MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

World Premiere of Tres minutos

Music by Nicolas Benavides

New from the Seattle-Based Music of Remembrance:

On Sunday, May 15 at 5:30 pm, Music of Remembrance returns to Benaroya Hall for its final live concert of the season. The program, titled Tres minutos, features the world premiere of a compelling new opera of that title by composer Nicolas Benavides and librettist Marella Martin Koch.

Commissioned by MOR, Tres minutos explores the intimate human dimensions of an urgent issue for our time. It tells the story of Nila and Diego, a sister and brother who share family bonds, but not citizenship. Allowed a brief supervised reunion at the border that separates them, they wrestle with questions of identity, duty and belonging. The work is a timely reminder that beyond the arguments about immigration policy are actual people with real lives, deep emotions and complicated relationships.

Tres minutos comes at such an important time in our country,” remarks composer Nicolas Benavides, “a time when we have a refugee crisis and we have the choice to make it better or make it worse.” Starring soprano Vanessa Isiguen and baritone José Rubio in a production conceived and directed by Erich Parce and conducted by the composer.

The program includes chamber works by two composers who spoke out through their art in the darkest of times. Hans Krása, murdered in Auschwitz, is perhaps best known for his iconic children’s opera Brundibár that was performed 55 times by casts of young prisoners in the Terezín concentration camp. His Theme with Variations for string quartet was played by inmates in Terezin in a performance that was exploited by the Nazis for their infamous propaganda film “The Führer Gives a City to the Jews.” Géza Frid, in mortal danger as a stateless Jew in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, organized clandestine house concerts and was active in the underground as a forger of coupons and identity cards. Frid’s Podium Suite, featuring violinist Mikhail Shmidt and pianist Jessica Choe, is an explosion of fireworks — dramatic, virtuosic and rhythmically intense.

Performing as MOR instrumental ensemble are musicians from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra: clarinetist Laura DeLuca, violinists Mikhail Shmidt and Natasha Bazhanov, violist Susan Gulkis Assadi, cellist Walter Gray, double bassist Jonathan Green, and pianist Jessica Choe.

tickets available here


Theme with Variations (1936)          Hans Krása
Mikhail Shmidt, violin     Natasha Bazhanov, violin
Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola     Walter Gray, cello

Podium Suite, Op. 3 (1928)          Géza Frid
Mikhail Shmidt, violin
Jessica Choe, piano


Tres minutos
Music by Nicolas Lell Benavides
Libretto by Marella Martin Koch

More on the creative team:

Nicolas Lell Benavides’ music has been praised for finding “…a way to sketch complete characters in swift sure lines…” (Anne Midgette, Washington Post) and cooking up a “jaunty score [with] touches of cabaret, musical theater and Latin dance.” (Tim Smith, OPERA NEWS). He has worked with groups such as the Washington National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, New Opera West, West Edge Opera, Nashville Opera, Shreveport Opera, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Friction Quartet, Khemia Ensemble, and Nomad Session. He was a fellow at the Eighth Blackbird Creative Lab and the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. Nicolas was the first ever Young Artist Composer in Residence at The Glimmerglass Festival and has been a fellow at the Del Mar International Composers Symposium. He premiered a new opera for Washington National Opera called Pepito with librettist Marella Martin Koch. Nicolas and Marella were selected as the recipient of West Edge Opera’s Aperture commission to develop an evening length opera about civil rights icon Dolores Huerta. He is also developing an opera with librettist Laura Barati as part of MassOpera’s New Opera Workshop. Other notable projects include a new dance piece called On Trac|< for The Glimmerglass Festival in collaboration with dancer Amanda Castro, Little Cloud for Khemia Ensemble, a new string quartet for Fry Street Quartet, and a new orchestra work for Gabriela Lena Frank’s Composing Earth initiative with support from New Music USA. Nicolas has studied at Santa Clara University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

Marella Martin Koch is a librettist and director originally from Los Angeles. In addition to Tres minutos, she wrote the 20-minute opera Pepito with composer Nicolas Lell Benavides for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative. Since its Kennedy Center premiere, Pepito has been performed across the country, recorded as a cast album “full of nuance and emotional pull” (Chris Ruel, Operawire), and released by New Opera West as an “entrancing” animated short film (Claudia Kawczynska, The Bark). Her and Nicolas’ upcoming full-length opera Dolores won the inaugural West Edge Opera Aperture Commission. Other notable credits as librettist include Ten Minutes in the Life or Death of… (music by Tyler J. Rubin), lauded as “quizzical and wonderstruck” (Steven Winn, SF Classical Voice) at West Edge Opera’s Snapshot 2021; and Elinor & Marianne (music by Aferdian), an original concept album inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility produced by The Rally Cat with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, City Council, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Currently based in NYC, she teaches theatre and writing to middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate students and is developing a full-length play called Friend Animals with Midnight Oil Collective. With over a decade of experience in non-profit arts administration and production, she founded and leads the multidisciplinary opera/theatre company The Rally Cat. 

MFA, NYU/Tisch. BA, UC Berkeley.

Filed under: music news, Music of Remembrance


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