Composer Heitor Villa-Lobos
|First performance 12 August 1971|
Librettist Heitor Villa-Lobos
Adapted from Yerma
Yerma is an opera in three acts by Heitor Villa-Lobos based on the tragedy of the same name by Federico García Lorca.
Yerma was commissioned in 1955 by Hugh Ross, the conductor of the New York Schola Cantorum and an old friend of Villa-Lobos, and by John Blankenship, at that time head of the drama department at Sarah Lawrence College. The original plan was that García Lorca's play would be translated into English by the British poet Alastair Raid and Hugh Ross, but Villa-Lobos immediately began setting the original Spanish text. It was composed partly in New York, partly in Paris, and was finished in 1956.
Yerma was first performed by the Santa Fe Opera in Santa Fe, New Mexico on August 12, 1971 (erroneously reported in one source as July 12), and repeated just once, on August 18. The Santa Fé premiere was produced by Basil Langton, choreographed by José Limón, with scenery by Allen Charles Klein. Paintings by Giorgio de Chirico were projected on the walls during the intermissions.
In 1983 the opera was staged for the first time in Brazil, at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, with Aurea Gomez and Benito Maresca, conducted by Mário Tavares, and in 1987 this Spanish-language opera was performed for the first time in a Spanish-speaking country, at the Teatro Solís in Montevideo. The title role was sung by the Mexican soprano María Luisa Tamez, supported by Brazilian tenor Benito Maresca and Uruguayan baritone Fernando Barabino. Staging was by Jorge Curi, and David Machado conducted. A concert version was presented from July 12–21, 1989 by Opera on the Move in the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank's Latin American Festival, "Viva!", with Anna Steiger in the title role and Odaline de la Martinez conducting, while the European staged premiere was given by the Bielefeld Opera in 1991. The opera was given its second staging in Brazil at the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus in April 2010. The lead roles were taken by Eliane Coelho, Marcelo Puente, Homero Velho, and Keila de Moraes. Marcelo de Jesus conducted.
Despite the fact that it occurred twelve years after the composer's death, the Santa Fé premiere of Yerma attracted widespread attention from the press, not only from American publications like the New York Times and Newsweek, but also from several Swiss newspapers and the Brazilian daily, Jornal do Brasil, the latter no doubt because the opera was the work of the most distinguished Brazilian composer of his time.