El Palacio Imaginado - new work

CREDITS | SYNOPSIS | Reviews| Photos (Carlos Wagner's site)

Phantom Palace
A Chamber Opera by Hilda Paredes
Based on a Story by Isabel Allende
June 12-14, 8:00 PM
June 15, 7:00 PM
University Theatre
Yale University

LINK to director Carlos Wagner

For more info on performances, see www.artidea.org and www.mdjstuttgart.de

Co-commissioned by Musik der Jahrhunderte Stuttgart, International Festival of Arts & Ideas New Haven, English National Opera London

Libretto Adriana Díaz Enciso
Conductor Peter Hirsch
Director Carlos Wagner
Set and Costume Design Mauricio Elorriaga
Lighting Design Paul Whitaker
Shadow Theater Adelheid Kreisz


The Benefactor Andreas Fischer bass
Marcia Lieberman Angelika Luz soprano
Ambassador Lieberman Daniel Gloger countertenor

Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart
Julia Mende soprano Bernhard Gärtner tenor
Stephanie Field mezzo-soprano Martin Nagy tenor
Barbara Decker alto Guillermo Anzorena baritone

New Haven Symphony Orchestra
Violin Artemis Simerson, Millie Piekos, Stephan Tieszen
Viola Marvin Warshaw, Boris Tonkov
Cello Steven Thomas
Bass Mark Bergman
Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo Kim Collins
Oboe and English Horn Olav Van Hezewijk
Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, E-flat Clarinet Daniel Spitzer
Bassoon Sue Zoellner-Cross
Horn Sara Cyrus
Trumpet Richard Clymer
Trombone Scott Cranston
Tuba Karl Kramer
Percussion David Smith, Valerie Krob

Music Assistant Peter von Winhardt
Costume Supervisor Kerstin Hägele
Production Manager Götz Dihlmann

Collegium Novum Zurich
Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo Matthias Ziegler
Oboe and English Horn Matthias Arter
Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, E-flat Clarinet Sabine Gertschen
Bassoon Nathalie Blaser
Horn Olivier Darbellay
Trumpet Jorg Schneider
Trombone Dirk Amrein
Tuba Guy Michel
Percussion Martin Lorenz, Ivan Manzanilla
Piano Urs Egli
Violin Urs Walker, Rahel Cunz, Patricia Pacozzi
Viola Anna Spina, Anna Pfister
Cello Imke Frank
Bass Alexander Gabrys

Co-production of Musik der Jahrhunderte Stuttgart and International Festival of Arts & Ideas New Haven

Supported by Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Stiftung Kunst und Kultur der LBBW and Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung

Running time 1 hour 30 minutes.

Performances at Kulturhaus Pragsattel in Stuttgart, Germany, June 27-28, 2003.

Co-production of Musik der Jahrhunderte Stuttgart and International Festival of Arts & Ideas New Haven

Supported by Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Stiftung Kunst und Kultur der LBBW and Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung

Running time 1 hour 30 minutes.


For several centuries, there has been a widening gap between the modern world and the indigenous communities of Latin America.

In an attempt to achieve a homogenous society, many policies have been practiced through the centuries to eradicate different indigenous languages and culture to impose Spanish as a unique one.

The title itself reflects the essence of the work, which refers to a Latin American country in which a new culture has been imposed by ignoring and oppressing the native one. When referring to Mexico, the ethnologist Guillermo Bonfil Batalla refers to two different realities to explain this problem, profound Mexico and imaginary Mexico:

What has been proposed as a national culture in different moments of the history of Mexico can be understood as a permanent aspiration for destroying what we are. It has always been a cultural project that neglects the historic reality of the Mexican social structure and it therefore, does not accept the possibility of building a future on its reality. It is a project of substitution in every case. The future is somewhere else, anywhere but here in this concrete reality. The task of building a national culture consists of an imposition of an alien model, a distant one that would eliminate the cultural diversity and would achieve a unity from suppressing the existing.

These are the issues that prompted me to write this work. Isabel Allende’s story provided me with an ideal framework to shape the piece and to work on the libretto with Adriana Díaz Enciso.

The music is subservient to the dramatic development as is the case in opera form. The setting of the text is very close to that of the natural qualities of the languages used in the piece. In several sections I explore the sound qualities of the indigenous languages and expand it, both with electronic means and as a setting. The sound and dramatic qualities of the text is constantly extended. The melodic lines are not treated as leitmotivs as such, as they are part of a dramatic texture that is clearly identifiable as the piece progresses.

The concept of leitmotiv is therefore applied to a whole texture played by different instruments, which depict different dramatic elements throughout the work by revealing the emotional input of the characters or depicting an emotional landscape.

All these musical elements are presented in the first Act and are developed in the following acts.

The vocal lines, explore the unique capabilities of Neue Vocalsolisten who inspired me with their abilities.

In some scenes, solo instruments become part of the character. So voice and instrument go hand in hand to portray certain aspects of characters. It is the case of the trombone in the speech of the Benefactor, where a special technique is required for the trombonist to be able to echo his self-importance, or the role of the trumpet in the third scene of Act I, where it plays a distorted canon with Ambassador Lieberman, as if trying to translate what he is saying.

As a whole, the instrumentation is treated as part of the dramatic development. To choose a small ensemble, enabled me to treat the instruments as soloists.

A couple of traditional Mexican tunes are quoted in the piece, merely as a means to refer to a historical moment in Act l.

The role of the material on tape is clearly associated with the “other” reality. That of the “invisible” indigenous people that have been ignored for several hundred years, those who have found in their invisibility, in hiding, a way to preserve their true identity. These voices were recorded in Mexico for the elaboration of the tape.
I wish to thank: Juana Catalina Méndez, Petra Iturbide, Eduviges and Benito Cortés, Gastón de la Luz Albino, Alberto Palacios, David Carrera, Paula Manuel Hernandez, Sofia Hernández Maria, Cristina Gómez López, Ma. Magdalena Gómez, Lucas Ruiz Ruiz, Iris Chilpcholp and her Grandmother, for their valuable contribution to the material on tape and of Radio UNAM for their help with recording, ;Jorge Lara for his invaluable help with the recording ; the following Mexican poets: Briceida Cuevas-Cob, Juan Gregorio Regino and Natalia Toledo, for reading their poems into my microphone.

The tape also includes a selection of texts from El Ritual de los Bacabe, a compilation of ancient Mayan spells dating to the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, read by Valentina Vapnarsky. These fragments are also set into music in different moments throughout the piece.

The tape was produced at the Experimental Studio Heinrich Strobel Stiftung des Sudwestfunks in Freiburg, with the assistance of Stefan Tiedje.

I wish to thank the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation for awarding me a fellowship and inspiration to start this piece.

El Palacio Imaginado, was commissioned by Musik der Jahrhunderte, International Festival of Arts and Ideas and English National Opera. It was written between 2001 and 2003.
— Hilda Paredes