Start with opera legend Maria Callas, add in a poet, a Santa Monica College professor and a splash of a dream, shake and serve at SMC and you have an experimental opera titled “One Day Less,” which will debut at a free concert in the Edye Second Space at the SMC Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 29 at 8 p.m.
It began when widely published poet and Pushcart Prize nominee Angela Mankiewicz had a powerful but now vague dream. Then, she heard a story about Callas in her last years. Shortly before she died in Paris, a near recluse at 53, an unnamed colleague ran into her and asked Callas how she was. She replied: “Caro, every day, thank God, is one day less.”
The mysterious dream and the story gave birth to Mankiewicz’s first opera, “One Day Less.” The underlying theme is alienation. The setting is in the not-too-distant future where people are marginalized by physical deformities. The lead characters meet by chance to find that they have mirrored disfigurements and are compelled to fall in love with each other. Faced with bureaucratic regulations and social stigma, they ponder conceiving a child, but are separated by the powers that be, bringing the story to a tragic ending.
“Where the dream ends and the libretto takes over, I no longer have much idea,” said Mankiewicz.
Enter composer and SMC professor David Javelosa, whom Mankiewicz declared “the best fit” after a search for a composer who would bring her opera to life. Javelosa is a professor of interactive media in the Design Technology Department at SMC’s Academy of Entertainment and Technology, where he also founded a program in game development. He has had a prolific career in electronic music, improvisation, performance art, and music technology, and is a published author in the field of audio technology.
Javelosa and Mankiewicz unpredictably have different musical leanings. Mankiewicz describes herself as “classical oriented,” while Javelosa is known as an innovator in experimental music. His first opera “The Fourth Dimension” drew inspiration from a quantum physics textbook, and he cites Philip Glass and Robert Ashley among his musical influences. What, then, made Mankiewicz decide he was the one to compose music for “One Day Less?”
“The way he reacted to the libretto,” said Mankiewicz.
The performance at the Edye Second Space will be the first full-presentation of the opera, which has been in the making for four years. The performance will feature baritone Luvi Avendano and mezzo-soprano Jocelyn Kay Lee, who is also an SMC student, accompanied by an acoustic chamber ensemble and live electronic instruments.
Avendano grew up in San Luis Sonora, Mexico, and as a child dreamed of being a scientist. His life plans changed drastically after he joined the choir as a student at Arizona Western College.
“The love for math disappeared, as the love for music increased. It’s like I found my lifetime love after a bad relationship,” Avendano says.
He has been featured as a soloist with the University of Redlands Choir and Orchestra in performances of Pergolesi’s Magnificat and Faure’s Requiem, among many others. He has performed with the Center Stage Opera, Riverside Little Opera, Opera in the Ozarks, and Opera Pasadena in roles such as Wagner in Faust, Marcello in La Boheme and Douphol in La Traviata.
Lee, mezzo-soprano, grew up in the Berkeley area, in an environment steeped in music.
“Both my Puerto Rican and Chinese grandmothers were singers,” Lee says. She spent seven years teaching dance while she studied theater at Diablo Valley College and voice with Minda Azarcon. Lee is a vivacious “Jane of all trades” whose repertoire includes opera, yoga, and dance. Her most recent endeavor includes a kid’s yoga album “Wee Yogis Play.”
Javelosa and Mankiewicz will be videotaping the performance for a grant proposal to stage the piece at REDCAT at Disney Concert Hall next year.
When asked what makes this opera a must-see, Javelosa says, “We are taking the opera form and extending it in different creative directions — bringing it into the present, and trying to interpret what it will be in the future.”
Mirror Contributing Writerstaff@smmirror.com