Alexandra Lain-Wever & Alex Alegria

Alex Alegria



jinetePuente Theatre
El Jinete (The Rider): A Mariachi Opera

Dates and Venue 10-12 May (Friday & Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm). | Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Dubbed as an opera, although I'd prefer to call it an operetta because of some spoken lines, this is a first here in BC. Written and directed by Puente Theatre's artistic director, Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, based in Victoria. The show brings together an award-winning team of Vancouver artists, creating a world inspired by the black and white mariachi films of the Golden Era of Mexican cinema. Starring Alex Alegría as El Jinete; Alexandra Lain-Wever as Valentina; Mario Sota as El Malo, with Stefan Thordarson, Jeffrey Chow, and the Mariachi Ensemble, Los Dorados.

Alex Alegria is the driving force behind this project. He founded the Mariachi ensemble, Los Dorados, in 2003, and together with writer/director Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, they've come up with an opera with a storyline, but using songs written by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Cuco Sanchez, Ruben Penjamo Mendez, Ruben Fuentes and othe Mariachi composers.

Puente ( meaning Bridge) Theatre's mission is to bridge cultures, and in this case, Mexico and Canada, by presenting shows like this one. The idea of a Mariachi Opera is something unique, and this show should not only be presented in Victoria and Vancouver, but to other communities in BC and even perhaps all over Canada.

I was impressed by the singing of Alex Alegria and Alexandra Lain-Wever. The classic "Cucurucucu Paloma" was beautifully sung by Lain-Wever. What a voice from this singer originally from Guatemala! The encore number "Cielito Lindo" sung by the ensemble at the end of this 80-minute presentation is also a classic, and it was sung with panache.

The production aspects were also innovative, although there were a few laughs from the audience when film merged into reality. Alegria would be riding his horse which was a moving image projected on screen, or Lain-Wever would be on film but when she opens a window or door, the film image transforms into her real self. The use of this video projection by Jamie Nesbitt was interesting, and English surtitles were projected as the singers sang their songs in Spanish. Lights designed by Itai Erdal were fabulous. I particularly liked the scene with Llorona. Sound design by Chris Hind was fine, except for some songs that came out too loud and should have been toned down a bit. Costumes by Florence Barrett reflected the Mexican ambience.

The story is inspired by a much beloved mariachi song of the same name, which describes a lonely rider, mortally wounded, in search of his beloved. The show builds upon the story, which mirrors the myth of Orpheus: the Rider travels from Mexico into the United States to avenge the abduction of his true love. As he crosses the Rio Grande, he crosses into the modern world, and leaves his homeland forever.

© 2013 Ed Farolan