A pregnant Mexican woman with a small son is determined to reunite her family and join her husband in America. She wants her new child to be born an American, with both parents present. So she hires a smuggler to take her and the boy north. But the arduous journey weakens her. She dies en route in the desert.
This could be a wrenching personal story ripped from today’s news to illustrate the struggles of undocumented immigrants who feel strong bonds to their homeland but want to get ahead in America.
It’s actually a central plotline of what has been called the first mariachi opera, “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” (“To Cross the Face of the Moon”), with music by José (Pepe) Martínez (who died in 2016) and lyrics by Martínez and the playwright Leonard Foglia, who also wrote the book. In its New York premiere, the reconstituted New York City Opera is presenting the work, which opened on Thursday in the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
“Cruzar” was commissioned and introduced by the Houston Grand Opera in 2010. At the time, long-simmering debates over immigration gave the piece enormous resonance. But few involved in the current New York run could have imagined the extent to which these issues would be roiling American politics and society at this very moment.