El Milagro del Recuerdo/The Miracle of Remembering, a world premiere by composer Javier Martínez and librettist Leonard Foglia, is only the third mariachi opera ever. The first two, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna and El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, were both composed by José “Pepe” Martínez, Javier’s father, with libretti also by Leonard Foglia.
After José passed away three years ago, Javier, a mariachi musician himself—like everyone else in his family—decided to continue his father’s legacy by composing the score for El Milagro, a prequel that tells the story of the last Christmas the characters of Cruzar spent together.
Composing the score for the opera was sentimental for Javier, who says he grew closer to the memory of his father throughout the process. Javier was alonside his father when he composed the score for the first two mariachi operas, and he remembers those days fondly.
“Since the beginning—from the first moments of Cruzar—we were present with him,” remembers Javier of his father’s work. “I was there when he had his first meeting with Leonard Foglia regarding Cruzar, and it is an honor for me to be able to work now with Lenny and with the whole company.”
Javier shared more thoughts on the legacy of his father and on his own mariachi opera with HGO Marketing and Promotions Coordinator Itzel Garcia.
ITZEL GARCIA: Why is it important for you to carry on your father José’s legacy?
JAVIER MARTÍNEZ: It is a family thing. My grandparents, both my mother’s parents and my father’s parents, were mariachi musicians. Music has been passed down from generation to generation. I am very proud to continue with this project of combining opera and mariachi that my father started. Carrying on the legacy that my father left for all the mariachi musicians is a great honor for me.
Why do you think the combination of marachi and opera works so well?
Mariachi music is—as everybody knows, the music of the people. It is a language for all Mexican people. It is our way of expressing ourselves. The same thing happens with opera, in theater, and in everything which is considered art. It is all a form of language. I think that being able to combine opera with mariachi music was a very pertinent idea we developed. It unites a lot of types of people. I think this is a great opportunity.
In El Milagro, the people of Michoacán face the issue of not knowing if the decisions they have made in their lives are the right ones. When you have a variety of options that seem to be the right, how do you choose what is best for your family?
I think that you can never know if something was the right choice or not. I think that life is full of these little decisions that you make at a certain moment. For example, in the opera we talk precisely about people who have to go to the United States to work and what a great sacrifice it is to leave their families. A lot of Mexican families go through this process, and I have experienced this process myself. Sometimes I have to be away from my family for a few months so I can work on a project, and making the decision to do that is always a hard one. You want to support your family financially, but you also don’t want to abandon them. I don’t know if the decisions we make as human beings are always the best, but sometimes you just have to do what you need to do to support your family. That is the only way you can move forward and get your family through things in order to have a home, in order to have a house, a car. So a lot of these things happen to Mexican families. They make the decision to go to the United States to earn money, but that sometimes means they have to leave their family behind. And that is something that is really hard to do.
Since this is a Christmas opera, can you tell us a little bit about the Christmas traditions of your own family?
In our family—and I think for all Mexican families—the Christmas tradition has always been about getting the whole family together. We start preparing food early in the day, preparing the house, making the ornaments. Coming together during the holidays is what El Milagro is all about. It is precisely that—enjoying the moment, enjoying your parents, enjoying your grandparents, enjoying your cousins, your aunts and uncles. Spending Christmas with your family and getting to have all of those special moments with them, which you may not be able to repeat again, become some of the moments you end up valueing the most. I cannot hug my father anymore, but I remember him through memories of beautiful moments we spent together. Those moments that you spend with your family are the most beautiful ones, and that is a big part of the message of this opera.
Why should people come to see this opera?
It has a beautiful message. Lenny is one of those people who has a unique talent to get to peoples’ hearts. It is an opera that will make you laugh, that will make you cry, that will make you look at your partner and hug them. As soon as you leave you will want to see your parents. You will be overwhelmed with feelings by this opera, and you really cannot miss it. You are not going to regret it. It is an excellent opera. It is an excellent creation that you are all going to love. You really have to see it.