7 to 9 pm ET
Still image from Oshun. (Yelaine Rodríguez)
Chamber Opera: Ebbó
This production, commissioned by Americas Society from Dominican artist Yelaine Rodríguez, was created specifically to be seen online.
Ebbó (1998) is an opera-oratorio by Cuban composer Louis Aguirre and librettist Rafael Almanza. The piece is an expression and reinvention of Afro-Caribbean religious, aesthetic, and musical heritage. This new production, commissioned by Americas Society from Dominican artist Yelaine Rodríguez, was created specifically to be seen online.
Queen Apetebí reigns over a prosperous kingdom, but she loves her fantastical pet bird more than anything in the world. Orula, her protector Orisha and master of divination, asks the queen for the bird in sacrifice (ebbó) and warns her of the price of non-compliance. The queen refuses, and the evil Iron King and his armies invade her realm and kill all her subjects. Apetebí finds refuge in a cave, but on the second night of hiding, the bird, unable to stay away from her, finds the cave, inadvertently giving away her location and leading to her demise.
Ebbó premiered in Camagüey in 1998 and was repeated in Germany the following year, the author’s first of many incursions into Afro-Cubanism. Almanza creates a thundering and frantic poetic world that approaches the African universe from within, delving into Afro-Cuban rituals and eschewing shallow visions. Aguirre crafts an overwhelming ritual world that is heterogeneous and brutal, responding to wide-ranging creative impulses that include complex rhythmic structures, microtonal ragas, and extended instrumental techniques, as well as procedures derived from South Indian Carnatic music. Rodríguez's production, with live actors filmed in Quisqueya and other stuff, brings a twenty-first century aesthetic to a timeless story.
The musical ensemble, including a solo soprano (Estelí Gómez), narrator, and instruments including Latin Jazz master Bobby Sanabria, was recorded independently by musicians scattered around the world, from New York to California, and from Tokyo to Buenos Aires.
- Queen Apetebí: Estelí Gómez
- Oboe: Michelle Wong
- Horn: David Byrd-Marrow
- Violin: Pala Garcia
- Viola: Stephanie Griffin
- Piano: Jacob Greenberg
- Percussion: Haruka Fujii and Bobby Sanabria
Composer Louis Aguirre was born in Cuba in 1968 and received a B.A. in composition from the Instituto Superior de Artes in Havana, where he studied with Harold Gramatges and Roberto Valera. He continued his studies at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and completed his studies at the Royal Conservatory of Århus in Denmark. His music has been commissioned and performed by musicians including the Axyz Ensemble, Residencias Ensemble, Arditti String Quartet, Neo Percusión Trío, and the Santiago, Camagüey, and Havana Symphonies, among others. His works have been presented in leading contemporary music festivals, including Gaudeamus Week, Festival Internacional de Alicante, Foro de Música Nueva in Mexico, Festival Internacional de Musica de Morelia, Internationale Ferienkurse für neue musik, Darmstadt, and others. From 1995–2002 Aguirre was the general conductor and artistic director of the Camagüey Symphony Orchestra, as well as guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Havana and the Symphony Orchestra of Santiago de Cuba. In addition, he was a professor of the Camagüey Music Conservatory, and artistic director of the International Festival of Contemporary Music (1996–2002) in Camagüey.
Librettist Rafael Almanza was born in 1957 in Camagüey, where he still resides. He is a poet, journalist, and a leading scholar of the works of José Martí. His publications include the essay “En torno al pensamiento económico de José Martí,” the story collection El octavo día, and the poetry collection Libro de Jóveno.
Born in 1990 in the Bronx, where she lives and works today, director Yelaine Rodríguez is an Afro-Dominican U.S. artist, educator, curator, and cultural organizer. She received a B.F.A. from the New School (2013) and an M.A. from New York University (2021). Rodríguez conceptualizes wearable art and site-specific installations, drawing connections between Black cultures in the Caribbean and the United States through fashion, video, performance, and photography. Her interfaith and intercountry narratives examine identity and race. Rodríguez’s curatorial practice centers around the fundamental contributions of African Diasporic communities. Her latest curatorial projects include “Afro Syncretic” at NYU (2019), “Resistance, Roots, and Truth” at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (2018), and “(under)REPRESENT(ed)” at Parsons (2017). Rodríguez is the recipient of the Innovative Cultural Advocacy Fellowship from the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (2017), Wave Hill Van Lier Fellowship (2018), Latinx Project Curatorial Fellowship at NYU (2019), and Bronx Museum AIM Program (2020). Her work has been included at Longwood Art Gallery, American Museum of Natural History, Wave Hill, Rush Art Gallery, El Centro Cultural de España, and Centro León Biennial XXVII in the Dominican Republic. Rodriguez is an Adjunct Instructor at the New School and NYU.
The MetLife Foundation Music of the Americas concert series is made possible by the generous support of Presenting Sponsor MetLife Foundation. The Spring-Summer 2021 Music program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and is made possible, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support comes from The Amphion Foundation, Inc.