THE STUDENT DANCERS, musicians and singers of the University of Arizona are all ensconced in a single School of Music and Dance, but they rarely collaborate.
This week, for a change, they will. Una Noche de Ballet y Opera Española will sashay from modern dance to ballet to turn-of-the-century opera, all the pieces knitted together by their Spanish origins. Dancers and singers will perform separately to the welcome live strains of the University Symphony, and then merge their talents in the dance passages of the opera La Vida Breve by Manuel de Falla.
"Rodrigo," a modern dance work by dance prof Amy Ernst, opens the evening. Set to a portion of Joaquin Rodrigo's "Fantasia para un gentilhombre," the short dance for 12 performers moves first to solo guitar and then to full orchestra. The dancers are all student members of the UA Dance Ensemble.
Melissa Lowe, another dance professor, streamlined the elaborate ballet "Paquita," next up on the program. Originally staged in old Russia by Marius Petipa, it's now a work of sleek classical ballet heated up by Spanish movement. A corps de ballet of 14 dancers will by led by Cesar Rubio, who's distinguished himself on many Tucson stages, and Elizabeth George. Both leads are seniors.
A short opera caps the evening; UA prof Charles Roe staged the work for the students of the UA Opera Theatre. Composed in 1904 by the young Spaniard de Falla, La Vida Breve (Life Is Short) never debuted until 1913 -- and then it was sung in the more conventional opera tongue of French. Spain had not yet developed a national opera tradition, and De Falla was one of the first to craft an opera of Spanish origins. His first, La Vida Breve, is set in Granada and draws heavily on Andalusian folk music.
Sung here in Spanish, the work tells the tale of a young gypsy woman, Salud, jilted by her playboy lover, Paco. The dancing opportunities come during Paco's wedding to another woman, in the peasant-inspired "Spanish Dance No. 1." Grad student Vanessa Salaz alternates the soprano part of Salud with senior Amanda Fraire. Grad students Arnulfo Velasquez and Eli Souza switch off in the tenor role of Paco.