Commissioned by SOLI Chamber Ensemble
Unavailable for performance.
Piñata para los amantes (2023) for Clarinet in B-flat and Cello is the result of a commission from the San Antonio-based SOLI Chamber Ensemble. The two designated players, clarinetist Stephanie Key and cellist David Mollenauer, are a married couple. They spent their first date attending a performance of my opera Frida, based on the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, at the Houston Grand Opera in 1993. Since I wrote my orchestral overture Piñata (1991) as a study for Frida (1991), which was also in progress, I decided to arrange that overture as a virtuoso duo in tribute to those two performers.
Commissioned by the Dallas and El Paso Symphonies, the original Piñata employs themes from the opera. The music blends Mexican folk songs (both real and imaginary) with samba rhythms, contemporary symphonic techniques and American jazz. The score includes quotations of two actual Mexican piñata songs, Hora y fuego and En las noches de posadas, which are traditionally sung at fiestas, such as birthdays or at Christmas. After a bustling introduction, the music graphically depicts the swaying piñata, a brightly decorated clay pot filled with candy suspended on a string. As the excitement builds, there is a series of mighty orchestral whacks at the piñata, which eventually breaks open in a triumphant coda.
Critical commentary for the overture has included, “…the blockbuster of the concert, a kaleidoscope of color, rhythms, textures and dynamics, it elaborated on the hi-jinks of breaking a piñata. There (were) hints of Leonard Bernstein’s jazzy show tunes, Latin syncopation, massed brass, a riot of percussion with marimba, xylophone, blocks, bells, drums and a delicious violin duet in the strings that held the piñata. It left us wanting more.” Betty Ligon, El Paso Herald Post. Reviews of the opera include, “The Best Opera/Musical Theater of 1991…a fascinating, magically engrossing evening…The music is subtle and atmospheric…genuinely original and genuinely accessible, a neat combination not that often achieved. John Rockwell, The New York Times.
— Robert Xavier Rodríguez