Musical Resurrection: Honors College Revive Classical Masterpieces

By Audrin Baghaie

After a laborious three-year endeavor, the UNM Honors College, along with the New Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra and National Hispanic Cultural Center, have resurrected the works of late composer Manuel Areu and performed them live for the first time ever this past Sunday.

A crowd gathers at the reception opening.

Violinist, composer, actor and entrepreneur Manuel Areu (1845-1942) died after living a life of academia and aestheticism. Despite his transatlantic ventures, Areu’s life’s work of priceless musical compositions and playbills were left to decay in cedar trunks left in rural Arizona.

For years after his death, the manuscripts of Manuel Areu lived in a city dump across Jerome, Arizona before their rediscovery and subsequent donation to the University of New Mexico libraries’ Center for Southwest Research in 1952.

Now, after decades of silence, the UNM Honors College and the New Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra have reanimated Areu’s theatrical aspirations after a three year project of transcription and translation.

Soprano Estefania Cuevas Wilco enters stage right during the performance.  Photo by James Coulter

“This is one of those things that the Honors College is perfect for,” said Honors College Associate Dean Ursula Shepherd, “historians, photographers, conductors, musicians and students all working with one another to revitalize such profound works of art.”

Areu was particularly known for his work with zarzuelas, a Spanish theater style that blends song, dance, opera and comedy. Of his 130 recovered zarzuelas, two, along with other instrumental pieces, were performed with the help of a live orchestra at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

New Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra Concertmaster and First Chair Violinist Krzysztof Zimowski said reviving Areu’s work was such a great experience, he felt like he was part of the composing process.

“Music, when it’s lying down on the shelf, means nothing. It needs to be a live performance, you need to hear it. There’s no recording of this. One hundred years of absence, and I was the first to bring it to life. It’s an amazing, emotional feeling,” Zimowski said.

The show began with a bright overture that cascaded into Areu’s set of waltzes known as “Dolores,” before introducing the first zarzuela entitled, “Un Conato de Coburg.” The piece featured six thespians playing out a hastily formed love triangle, taking turns breaking into operatic Spanish love songs.

After a brief intermission, the second zarzuela, “El Retiro,” was performed, then “Los Rancheros” and another set of waltzes called “Brisas de España.” This time, the actors and actresses on stage entangled themselves into a hilarious scene of misunderstanding that raised bursts of laughter.

In addition to the concert, Honors College students, led by faculty members Celia Lopez-Chavez and Megan Jacobs, curated an exhibit titled, “Recovered Genius: The Life and Work of Manuel Areu, 1845 – 1942.” The exhibit is open through May 11 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Lopez-Chavez called the exhibit a “well-documented show that offers a visual and historical context of a work and legacy that has finally been recovered for future generations.”

Pictured from left to righ: Dr. Celia Lopez-Chavez, UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah, UNM Honors Professor Megan Jacobs, UNM Honors student Anna Kebler, Conductor Javier Lorenzo, UNM Honors student Trent Spenser.

Jaime Rodriguez, a recent UNM graduate, recalled the difficulty in deciphering the dialogue and notation from Areu’s documents.

“I started in spring of 2015,” Rodriguez said. “Mainly translating the dialogue [for the performers] from old Spanish to English, as well as using musical software for hours on end to figure the notes used in the original manuscripts.”

Rodriguez transcribed under the guidance of renowned Argentinean conductor Javier Alejandro Lorenzo, who worked firsthand with Honors College students in reviving Areu’s work.

Lorenzo conducted Sunday’s concert and directed the orchestra through the two zarzuelas.

“I knew about the collection for ten years, but started transcribing two and a half years ago.” Lorenzo said. “I helped the honors students and taught them to interpret the scores; we were discovering it together. It’s been a challenging, interesting process – like making a puzzle without all the pieces. But now, I’m very moved. I’m very much enjoying this moment.”

Audrin Baghaie is a culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.


¡Zarzuelas! Rediscovered Romance

The New Mexico Philharmonic, in collaboration with the UNM Honors College and in partnership with the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the City of Albuquerque, the Consulate of Mexico in Albuquerque, and Chatter, hosted the The New Mexico Philharmonic Music & Arts Festival.   The focus  of the month long  festival in April was Turn of the Twentieth: The Music & Times of Manuel Areu.

Unheard for more than a century, rediscovered Spanish operettas or
“Zarzuelas” by late 19th and early 20th century composer Manuel Areu were performed by NMPhil and conducted by Areu expert and Argentinian native Dr. Javier Lorenzo. Take time to meet the concert and festival team below.

The Concert Team

Javier Lorenzo (Conductor and Project Director)
Committed to the promotion of Latin American music, Javier Alejandro Lorenzo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has been a teacher, conductor, and choirmaster since 1984. He studied at the National Conservatory of Music in Buenos Aires and received his Master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting at University of New Mexico. He has conducted in several Latin American countries and the United States.

Javier Lorenzo was music director at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, creating a Latin American Concert Series that featured music of Latin America rarely performed in the United Sates. He was also the artistic director and conductor of Maria de Buenos Aires, the tango opera by renowned composer Astor Piazzolla. This was the first major, in-house music production of the Roy E. Disney Center for Performing Arts at the NHHC.

In 2013-2014 Lorenzo occupied the “Garrey Carruthers Distinguished Chair” in the Honors College at UNM. In this position, he began the direction of a research project based on the “Collection of Spanish composer Manuel Areu” (1845-1942), that included among many personal documents and music sheets a set of nineteenth century Zarzuelas. The project of selecting and preparing unpublished scores for their world premiere has been expanded to historical research of the legacies left by Areu and the historical contexts of their work in four different countries. Currently, Lorenzo continues working on this research and transcription of music with UNM Honors students as Honors Distinguished Fellow in the UNM Honors College.

Valli Marie Rivera (Stage Director)
Valli Marie Rivera is a theatre director, actor, and educator with an MA in Theatre from SUNY at Albany.  She trained additionally with Eugenio Barba’s Odin Teatret, Augusto Boal, Kristin Linklater, Gilda Navarra and Jacques Lecoq.  For 10 years, Valli was Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey campus. In Albuquerque, she directed the premiers of Bless Me, Ultima (with a state wide tour) and Rosalinda, and the revival of Farolitos of Christmas, all by Rudolfo Anaya and co-produced by the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) and The Vortex Theatre.  Other directorial projects with The Vortex include The House of the Spirits, Lorca in a Green Dress, and La casa azul. Recent works with Camino Real Productions for NHCC’s Siembra Latino Festival are ¡Aye No!, 26 Miles, and Secret Things. Valli directed The Medea Complex and staged readings as part of the University of New Mexico’s Words Afire Festival.  She has directed and/or acted in Santa Fe for Santa Fe Playhouse, Santa Fe Performing Arts, and Teatro Paraguas.  Directing works in Santa Fe include Blood Wedding, Eyes for Consuela, Sagrado y Obceno, Plaza, ¡Curanderas! Serpents of the Gods, Rappaccini’s Daughter, One Railroad Circus, Baggage, and Rosa de dos aromas.  Valli is co-founder of a group of women writers for theatre, Hembras de Pluma, and wrote, directed, and acted in El Punto de Lola.  She co-authored the published play Hembra, which she performed in festivals in Chile, Argentina, and Puerto Rico. Throughout her career, she has performed and/or directed for theatre festivals in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and the Caribbean. Valli has appeared in television shows and film throughout her acting career.  Her film work includes Maldeamores, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival (2007), and Roswell FM.

The Music Research Team

Jaime Rodriguez just graduated from UNM with a B.S. in Biology, and minors in music and chemistry with a designation from the Honors College. While pursuing a career in medicine, Jaime enjoys playing the piano, violin, and pipe organ, which led him to lend his
expertise to the Manuel Areu Project. As an undergraduate he worked with classmates to
scan original documents and transcribe music from manuscript to digitized files.

Emily Ramsey is majoring in Music Education and Flute performance at the University of New Mexico. Emily is an active member in many of the music ensembles at UNM. Through the Honors College, Emily has joined to help in the final steps of the Manuel Areu project. Emily is working under Professor Javier Lorenzo as a part of the group working to transcribe music, and put on a concert featuring Areu’s works.

Ben Montoya graduated from Santa Fe High in 2014 and is now in his sophomore year at UNM. He is majoring in English. He will be assisting Dr. Javier Lorenzo with the editing and organization for the New Mexico Philharmonic concert.

The Historical Research Team

Dr. Celia López-Chávez has taught interdisciplinary seminars in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico for twenty years as Associate Professor, including  co-teaching with Conductor Javier Lorenzo the course “Drums and Dreams: Latin American Music as Text”. She received her Ph.D. in Latin American History at the Universidad de Sevilla, Spain and has published two books in Argentina and many academic articles in Spain, Argentina, and the United States.  Her latest book, Epics of Empire and Frontier. Alonso de Ercilla and Gaspar de Villagrá as Spanish Colonial Chroniclers, by the University of Oklahoma Press, will be out in May of 2016. She has worked for a year now for the Manuel Areu Project doing historical research using the Areu collection and guiding undergraduate UNM Honors students in becoming scholars on the subject of Manuel Areu, his life and work. She is coordinating the academic activities of the Manuel Areu project.

Olivia Carpenter is a senior at the University of New Mexico majoring in English. Her research interests include eighteenth-century British women writers, gender and sexuality studies, and studies of race and empire. In addition to her research in literary studies, she has also been working with Manuel Areu’s memoirs and personal papers since 2014 and is currently working on an annotated edition of some of these writings. She will pursue a PhD in English this fall.

Anna Kebler is a senior graduating in May with a B.A. in Anthropology and minors in Spanish and Interdisciplinary Honors.  Born and raised in Kirkwood, MO, Anna has been active in the Honors College since moving to Albuquerque in 2012.  During the Spring 2014 semester she scanned documents, transcribed music and lyrics, translated lyrics, and conducted historical research for the Manuel Areu Project.  She is presenting a revised version of her paper on Areu’s “Himnio a Porfirio Díaz” at the Student Symposium on April 8th.

The Exhibit Team

Megan Jacobs is an Associate Professor of Art in the Honors College. She holds an M.F.A. in Photography from the University of New Mexico. Jacobs’ work has been exhibited internationally and explores the delicate relationship between our existence as material and concept. Jacobs’ teaching interests include fine art, aesthetics, material culture and cultural preservation through new media. She is heading up the creation of a photographic exhibition depicting the life and influences of Manuel Areu.

Trent Spencer is originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Upon graduating from Santa Fe High School, he is now pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Mexico. As an active member of the UNM Honors College, Trent is the assistant photographic researcher and exhibit designer for the Manuel Areu photographic exhibition, which will be on view at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.


The Project

workingareuThe Manuel Areu Project consists of bringing to light the original music and theater works of composer, musician, actor, and entrepreneur Manuel Areu. Areu was born in Madrid, Spain in 1845 and died in Mexico City in 1942. Although this collection was found in 1952, there were no efforts to recover and perform Areu’s original music. However, in 2012, under the guidance of UNM Honors College Faculty, University of New Mexico Honors College students began to research Areu’s life and work using this unprecedented collection of music scores and manuscripts. Areu’s artistic life spanned Spain, Cuba, Mexico, New Orleans, and Los Angeles as well as some cities in Texas and Arizona.

The value of Areu’s work is not only the quality and the merits of the work itself, but also Areu himself as an active artist responding to the times and places in which he lived. The fact that the collection has many unpublished scores creates a unique opportunity for students and performers to be part of a research project that reveals not only new music, but also a new aspect of musical entertainment in the Hispanic communities in the Southwest at the beginning of the 20th century and continuing into their legacy today. Areu’s work in zarzuela, vaudeville, and entertainment, including his unique “vistas habladas” of silent movies, also left a legacy in Cuba and Mexico.


Literature about Areu Collection

José Luis Temes, a music conductor specializing in zarzuela, mentioned this collection in his book, “El Siglo de la Zarzuela:”

“Scholars have found no evidence of the presence of zarzuela in the east coast of the United States at least until 1871, when the pioneer company of Manuel Areu arrived in New Orleans. From there he organized expeditions to several cities in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. He teamed with brothers Mauri (of Valencian origin, although established in Cuba), and they took some repertoire to Florida and elsewhere in the United States. In his amazing work as an entrepreneur in America, Areu came to have his own collection of e zarzuelas, both Spanish and American, which recently appeared in the city of Jerome (Arizona).

Continue reading “Literature about Areu Collection”