Las Vegas, N.M. – A Highlands University music professor is a lead vocal soloist in the premiere of Los Bufones, a melodic new concert theater piece, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
André García-Nuthmann, a tenor, will sing in the Albuquerque production that portrays court life during the Spanish King Philip IV’s reign from 1605 – 1665 as depicted in the paintings of Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. The production runs Jan. 19 – 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 22 at 2 p.m.
“Being a bufon, a buffoon or jester, at the Spanish courts wasn’t easy,” said Ron Strauss, who wrote the libretto and composed the music for Los Bufones. “Bufons received favors and pampering from the royalty, but had to contend with the intrigues and jealousies of courtiers who wanted to undermine their position.
“André plays Pablo de Valladolid, the only jester who lived away from the palace. He was an actor-manager of a theater in Madrid who directed some of the performances the bufones gave to entertain the king and queen and their guests. Andre’s perfect for the role. His voice has an intensity and brightness, and a very engaging warmth that really brings the character to life,” Strauss said.
Los Bufones is sung in Spanish with English supertitles projected above the stage. In its two acts, the characters reveal their personal lives as intimates of the royal family of King Philip IV in solos, and also sing ensembles as entertainers at the king’s banquet.
“The portraits by Velázquez of these bufones, to my eyes, manage to reach the depths of their souls while still wrapping them in a mystery. The vitality and humanity in them are qualities I wanted to bring to my musical representation. You could say Los Bufones is my homage to each of them, and to the compassionate eye of Velázquez,” Strauss said.
Velázquez is considered to be one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age, which spans the late 15th century through the mid-17th century.
“The music in Los Bufones is very melodic with a modern twist,” García-Nuthmann said. “Ron Strauss is an accomplished composer with a national reputation. He is flexible and has the ability to adapt his pieces for the performers’ voices, which is quite rare.”
García-Nuthmann said it’s exciting to be part of performing original music that audiences have never heard before.
“It’s a true honor that Ron Strauss designed and wrote the aria I sing specifically for my voice. Los Bufones will stand out for me as one of the most significant and challenging performances of my career,” García-Nuthmann said.
García-Nuthmann was a vocal guest soloist three times at the world-renowned Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria. In New Mexico, he has performed with the Santa Fe Symphony, Santa Fe Bach Choir, Cantucum Novum, Desert Chorale, and Santa Fe Opera, among others.
García-Nuthmann directs the Highlands University choral program in the Department of Music. He earned his doctorate in vocal performance from Arizona State University.
Carlos Archuleta, a vocal performance graduate of Highlands and one of García-Nuthmann’s former music students, is also a soloist in Los Bufones.
“It’s astounding how far Carlos’ vocal career has advanced. He started performing at the Santa Fe Opera as an apprentice and progressed to roles with the New York City Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Kennedy Center Opera in Washington,” García-Nuthmann said.
Strauss is a prolific composer of more than 40 pieces written for orchestras, chamber ensembles, voice and piano. His compositions have been performed in Santa Fe and across the country.
Jean Moss is the stage director for Los Bufones and Kristin Ditlow is the conductor. María Christina López translated Strauss’s original English into Spanish for the libretto.
The National Hispanic Cultural Center is at 1701 4th St. S.W. in Albuquerque. For Los Bufones tickets, call the the box office at 505-724-4771 or visit www.nhccnm.org/events/los-bufones/