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Esperanza Rising

A children's opera in one act
based upon the children's book
Esperanza Rising


The creation of the opera

Esperanza Rising was commissioned by LongLeaf Opera Company and the NC Arts Center.  This opera is a result of a residency held at the Frank Porter Elementary School.  For a month, I visited the school to develop a libretto with the fifth grade students of Frank Porter Elementary.  Each class adopted a section of the libretto.  We would discuss the story and from our discussions, the students came up with the poetic words that made up the libretto.  The second stage of the project was to have the students, in small groups, come up with melodies for the words.  Each group was recorded.  I then took the recordings and from the melodies and rhythms created by the students, developed the opera.  Members of LongLeaf Opera performed the opera at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School on May 5, 2009.

The story

Esperanza Ortega possesses all the treasures a young girl could want: fancy dresses; a beautiful home filled with servants in the bountiful region of Aguascalientes, Mexico; and the promise of one day rising to Mama’s position and presiding over all of Rancho de las Rosas. But a sudden tragedy shatters that dream, forcing Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp.  There they confront the challenges of hard work, acceptance by their own people, and economic difficulties brought on by the Great Depression.  When Mama falls ill from Valley Fever and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must relinquish her hold on the past and learn to embrace a future ripe with the riches of family and community. Pam Muñoz Ryan eloquently portrays the Mexican workers’ plight in this abundant and passionate novel that gives voice to those who have historically been denied one.


Esperanza ~ Soprano
Abuelita / Ramona  (Mama) / Marta~ Mezzo-soprano
Papa  / Tio Luis / Miguel ~ Tenor
Child singer

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