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The Marfa Triptych: Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance

11 Nov 201612 Nov 2016


The Crowley Theater
Marfa, TX

Experimental Chamber Opera

Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance is a bilingual cross-border opera about the life and death of Pancho Villa. Commissioned by Ballroom, the project is the third installment of The Marfa Triptych, a genre-hopping trilogy of musical performances by visionary composer Graham Reynolds. The opera is an insightful examination of the Mexican and Mexican-American impact on the culture and politics of West Texas, contributing to the current and timely conversation about borders and the limitations of the concept of delineated states.

Exploring facts from Villa’s biography while also examining the mythology surrounding him, the opera asks what Pancho Villa means to Mexican and American culture and where these meanings intersect and conflict. The opera brings together artistic collaborators from both sides of the river to engage in a borderless conversation about the shared history between Mexico and the United States, Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance is the epic closing chapter in The Marfa Triptych.  Reynolds experiments with an exciting hybrid of composition and production techniques while leading an eight piece ensemble to bring Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol’s fascinating libretto to an intensely visceral and intimate life.

The team includes composer Graham Reynolds; Mexico City-based theater collective Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol as librettists; Shawn Sides of the Rude Mechs as director; Austin Lyric Opera tenor Paul Sanchez as Pancho Villa; and Grammy Award-winning producer Adrian Quesada on guitar.

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About The Marfa Triptych

The Marfa Triptych is three portraits of West Texas as envisioned by Austin-based composer Graham Reynolds, inspired by Reynolds’ interest in the intermingled populations of the Texas-Mexico border regions, from ejido to ranch to the visual arts community.

The first installment in The Marfa TriptychThe Country & Western Big Band Suite, was performed in November 2013 at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas. An instrumental suite for 13 players, Reynolds described the piece as “classic instrumental country meets Western soundtrack meets power jazz rhythm section.” Vogue called it “beautiful and raucous.”

Reynolds performed the second composition, a live score to the desert sunset, on October 4, 2014, at the Overlook at Mimms Ranch in Marfa, Texas. Among an intimate audience of 60, Reynolds played acoustic piano and various percussion instruments as the sun set and the moon rose.

The final piece in the TriptychPancho Villa From a Safe Distance, is an experimental chamber opera for two singers and six instrumentalists using a hybrid of compositional techniques, including looping and sampling, overdubbed layers of vocals, improvisation mixed with notation, remixes by Mexican electronic artists, and devised theater staging and conception practices. A culmination of the themes developed in the first two sections, Pancho Villa reflects the Mexican and Mexican-American impact on the region, the permeability of borders, and the limitations of our concept of delineated states.