MEXICO CITY — The new Mexican opera Marea Roja will premiere on Aug. 20 at the Theater of the Arts at the National Center for the Arts (Cenart) in Mexico City. Marea Roja tells the story of three Mexican women who were victims of femicide, or gender-motivated murder.
Librettist Alejandro Román said during a press preview that, “It is a tragic story, but we don’t want to be sensationalist. It is a way to reflect on society.”
The production team is composer Diana Syrse, librettist Alejandro Román, musical director Jorge Cózatl, and stage director Óscar Tapia. Olmos is the general manager of the Túumben Paax ensemble.
The opera, the title of which translates as “Red Tide,” evokes ocean imagery to link the women’s stories. One of the actresses describes the stories as “three little drops” in a sea of violence. A nine-piece orchestra will accompany the opera and the set includes video projections to recount the women’s stories.
Marea Roja tells the stories of Nadia Vera, an anthropologist and activist who was killed in Mexico City on July 31st, 2015, after fleeing the state of Veracruz due to death threats; Blanca Montiel, who was killed by a stray bullet on September 26th, 2014, in the attacks in Iguala, Guerrero that killed six people and ended in the disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college; and lastly, Kassandra Bravo, a young nurse who was killed by her step-father in Michoacán.
The six actresses are members of the Túumben Paax ensemble, which means “new music” in Yucatecan Mayan. Two actresses represent each of the three woman, one playing the living version of the character and the other the “absent,” or deceased. The two versions of each character interact, with the “absent” woman warning her living counterpart of the dangers she faces.
Marea Roja is one act, and each movement is dedicated to one of the three women, narrating her story through song. Olmos says that for each of the cases, “we describe what they were like, what they did, and we also include statistics on the broader problem in Mexico.”
The costumes are simple, flowing dresses in pink and cream tones, smeared with blood to evoke the violence committed against the women. The actresses’ faces are painted with bruises and gashes. Both the costumes and make-up diminish the impact of the dual acting — even the living version of each character appears ghost-like and tragic. Instead of dressing the living characters in every-day clothing, the audience only sees the women as victims and tragic figures. It is the highly skilled singing of all the actresses that lends the performance an impression of what the women were like when they were alive.
The three cases portray the issue of femicide, which means a murder in which the gender of the victim motivated the crime. Femicide has been legally recognized in Mexico and several state have passed laws to prosecute the crime.
Musical director Jorge Cózatl says that the production team wanted to take action against the violence affecting women in Mexico. He says, “We can denounce what is going on in a new way, through music.”
The duality of the characters on-stage represents the specter of the thousands of women killed in Mexico in recent years. Since 2007, in line with the start of the War on Drugs, femicides have steadily increased. It is estimated that six women are killed every day in Mexico. A report by the National Citizen Femicide Observatory found that in 3,892 documented cases of femicide between 2012 and 2013, only 24 percent were investigated by authorities, and only 1.6 percent lead to sentencing.
Thousands of women also disappear each year in Mexico, and their families are left to investigate whether they remain alive. Between 2011 and 2012, approximately 4,000 women were reported disappeared, with the highest rates in Chihuahua and the State of Mexico.
The high rate of unsolved cases means that many women are hesitant to report crimes. In Mexico, 63 percent of women report being the victim of some type of sexual crime, but the vast majority go unreported.
Marea Roja uses opera to bring femicide to light and give the audience an opportunity to reflect and act. Cózatl says, “The opera is a way to raise my voice and say, enough already, something is wrong here.”
Marea Roja will be performed on August 20th and 21st at the Theater of the Arts at Cenart, at Río Churubusco 79 in Mexico City. Tickets can be bought at the theater or on Ticketmaster.
More information is available on the Cenart website: www.cenart.gob.mx