Children inspired as audience grows for Christmas opera ‘Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena’

Alejandra Tejeda plays the role of Lucinda at the San Francisco Opera

The opera that Fresno State commissioned, workshopped and performed in 2016 titled “Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena” has now been seen by over 15,000 people across the country, according to Dr. Anthony Radford, Fresno State professor of voice and opera.

“This holiday season it was performed for the first time at Coker College and surrounding schools in Hartsville, South Carolina and The University of Texas at Brownsville and surrounding schools,” said Radford, “In Brownsville, it was performed by university students, some of whom cross the border to go to school every day.”

Last year professional opera picked the show up too and due to its commercial success, it saw repeat performances this year at “Opera in the Heights” in Houston and at the San Francisco Opera starring recent graduate, and creator of the role of Lucinda, Alejandra Tejeda.

“It’s so amazing knowing that Lucinda is already on her third year and more people are picking up on the opera,” said Tejeda.

Alejandra Tejeda meets with children after the play

For Tejeda, the experience of interacting with the children, both during and after performances, has formed some of her favorite memories. As a child, Tejeda said she always wanted someone on TV or in entertainment that she could relate to, but never found it. She finds it heartwarming that she could be that example for someone else.

“When I was in San Francisco… I noticed a shy little boy holding his mom’s hand and she was telling him that it’s okay to ask me a question even if it was in Spanish. The little boy looked at her scared because he was afraid that I would reject him. I was moved with compassion and started talking to him in Spanish, and immediately his whole face lit up,” said Tejeda. “Once the other kids heard me speak in Spanish, they immediately started talking to me in Spanish with so much happiness. They even wanted to take pictures with me because they felt they found somebody just like them.”

“One of the most rewarding things to watch is Alejandra speaking with children after the performance,” said Radford. “We watch her move freely from Spanish to English as she answers questions about the performance. You can tell by the energy in the room that these performances have impact and meaning for the children.”

Tejeda graduated magna cum laude in fall of 2017 with a Master of Arts degree in Music. She was honored as one of the 16 Students of Distinction for the College of Arts and Humanities. During her time at Fresno State, her outstanding vocal performances in both opera and mariachi were enthusiastically received by audiences throughout the Central Valley and beyond. The pinnacle of those accomplishments was her involvement in shaping the role of Lucinda — even though she humbly calls it a “small piece of the puzzle.”

“The composer, Evan Mack, and the librettist, Joshua McGuire, would ask me questions as to how I was raised up and how my life was being a Mexican-American,” said Tejeda. “They based a lot of my personal traits to the traits of Lucinda, even down to the nickname that Lucinda’s mom calls her, in the opera, of ‘mi potrilla,’ which means ‘my little horse.’ My dad called me that growing up, so it was nice that they added that little detail. The main piece of the puzzle was the Spanish.”

As Tejeda explained her role further, it becomes clear that her involvement was much more than a small piece. The part was built around her and her experiences as a child. Her mother was even involved in helping with the language translation — which also helped shape the music.

“There was a special moment Evan, Josh, my mom and I shared when we were trying to figure out how to say Lucinda’s prayer in Spanish. My mom translated it into Spanish, and both Evan and Josh looked at each other, and it clicked for them how they wanted to present it to the music, so it was special because the simplicity of the prayer translated into Spanish created a huge impact into how the poinsettias were presented,” said Tejeda.

The San Francisco Opera cast of Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena

Radford said next year the opera will be performed at Opera Alamo in San Antonio, U.C. Santa Barbara, and Cal State L.A.

“Each musical score that a company or university uses has Fresno State’s name on the title page as the original commissioning organization, and they all use our online video made in our studio by our students and faculty as a model,” said Radford.

If you would like to experience Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena, Radford said the opera would be performed again at Fresno State in late 2019.

UPDATE: On Dec. 20th, Evan Mack was recognized in the U.S. House of Representatives for his composition work by Representative Paul Tonko of New York.

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Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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