Las Vegas, N.M. – The New Mexico Highlands Department of Music presents the premier of the opera Narcissus and Echo Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. in the university’s historic Ilfeld Auditorium at 900 University Ave.
Santa Fe composer Janice Simmons composed Narcissus and Echo, which is based upon Greek mythology. Simmons is also the librettist for the opera, which means she wrote the lyrics.
Andre García-Nuthmann, director of Highlands University’s choral and vocal program, plays the role of Narcissus, singing as a tenor. García-Nuthmann has performed extensively as an opera and oratio singer, including solos ranging from the Santa Fe Symphony to the Classical Music Festival in in Eisenstadt, Austria.
“I think Janice Simmons’ opera is a brilliant composition because of its sense of melodic structure and innovative harmonies,” García-Nuthmann said. “I like her twist on the Narcissus and Echo story that ends on a happy note. This opera is exciting because it’s the first time it’s been performed in public.”
Highlands theater faculty member Don Evans is the artistic director for the production and designed the sets and lighting.
“In this production, we explore the angst of Narcissus and the pain that Echo endures,” Evans said.
Jennifer Perez plays the part of Echo. Perez earned a master’s degree in music with a concentration in vocal performance from the University of New Mexico. Her operatic roles include the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Adele in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus.
“I’ve performed with Jennifer for at least five years and I respect her highly as a singer and musician,” García-Nuthmann said. “Her voice is stunning. She’s what we call a coloratura soprano, which is the highest voice in the soprano range.”
The piano accompanist is Luke Gullicksun, who has performed with Opera Southwest. Other accompanists include Michael Campbell on percussion and flutist Dorothy Bowers Wu. Esther Moses Bergh, a mezzo soprano vocalist, is also part of the production.
Las Vegas community member Joseph Cooney is among the chorus that primarily includes vocalists from Albuquerque. Cooney teaches voice as an adjunct music faculty member at Highlands.
Nick Evans is leading a group called Bravo Team that is building the sets and are the backstage crew for Narcissus and Echo. The team is composed of Highlands students, local high school students, and other community members.
“Bravo Team is dedicated to the technical support of theater arts in the Las Vegas area,” Don Evans said.
Narcissus and Echo is based upon a Greek myth, which Roman poet Ovid included in his narrative poem, Metamorphoses. In the myth, Narcissus is a handsome youth who falls in love with his own reflection, and Echo is a mountain nymph.
Simmons, a practicing Buddhist of 20 years, said Buddhist teachings are a central theme of her opera.
“Buddhist teachings convey the spirit of selflessness that are an important element of this opera,” Simmons said.
Ticket prices for Narcissus and Echo are $10 general admission. Highlands students and faculty are free with HU ID.