Héctor Armienta Transforms Bless Me, Ultima Into An Opera

Feb 2, 2018

He has said that he exists in, and in between, two worlds -- that he is neither Mexican nor American, but rather Mexican-American.  Composer Héctor Armienta explores these bi-cultural roots in his music.  In 2015, he received permission to adapt Rudolfo Anaya's beloved novel of the Mexican-American experience, Bless Me, Ultima.  The opera premieres this month in Albuquerque, a co-production of the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Opera Southwest.

"There are some wonderful works in the operatic repertoire that are in Spanish," says Héctor.  "But I felt there needed to be more works that were in English with Spanish interjections.  The novel is very much like that.  There needed to be repertoire that spoke to that community, but work that was also accessible to the broader community.  This is a universal story, but one that is told through the Mexican-American prism."

In this longer version of the conversation, Héctor talks about his visit to UNM's archive of the field recordings of Northern New Mexican folk songs made by musicologist John Donald Robb.  Two of those folk songs found their way into Héctor's score for Bless Me, Ultima.