The Lariat

May 1, 2014
For immediate release 

Contact: Andrew Wood 415-399-9554 (o)
415-305-1102 (c) 


Center for Contemporary Opera, San Francisco International Arts Festival & Scolavox
present the first public Atelier performance of

The Lariat

A new opera by Lisa Scola Prosek based on the novella by Jaime De Angulo
Directed by Jim Cave and conducted by CCO chief conductor Sara Jobin
Featuring Philip Skinner, Mark Hernandez, Clifton Romig and Desirae Harp


Calendar Editors please note

Center for Contemporary Opera Development Series
What: The Lariat
Where: Un-Scripted Theatre, 533 Sutter Street, Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94109
When: Saturday June 21, 7:00pm
Tickets: $15 General Admission
Box Office: or call 415-399-9554

May 1, 2014 San Francisco. The Center for Contemporary Opera, San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) and Scolavox are pleased to present the first public rendition of the score and libretto from a new opera titled The Lariat as part of the Center for Contemporary Opera's Development Program.

The libretto created in collaboration with the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation of Monterey County will be in both the English and Esselen languages. The opera reveals intimate cultural details and beliefs of the Esselen tribe of Big Sur as its people face the influx of Spanish Missions towards the end of the 18th Century. It describes the difficult relationships between the Missionaries and the Esselen and the gulf between the two religious worlds. The exacting spiritual practices of both cultures are shown to be similar yet irreconcilable.

Anthropologist Jaime De Angulo documented many types of indigenous songs in the 1920s (see biographies). These archives form the source for the opera score. However, although the action in The Lariat focuses on the Esselen, the original lyrics of the songs he notated were in Modoc, Miwok and Achumawi. Louise J. Miranda Ramirez, the Ohlone/ Costanoan Esselen Tribal Chair and the Esselen Tribal Council have translated these songs into Esselen—an indigenous language that had been considered extinct until the Esselen people themselves revived it.

Lisa Scola Prosek said of the libretto, “The lines of dialogue in The Lariat reveal their musicality because Jaime De Angulo was taking the cadence directly from the indigenous languages he was studying. It’s practically written as an opera. Utilizing the Esselen language to articulate the rhythm of the libretto further accentuates this stylistic choice.”

Father Luis (Philip Skinner) is a Franciscan friar obsessed with learning the Esselen language to better convert the tribe to Christianity. His plan becomes more complicated when he falls in love with a young Esselen woman named Ashia'kxi (Desirae Harp) who has abandoned her shaman husband and found refuge in the Carmel Mission. The brokenhearted shaman (Clifton Romig) puts a curse on any future suitors she may have that torments them with dreams of wild animals and death. Human relationships become a metaphor for tensions in the interactions between the Spaniards and the Esselen. This eventually becomes personified as a love triangle between Fray Luis, Ashia'kxi and Ruiz Bendera (Mark Hernandez), a handsome vaquero (named Kinikilali by the Esselen) that she falls in love with.

Founded in 1982, the Center for Contemporary Opera is a leading proponent of new opera in the United States. Based in New York City, the company focuses on producing and developing new opera and music theater works and reviving rarely seen American operas written after World War II. The Center has staged the premieres of over seventy works and released four commercial recordings. In addition to its productions, an important part of its work is the development of new operas. Works are presented at all stages from libretto readings, ateliers, concert versions, to full productions.

The purpose of the Atelier series is to allow the composer to hear the work before it goes into full production. The Lariat was one of only six scores selected from over 250 submissions nationwide. Atelier performances are minimally staged with piano accompaniment and the singers “on book.”

The Lariat will premiere at California State University Monterey Bay in January 2015 and will then be presented at SFIAF at the Fort Mason Center in May 2015.

Atelier’s are usually presented in New York City. This edition is being staged in San Francisco primarily because Ms. Jobin will conduct the premiere in January and wanted to work with the singers who will be in the cast. Serendipitously the performance is also taking place during the Opera America Conference, which this year is being hosted by San Francisco Opera.

The Center for Contemporary Opera Development Series is made possible by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This production of The Lariat is also supported by generous grants from the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, the Christensen Fund and a CA$H Grant.