Zorro Rides Again
By Laura Samuel Meyn
5 questions with director Octavio Cardenas
Originally scheduled for Fort Worth Opera’s 2020 festival, the world premiere of Zorro — and the entire spring festival — was shelved by COVID. But the masked avenger is back with three shows, including a Sunday matinee. Written by composer-librettist Héctor Armienta and based on Johnston McCulley’s pulp fiction novels, the opera follows a student named Diego de la Vega, portrayed by tenor César Delgado, as he transforms into Zorro, wielding a sword in the fight for justice. Guitarist Christopher McGuire of the Fort Worth Classic Guitar Society and Charlene Lotz, FWO head of music and music director for the children’s opera theater, will accompany the singers. We talked to Octavio Cardenas, who also directed the world premiere of Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World, to learn more about the new work.
360 West How do you describe the style of the opera?
Octavio Cardenas The opera is very tonal and accessible to somebody unfamiliar with opera. It cleverly uses music themes and rhythms from Hispanic-Latin influences and a mixture of more classical overtones. I also really like the way the opera creates a bridge between the Spanish and the English language. It switches back and forth between the two of them.
360 How does guitar help to tell this story?
O.C. A piece like this one with flamenco motifs immediately calls for that sound. This is a story of romance, passion, heroic battles and bravado. I can hear the guitar every time the name of Zorro comes around.
360 Tell us a little about the action scenes.
O.C. You can’t have Zorro without sword fighting; there will be swords and a whip. My inner nerd is very excited. There will be two professional sword fighters who will interact with the principal singers. We also have a fight choreographer, Jeffrey Colangelo, who will help me tell the story and add a professional level of safety and artistry to this endeavor.
360 What does this production mean to you?
O.C. To start with, I am proud of being part of the project. I used to dress as Zorro when I was a kid; thank God there was no Facebook then! I am a comic book fan, so I jumped in at the first opportunity of bringing this story to the stage.
360 What do you hope that the audience comes away with?
O.C. There is a message of empowering the oppressed, of hope in the midst of despair, of finding your true calling. There are good people in the world, and one single person can give hope to many. I also hope that somebody unfamiliar with opera realizes that this art form is not as intimidating as it seems.