Oberlin Contemporary Ensemble, Tim Lewis, director
with Kendra Colton, soprano
From the composer’s website:
Comala is based on the novel Pedro Páramo, by the great Mexican author Juan Rulfo. Comala does not encompass the entire novel, but only relates the part that Juan Preciado plays in the complex and multi-dimensional story. Juan Preciado is the legitimate son of Pedro Páramo. He guides the reader, narrating in the first person, until death surprises him midway through the novel. From that point on, he becomes a peaceful spectator, in the “chorus” of the dead, as the story continues to unfold without him.
In Pedro Páramo, the orderly flux of time has been derailed, and the borders between past, present, life, and afterlife have dissolved. Therefore, the dead and the living interact continuously. In Comala, the living characters (Juan Preciado, Donis and Donis’ sister) express themselves in normal speech, while the dead characters (Doloritas, Eduviges Dyada, Damiana Cisneros, the ghost of a battered man) sing. The idea behind this is that the living act under the pressure of time, and seek immediate communication, whereas the dead, free from the bonds of time, reflect endlessly in song. Juan Preciado sings only in the 12th scene (tenor) when he describes his own death. The libretto of Comala was assembled from fragments extracted (without alteration) from the novel, in the interest of preserving the poetic language of Rulfo. The work unfolds in thirteen continuous scenes. Scenes 9 and 11 (in italics, above) involve only living characters, and therefore are entirely theatrical.
Here’s an introductory video: