Manita en el suelo: Afro-Cuban Puppet Opera

Video of the U.S. premiere of the 1934 puppet opera, with libretto by Alejo Carpentier and music by Alejandro García Caturla, directed by Doug Fitch. 

Manita en el Suelo is a “mitología bufa afro-cubana” for narrator, marionettes, chorus, and orchestra in one act and five scenes (1934) with music by Alejandro García Caturla (1906–1940) and text by Alejo Carpentier (1904–1980). Manita en el suelo is a playful parody wiht puppets and one living character, the legendary Papá Montero, who narrates the action while the puppets reenact it. This production will be the piece's U.S. premiere as well as its world premiere with puppets, as the authors intended.


Three fishermen, Juan Indio, Juan Esclavo, and Juan Odio—who represent Cuba’s three main ethnicities in colonial times—are caught in a storm. Suddenly, the Virgin appears and calms the seas, protecting the three men sailing on the same canoe (which represents Cuba itself). Famished after their ordeal, the fishermen eat Manita's sacred rooster, Motoriongo (the titular character is based on a historical figure, an abakuá practitioner who lived in Havana in the late nineteenth century). Manita resorts to a baile de santo to summon the saints and reveal the identity of the fishermen who killed and ate his sacred rooster. Enraged, the ñáñigo (Manita is a member of a secret religious society) punches the moon down from the sky, creating darkness in the world. Destroying the poets’ muse, however, is a crime for which Manita faces imprisonment and death at the hands of the Captain General of Spain and his guards. Suddenly, as a traditional deus ex machina, Chino de la Charada appears to contrive a merry ending.

Cast (in order of appearance):

Papá Montero/Gallo Motoriongo: Héctor Herrera Álvaro
Manita en el Suelo/Juan Indio: Christian García Roque
Capitán General de España/Juan Odio/Ta Cuñengue: Ricardo Rivera 
Chino de la Charada/Juan Esclavo: Ricardo Sepúlveda
Virgen de la Caridad: Joy Tamayo
Candita la Loca: Morena Galán

Flute: Anna Urrey
Oboe: Michelle Farah
Clarinet: Juan Ruiz
Bassoon: Steven Palacio
Horn: Kevin Newton
Trumpet: Grace Fox
Percussion: Jess Tsang, Keisel Jiménez
Violin: Maiani da Silva
Viola: Stephanie Griffin
Cello: Elis Regina Ramos
Double bass: Andrew Roitstein
Choir: Hirona Amamiya, Cara Caponi, Gabriel Nichols, Joseph Beutel
Piano and Assistant Conductor: Adonis González
Conductor: Sebastian Zubieta

Puppeteers: Madeleine Dauer, Stella Feldschuh, J Hann, Dorothy James, Andy Manjuck
Supertitles operator: Eugenio Monjeau
Production: Gina Portale

Lighting: Marien Vélez
Costume design: Nasheli Ortiz
Musical and staging consultant: Malena Kuss
Stage design and director: Douglas Fitch
Set, props, and puppets fabricated by Douglas Fitch, Madeleine Dauer, Stella Feldschuh, J Hann, Dorothy James, Andy Manjuck, and Nour Ragab


The MetLife Foundation Music of the Americas concert series is made possible by the generous support of Presenting Sponsor MetLife Foundation. The Spring 2022 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, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and by the Howard Gilman Foundation.

This concert is also supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts.

MetLife Foundation   Howard Gilman Foundation   NYC Cultural Affairs   New York Council on the Arts   National Endowment for the Arts