, he would do anything, even fight to the death if necessary.

Additional performers included Jonathan Hernandez, Manuel Paz Castillo, Oriana Falla, Jafet Bucaram and Julio Santizo.

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