March 14, 2009
Luisa Fernanda

On February 20th, I went to see Federico Moreno Torroba’s zarzuela (operetta) Luisa Fernanda at the Ricardo Montalban Theater. Having never seen an operetta, but being one who appreciates operas, I was happy to catch this melodrama about love, war, friendship, and sacrifice.
Directed by Gabriel Oliva, who also performs in the show as a young revolutionary, Luisa Fernanda is an energetic show with talented cast. Teresa Hughes-Oliva, who plays the title role of Luisa, the young woman whose heart has been toyed with, has a beautiful voice that is splendor; however, at times the orchestra drowned out her lovely voice. This inconsistent projection continued throughout with a few other performers, which made me rely on the English supertitles much more than I intended.
Other performers include the elegant Carlos Oliva, whose stage presence is outstanding, as the wealthy, yet older suitor, Don Vidal. Mr. Oliva is completely believable in the role of an older, wiser man who chooses his words carefully and refuses to participate in petty jealousies.  Also, he takes command of the stage, as a seasoned performer would, whenever he speaks or sings. The third member of the triangle is the roguish Javier, played by Gabriel Reoyo-Pazos with the flirtatious ease of a butterfly going from flower to flower.
Luisa Fernanda’s large ensemble establishes believable relationships with one another, which contributes to the overall success of the zarzuela. Furthermore, it’s intelligently staged by director, Gabriel Oliva, as he manages to use the space wisely to display the entire cast such as during a few choreographed dance routines. The choreography, done by Lindsay Martin, is charming and the cast performs it with ease.
This was an evening well spent at the Ricardo Montalban Theater and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It’s an opportunity to appreciate another form of theater and a terrific show with talented performers.
Luisa Fernanda” was produced by the Pacific Lyric Association


Monday, February 23, 2009

Student and alumna stand out in ‘Luisa Fernanda’

By Colin Davin

Luisa Fernanda
Ricardo Montalban Theatre
Closed Saturday

High drama · Carlos Oliva, Teresa Hughes-Oliva, master of music student Renee Rulon Cortez and Vincent Solbes perform in “Luisa Fernanda,” a Spanish zarzuela play at the Hollywood Palladium.

Zarzuela may not be a term many people are familiar with, but those in attendance at Thursday night’s performance of “Luisa Fernanda” in Hollywood now know well not only what the genre of zarzuela is, but how effective it can be as a musical and theatrical experience.

Somewhere between opera and musical theater, zarzuela is a traditional Spanish dramatic form, several hundred years old. Composer Federico Moreno Torroba’s “Luisa Fernanda,” which ended its run at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre last Saturday, is perhaps the last great example. In this work, the title character is caught between two loves, the unfaithful Col. Javier and the older, wealthy and devoted Don Vidal. Complicating matters are the Duchess Carolina, whose power for seduction is unrivaled, and a revolution against the Queen of Spain.

The cast of “Luisa Fernanda” was generally strong, though the clear standout performance came from Vicente Solbes in the role of Javier. His tenor voice was powerful and dramatic, and he filled his arias with depth of expression. While he may not have been the most convincing actor on the stage, he was undoubtedly the dominant musical force.

Two of the night’s best performers have close ties to USC — one a master’s student, the other a recent alumnus. Renee Rulon Cortez, a master of music student in the Vocal Arts and Opera \

program at the Thornton School of Music, was a seductive and scheming Carolina, with a lyrical voice that was especially expressive in its mid-range. She managed at once to attract magnetically and repulse morally the audience and the other characters in the performance.

Gabriel Oliva, a 2006 graduate of the School of Theatre, not only portrayed the young and belligerent rebel Anibal, but also directed the performance. While little was striking about the direction of the show, it was nonetheless effectively conveyed. The character Anibal in Oliva’s hands was the center of the work’s comic element, and his performance was delightful.

Filling out the major roles were Don Vidal and Luisa Fernanda herself, portrayed respectively by Teresa Hughes-Oliva and Carlos Oliva. Oliva gave a strong and stoic performance of the pitiable Vidal, and Hughes-Oliva possessed a beautiful voice that balanced warmth and clarity.

Completing the scope of the work was a large supporting cast whose performances were variable individually but strong collectively. The orchestra was led by Federico Moreno Torroba Larregla, the son of the composer, and its small numbers rose to the occasion when it counted most, such as in the “Mazurca de las sombrillas,” a number reminiscent of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

The dramatic effect of Moreno Torroba’s most famous zarzuela came across well here, with a balance between the expressive musical power of opera and the natural spoken dialogue of musical theater. While most of the evening was charming and entertaining, the heartbreaking duo between Luisa and Javier, “¡Callate, corazon!,” set up a notably melancholy conclusion to the work. Solbes and Hughes-Oliva sealed the performance’s success with this striking performance. In a night full of laughter, delight and passion, there seemed to be no other resolution to this complicated love triangle than heartbreak.



January 14, 2009
Contact (for media only): Lucy Pollak
(818) 887-1499

Love! Rivalry! Politics!
Last of the great Zarzuelas gets stirring production at
Ricardo Montalban Theatre February 19

HOLLYWOOD, CA - Love! Rivalry! Politics! Pacific Lyric Association presents Luisa Fernanda, the last of the great Spanish zarzuelas by Federico Moreno Torroba.  Four fully-staged performances of the complete libretto by Federico Romero and Guillermo Fernandez Shaw will take place at the 1000-seat Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, February 19-21.  Traveling from Spain to conduct the orchestra is the son of the composer, Federico Moreno-Torroba Larregla.  Performances will be in Spanish with English supertitles.

A zarzuela (pronounced zar zway' la) is a Spanish musical that blends the brilliance of Broadway with the passion of opera.  The art form had its inception near Madrid in the 1640s.  Legend says the name originates from a pavilion overgrown with blackberry bushes (zarzas) in a remote section of the city's El Prado Park, where actors gathered to present plays and entertain King Philip IV.  Influenced over the centuries by Italian and French musical styles, but retaining a distinct personality, zarzuelas flourished as a popular entertainment in the 1920s and '30s. 

"Unlike opera, zarzuelas are a form of populist entertainment," explains Pacific Lyric Association artistic director, Madrid-born Carlos Oliva. "The role of the story and dialogue is equally important to that of the singing and music - it's an early form of musical theater. It is paramount that the performers be strong actors as well as singers."

Zarzuela is a favorite art form of Placido Domingo, and in 2007 the L.A. Opera presented a minimally-staged version of Luisa Fernanda that accentuated the music but de-emphasized the dialogue and political references as well as the comic elements.

Luisa Fernanda is filled with romance, comedy and politics in addition to Torroba's stirring music. Written in 1932, the love story is set against the backdrop of the 1868 popular uprising against Queen Isabella II of Spain.  Torroba's zarzuela was an instant success, becoming a mainstay of Spanish culture and the most performed of the popular art form.

Oliva continues, "The themes of Luisa Fernanda relate to the universal desire for democracy.  The uprising was the first time in Spanish history that the people protested their monarchy and demanded a government that spoke for the people. This story is extremely relevant today and is told beautifully through traditional zarzuela style."

The PLA production will present the complete version of Luisa Fernanda, with colorful costumes and sets designed to clearly delineate the varying social classes and political roles of the characters, clarifying the story and conveying the true Spanish flavor of the work.

The multiple award-winning creative team includes Set Design by Joel Daavid (Bob Z. Award for Career Achievement in Set Design by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, NAACP Theater, LA Weekly and Ovation Awards for Ma Rainy's Black Bottom, Ovation nominations for Bluebonnet Court, Gorey Stories, Jitney), Lighting Design by Jeremy Pivnick (Angstrom Award for Career Achievement from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle as well as three LA Weekly Awards, two NAACP Awards, two Back Stage Garland Awards, an Ovation Award and eight nominations), and Costume Design by Ovation and Kennedy Center Award-winner Sharell Martin (The Marvelous Wonderettes, It's the Housewives!, Pilgrim).

"All this reinforced with beautiful music and voices," Oliva concludes.  "This is music of the people that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century.  No microphones, no amplification.  We are going to try to tell the story as if the music continues from the spoken part without interruption."

Formed in 2006 by Dr. Carlos Oliva, Pacific Lyric Association is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to making the operatic art form more accessible to the general public through education and affordable ticket prices.

Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba divided his talents between composing, conducting and impresario work, writing a great deal of symphonic and instrumental music.  For the concert hall, he wrote a Capricho romantico, a Suite castellana, and a series of works for guitar made popular by Andres Segovia.  He was prolific as an opera and ballet composer before turning to the zarzuela with La mesonera de Tordesillas in 1925.  The manager of three opera companies, he premiered works by Sorazabal, Gimenez and Guerrero in addition to his own.  In the 1930s and '40s, Torroba's touring company brought the zarzuela tradition to the U.S. and Central America.

Frederico Romero and Guillermo Fernandez Shaw wrote over 70 libretti together, including zarzuelas for composers Jose Serrano (La cancion del olvido); Jacinto Guerrero (La rosa del azafran, Las alondras, Loza Lozana); Amadeo Vives (Dona Francisquita, La villana); Rafael Millan (El dictador); and Jeszs Guridi (El caserio, La meiga and Penamariana).  Most of their texts are original, but they also wrote stage adaptations of classic works including dramas by Goethe and Schiller as well as Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. 

Luisa Fernanda is directed by Gabriel Oliva (Burn This, Arcadia) and choreographed by Lindsay Martin (A Mulholland Christmas Carol at Sacred Fools, Company at OC's Hunger Artist Theater, Sona Tera Roman Hess at The Lounge). 

Starring as Luisa Fernanda, a beautiful but low-born clerk's daughter during the reign of Isabella II, is Teresa Hughes-Oliva.  Hughes-Oliva's credits include soloist with the National Symphonic Orchestra and Chorus of Spain in the world premiere and recording of Cristobal Halffter's La Atlantida, under the direction of Rafael Freubeck de Burgos, in Madrid; Maddalena in Rigoletto at Teatro de la Independencia in Mendoza, Argentina; the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro at the Centro de la Cultura inTijuana, Mexico; Siebel in L'Opera Comique's Faust at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre; Amahl and the Night Visitors at the Marquis Public Theatre in San Diego; and the zarzuela, La Tabernera del Puerto, with the Pacific Lyric Opera both in San Diego and at La Casa de la Cultura in Mexico.

Gabriel Reoyo-Pazos and Vincent Solbes alternate in the role of Javier Moreno, Luisa's fiance who has just been made a colonel in the army.  The recipient of the 2007 El Angel Award from the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, Reoyo-Pazos has performed leading operatic rolesaswell as roles in zarzuela, oratorio and musicalswith theAnchorage Opera, Spanish Lyric Theater in Tampa, West Bay Opera, Spokane Opera, Santa Barbara Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, European Symphony, Long Beach Symphony and the Angeles Chorale.  Vicente Solbes, from Alicante, Spain, has performed the Duke in Rigoletto, Rodolfo in La Boheme, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly directed by Madam Licia Albanese, and Canio in San Jose Opera's Pagliaci.

Renee Rulon Cortez, a graduate student at USC pursuing a Master of Music degree in Vocal Arts and Opera, performs the role of the wealthy, aristocratic Duchess Carolina who has her eye on Luisa's dashing young colonel.

Carlos Oliva (Spanish National Symphonic Chorus, Faust with L'Opera Comique, Cosi Fan Tutte with Pacific Opera Theater, the male lead in the world premiere of El Camino de Fe by Hector Armienta with Opera Pacific, and Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Rigoletto and Un Ballo in Maschera with the Constanza Opera of Rumania) is the rich landowner and monarchist, Don Vidal Hernando, who declares himself a revolutionary in order to win Luisa's affections away from Javier.

Bizco the taverner will be portrayed by Jose de Vega, a veteran of Spain's National Theatre, the Teatro Espanol in Madrid, where he performed in La estrella de Sevilla starring Marisa Paredes and Medea starring Nati Mistral, and of Spanish films including Cuadrilatero by Eloy de la Iglesia, Carola de dia, Carola de noche by Jaime de Arminan and Tengamos la Guerra en paz, by Eugenio Martin.

Johanna Siegmann, a 30-year theater veteran, is Mariana, the innkeeper. Highlights of Ms. Siegmann's career include Play it Again, Sam and Follies in Mexico City; Crime on Goat Island, Open Couple, Very Open, in New York; and, in Los Angeles, Cross in the Mirror, Is it Hot In Here or Is It Me? and La Chunga

Also in the cast are Alejandro Banuelos, Lora Cawelti, Edna Ceballos, Maria Ceballos, Bradley Chapman, Jade Clavesilla, Lainnie Felan, Amalia Elena Garcia, Reba Lawless Berdakin, Omar Mata, Jorge Mele, Gabriel Oliva, Armando Ortega, Edward Padilla, Aldo Puccini, Ruben Rabasa, Mariana Ramirez, Ashley Stanbury, Lisa Taylor, Janson Woodlee, Juan Pablo Yepez, and Juventino Zapata.

Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners (It's the Housewives!, GLAAD award-winning best show Bluebonnet Court, Regretrosexual) produces for Pacific Lyric Association.

Performances of Luisa Fernanda are scheduled on Thursday, February 19 at 8 pm; Friday, February 20 at 8 pm; and Saturday, February 21 at 3 pm and 8 pm.  Tickets range from $20.00-$75.00.  The Ricardo Montalban Theatre is located at 1615 Vine Street, Hollywood CA  90028. To purchase tickets, call (323) 960-1057 or go to
Details for Calendar Listings
Luisa Fernanda
, the Zarzuela-a Spanish Musical - Love!  Rivalry! Politics!  Federico Moreno Torroba's 1932zarzuela (a Spanish musical that blends the brilliance of Broadway with the passion of opera) is filled with romance, comedy and stirring music, all set against the backdrop of the 1868 popular uprising against the Queen of Spain.  Performed in Spanish with English supertitles.

Composed by Federico Moreno Torroba
Libretto by Federico Romero and Guillermo Fernandez Shaw
Conducted by Federico Moreno-Torroba Larregla (son of the composer)
Directed by Gabriel Oliva
Starring: Alejandro Banuelos, Lora Cawelti, Edna Ceballos, Maria Ceballos, Bradley Chapman, Jade Clavesilla, Jose de Vega, Lainnie Felan, Amalia Elena Garcia, Teresa Hughes-Oliva, Reba Lawless Berdakin, Omar Mata, Jorge Mele, Carlos Oliva, Gabriel Oliva, Armando Ortega, Edward Padilla, Aldo Puccini, Ruben Rabasa, Mariana Ramirez, Gabriel Reoyo-Pazos, Renee Rulon Cortez, Johanna Siegmann, Vincent Solbes Ashley Stanbury, Lisa Taylor, Janson Woodlee, Juan Pablo Yepez, and Juventino Zapata.
Produced by Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners
Presented by Pacific Lyric Association in association with the Ricardo Montalban Foundation

Thursday, February 19 at 8 pm
Friday, February 20 at 8 pm
Saturday, February 21 at 3 pm & 8 pm

Ricardo Montalban Theatre
1615 Vine Street
Hollywood, CA  90028
(Between Sunset Blvd. and Hollywood Blvd.  Parking available immediately adjacent to theater.)

(323) 960-1057 or

Reserved Seating: $50-$75
Seniors over 65: $25-$37.50
Students with ID: $20-$30





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