by MiChelle Jones
Later this month, Nashville Opera will present Nashville’s first-ever Spanish-language opera, “Florencia en el Amazonas.” Along with the performances, a show of original art by nine local Hispanic artists — some well-established members of Nashville’s visual art community — will be displayed at four venues around the city over the next several months.
“Florencia en el Amazonas” the exhibition will be on view through Jan. 17 at The Arts Company. It will then be displayed at TPAC during the opera’s run, Jan. 23-27. After that, the work travels to the Noah Liff Opera Center, followed by a show at Casa Azafrán; dates for the last two exhibitions are yet to be determined.
“It’s not a huge show, but it’s a good show,” said Arts Company owner Anne Brown, whose staff curated the exhibit.
From the page
The idea to mount a visual arts show along with the opera production came out of programming discussions Nashville Opera had with Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies, according to Nashville Opera’s Reed Hummell. A Metro Arts Commission grant is helping finance the exhibition.
“Florencia en el Amazonas,” the opera, is Daniel Catán’s adaptation based on the work of Gabriel García Márquez, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Colombian author who died last summer. In the story, a group of people steam down the Amazon River.
Surrounded by lush landscape — and in the opera by an appropriately lush musical score — the travelers must also contend with aspects of “magical realism,” a literary device often employed by García Márquez. In such stories, magical or otherwise fantastical elements interact with characters in real environments and situations.
“If you’ve ever read ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude,’ it is magical realism from beginning to end,” said Marcela Gomez of the author’s well-known novel. Gomez, founder of the Hispanic Marketing Group, was brought on board to assist in reaching artists.
Magical realism informs many of the 25 artworks in the exhibit. In Liliana Velez’s photo-realistic painting “Monarch,” for example, a woman strums an acoustic guitar as butterflies flutter around her. One of the insects is shown coming to life from a butterfly tattoo on the woman’s arm.
Butterflies are also visible in Jairo Prado’s Fauvist-like “Journey to Macondo.” Prado’s colorful abstract paintings were visible behind President Obama during his December appearance at Casa Azafrán; the front of the building also displays one of Prado’s signature murals.
Jorge Arrieta, Orlando Garcia-Camacho, Antuco Chicaiza, Yuri Figueroa, Mandy Peitz, Mike Quinones and Jorge Yances are the other artists in the show.
First, the group made a presentation at Casa Azafrán, and posted information on social media platforms. In addition to addressing themes from the opera, the artists were also given the option of expressing their experiences as Latinos in Nashville.
“Some of them are professional artists in the sense that that’s what they do full time and they do have studios,” Gomez said. “The rest of them are amateurs; we discovered these folks sort of randomly.”
Brown said the selection process has been typical in that artists were asked to present their qualifications, background and ideas for the pieces. It was important, Brown said, that the artists be able to produce the work in a relatively short amount of time.
“It’s been a collaborative effort, which I love,” Brown said. “It has worked very, very well for all of us.”
Submission guidelines were presented in English and Spanish, translated by Gomez, whose team also created a Spanish-language video for TPAC explaining parking and other performance information.
Nashville Opera recognized early on that this production was an “opportunity to engage the city’s growing Latino population,” Hummell wrote in an email. He added the organization is also committed to projects that bring new connections to opera.
Gomez said the teaming up of the groups — Nashville Opera, the Metro Arts Commission and The Arts Company and Conexión Américas (Casa Azafrán’s parent organization) — will help them reach larger and more diverse audiences than they would on their own.
Gomez and Brown hope “Florencia en el Amazonas” will bring exposure to the participating artists.
“All these initiatives are great and they bring out our very diverse community,” Gomez said, “however, an artist is an artist, whether he is Latino or not Latino.”
If you go
What: “Florencia en el Amazonas,” original works inspired by the opera
Where: The Arts Company, 215 Fifth Ave. N.
When: through Jan. 17
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Contact: 615-254-2040 or theartscompany.com