The Hands-on-Opera program of Opera Parallele is premiering another work written for (and including a chorus of) children this week. Xochitl and the Flowers, based on a book by Jorge Argueta, tells the story of a family from El Salvador that moves to the Mission and tries to make a new home there. Roma Olvera, the educational programs director for the ensemble, adapted the bilingual libretto.
The performances, one at 6pm on Thursday, and two on Saturday (11am and 1pm) will be at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. There’s more information at the Opera Parallele website.
The chorus is made up of kids from Alvorado Elementary school. “Those 44 third graders that are on stage have been speaking Spanish since kindergarten,” Roma Olvera says. “And our conductor is bilingual as well, so they switch back and forth between Spanish and English the whole time. We look for a diverse population, because we want our opera company to look like our city, and our world looks. And Alvorado has that demographic. It’s also an immersion program, one of the oldest immersion programs in the city.” In the story, the young daughter Xochitl, (the Nahuat word for ‘flower’) sells flowers in the Mission as her father tries to find a place for them to live. The landlord of a building they want to move into doesn’t want them to move in, changing the neighborhood, until his heart is changed by Xochitl. “She looks at the backyard, and she says ‘Don Roberto, there are three things that a garden needs. It needs sunshine, and it needs birds, because birds come for a happy place to live, and it needs snails, because snails travel with their homes on their backs and look for new places to live. And your garden has all three, I know it’s going to work.'”