Utilizing animation with a live mariachi quartet, three modern folklórico dancers, and the music of hip hop, bossa nova and blues, “Imperial Silence: Una Ópera Muerta / A Dead Opera in Four Acts” is a bilingual new media opera and a contemporary interpretation of the Chicana/o tradition of the Days of the Dead.
The project coming to Three Stages on Oct. 28 is directed by animator and librettist John Jota Leaños with musical compositions by Cristóbal Martinez and the mariachi ensemble, Los Cuatro Vientos, and choreography by Joel Valentin Martinez. The performance is made possible, in part, by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation.
“Imperial Silence will be our most cutting edge performance this season — critical and socially pertinent, with a dark sense of humor and a real sense of urgency,” noted Three Stages Executive Director Dave Pier. ” I’m looking forward to this performance, very much.”
This hybrid performance explores cultural taboos around silence, war and death with dark humored animation and mariachi flavored hip hop, blues and bossa nova music. The project is conceptually rooted in the ancient satirical tradition of the Days of the Dead that portrays the dead laughing at and buffooning the constant hubris and folly of the living. In this context, the work speaks to the United States’ long history of silencing dissent and alternative perspectives during times of war as well as the tactical and ideological avoidance of talking about death, a history of silencing that Leaños has identified as “imperial silence.”
John Jota Leaños is a social art practitioner who utilizes all and any media to engage in diverse cultural arenas through strategic revealing, tactical disruption, and symbolic wagon burning, His practice includes a range of new media, public art, installation and performance focusing on the convergence of memory, social space and decolonization. Originally from Pomona, Calif., he identifies as part of the mainly hybrid tribe of Mexitaliano Xicangringo Güeros called “Los Mixtupos” (mixt-up-oz).
Leaños’ work has been shown at the Sundance 06 Film Festival, the 2002 Whitney Biennial in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Leaños is a Creative Capital Foundation Grantee and has been an artist in residence at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the Center for Chicano Studies (2006), Carnegie Mellon University in the Center for Arts in Society (2003), and the Headlands Center for the Arts (2007). Leaños is currently an assistant professor of Social Practices and Community Arts at the California College of the Arts.
“Imperial Silence: Una Ópera Muerta / A Dead Opera in Four Acts” will perform in Three Stages at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28. Tickets are $19 to $29 with premium tickets costing $35; students with ID get in for $12. Purchase tickets online at threestages.net or from Three Stages ticket office at (916) 608-6888 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Three Stages is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, facing East Bidwell Street.