Berkeley Talks transcript: Alumnus Jimmy López on composing ‘Dreamers’ oratorio inspired by Berkeley undocumented students

Peter Glazer: Good afternoon everyone. Welcome. We’ll start in a minute or two. I just wanted to say a few things before we do get started. My name is Peter Glazer and I’m a professor in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies and co-curating this series and teaching the class that this series is tied to. This is a project funded by a number of different institutions around the campus, including Arts + Design at Berkeley. And the class is entitled Thinking Through Art and Design at Berkeley. And we have a series of lectures every Tuesday for the students and discussions with the students. And then on Thursdays we open it to the public and bring special guests such as the people we have today to talk about the work that they do as artists, to talk about the project they’re involved in. And then the students also get to see the work that these artists are presenting around the campus. So that’s our plan.

I just want to make a quick announcement to the students. We’re, everyone in the class is seeing Dreamers on Sunday and students, if you haven’t picked up your tickets yet, don’t worry, they will be available for you after class and you can pick them up there. And those of you who have not purchased tickets for dreamers yet by the end of this talk, I am sure you will. So let me introduce our guests.

Sabrina Klein is the director of artistic literacy at Cal Performances and the founder of the first inaugural upcoming, I like that series of words, the first inaugural upcoming Artistic Literacy Institute for promoting artistic literacy as a human right. She received her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in the Department of Dramatic Art, which is the department that I am now involved in under another name, and has taught at UC Berkeley and Harvard University, and has facilitated dozens, perhaps hundreds, of community conversations with artists, with communities about art, and with people who think that the arts don’t matter to them. Sabrina is a theater artist, mother and an activist on behalf of the role that the arts and artists play in healthy communities and connected societies. And we’re thrilled to have Sabrina from Cal Performances here with us.

Award-winning composer Jimmy López Bellido has been described as “one of the most admired among the younger generation of South American composers,” that’s the Chicago Tribune and “one of the most interesting young composers anywhere today” in the Chicago Sun Times. Lopez earned his doctorate from here at UC Berkeley in the Department of Music in 2012 and is the current composer in residence at the Houston Symphony. He is known for combining European compositional techniques with South American musical influences in his acclaimed and dramatic works. He and playwright Nilo Cruz, who wrote the Libretto for Dreamers, which is premiering this Sunday in Zellerbach Hall, previously collaborated on an opera adaptation of Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto for Lyric Opera of Chicago, which was broadcast on PBS Great Performances. So we’re thrilled to have Jimmy López Bollito and Sabrina Klein here with us today. Welcome.

Sabrina Klein: Thank you Peter.

Jimmy López: Thank you.

Sabrina Klein: Thank you very much. As Peter told you, my name is Sabrina Klein. I’m the director of artistic literacy at Cal Performances. I like to say, because it’s true, that I am the only director of artistic literacy in the country, maybe even the world. And the reason Cal Performances has a Department of Artistic Literacy is because we believe that it is a basic human right to have access to great works of art. In our great works of art, and let’s face it, sometimes even in our lousy works of art, is the best expression of our exploration of being a human being. What our relationship is to ourselves, and, I think equally importantly, our relation to others. We hear about others’ experiences and can connect with them emotionally, intellectually, meaningfully through the arts in a way that no other expression allows for us.

So, although in a major university like UC Berkeley, in fact, the top public university in the world, we do have to privilege the written and the spoken word. That kind of linguistic literacy is really important. We also have to acknowledge its limitations. Otherwise the arts wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t need the arts to express those things that aren’t necessarily easily conveyed in the spoken and written word. We have at Cal Performances, a commitment to looking at the arts not just as a human right, but as an expression of creativity, arts, and learning in each human being.

The reason this marvelous composer, Jimmy Bellido Lopez, is here with us today is because Cal Performances has an initiative in research and development and creativity, arts, and learning. It’s like the best acronym ever. If you put that together, Research and Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts, and Learning, it’s spells RADICAL. And Berkeley is known for its radicals and Jimmy is one of our radicals here with us because of the work he’s premiering, world premiere, here on Sunday with us. I’m going to let Jimmy take you through the development of Dreamers, the work that’s going to be presented on Sunday that you all are coming to at 3:00 PM. It’s a matinee. So if you didn’t know that, write it down. And I’m going to let him talk about that. Then I’m going to ask him a few questions and then we’ll have an opportunity for Jimmy to answer any questions from you all. All right? So right now I’m just going to turn it over to you and let you talk us through this extraordinary commission.

Jimmy López: Thank you. Good afternoon everybody. So yes, I graduated from the Music Department in 2012 with a PhD in music, and I have lived in Berkeley ever since, and I’m very happy to present this work here. Dreamers is an initiative that is from Cal Performances and its then Artistic Director Matiaz Tarnopolsky. The conversations started back in 2016. It is a co-commission, so it is a collective endeavor. A work of this size and scope really demands the cooperation with several institutions and we have Cal Performances, we have Washington Performing Arts, Stanford Live, and University Musical Society from Ann Arbor, Michigan with funds from the Hewlett Foundation. Now, I have actually been traveling quite a bit this past couple of weeks or more, because all these organizations having creating a dialogue around dreamers, which I think is essential for a work of this importance and relevance.

So I was in Washington DC for conversations with students, and different communities, theater groups, and other people who will otherwise not be interested in our subject or an Oratorio for that matter. Just recently, I came back last night actually from Michigan, from Ann Arbor, where we also had an open workshop with the performers who are the Philharmonic Orchestra of London, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor and now conductor designate of the San Francisco symphony, and Ana Maria Martinez. The two choruses that are going to sing Dreamers are Volti and UC Berkeley Chorus. So I was there in Michigan also in an open forum where we took questions from the audience and we are trying to create this dialogue. So what I want to start with is just a short video that Washington Performing Arts presented. And I’m going to-
Sabrina Klein: I’ll get out of the way.

I’ll just play to you and then I’ll continue the presentation.

Hello, my name is Jimmy Lopez. I’m the composer of Dreamer and the Oratorio with lyrics by Nilo Cruz that has been co-commissioned by Cal Performances, Stanford Live, University of Michigan, and the Washington Performing Arts with funds from the Hewlett Foundation. I invite you to experience Dreamer with us this season. We wanted to create a work that will be contemporary in many ways and also relevant to our day. What they’re going through is just harrowing and I’ve had these illuminating interviews with them at UC Berkeley that have given me a whole scope of what it is that they’re going through and their families. It is really incredible the variety of experiences that they’ve have. One thing they have in common is this great respect and love for their parents and for the sacrifices they made. And almost like whatever status they may achieve, will and won’t make a difference because their parents will never have a path towards citizenship. And that also is heartbreaking. We will create something that creates empathy. We want to bring awareness to a topic that is often not understood and that is being used as a political weapon in a way. What we want to remember is that, it’s not all about politics, it is a politically charged subject, but at the same time, these are real people with real lives who are being caught in the middle of in the cracks, let’s say, of the immigration legal system. We have to sit down and create a dialogue. And when you as an artist try to create a work of art, you are also trying to stimulate that kind of dialogue. And what music can do, within a combination with words is to stir emotion. I think given the subject, having Washington involved, is very important. We want people in Washington DC to been part of this dialogue because this is the nation’s capital and this is the heart of the discussion.

Okay, and the reason why I wanted to present this to you is because Washington Performing Arts is doing something special. They’re going to Simulcast our performance from Berkeley. So it is going to be streamed live on the Internet. But in addition to that it is actually going to be broadcast too in a theater called the Sydney Harman Hall at 6:00 PM Washington, Eastern time, as we witness the premiere here. So what I want to do next, is just walk you a little bit through the timeline. The origins as I was saying before, conversations with Rob Bailis who is Interim Artistic Director now and Matias Tarnopolsky former artistic director of Cal Performances. That was in August of 2016 when obviously the outlook of this topic was very, very different.

Sabrina Klein: Do you mind if I jump in with a short story here. Rob and Matias happened to be walking across campus shortly after the election results of the 2016 presidential campaign. And there was a group of campus students, on campus carrying a big sign, undocumented, unafraid. And that was the source of inspiration to connect with Jimmy and ask him what he would be interested in doing in that context of being on a campus with a community so deeply affected by the immediacy of the political moment. And obviously things have evolved since 2016 and Jimmy will talk about that a little bit, but I think it’s important to know that for Rob and Matias our artistic directors, it was students on campus who were the first spark of inspiration for this.

Jimmy López: Yes, indeed, and when we jointly applied to a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission, which was launched in January of 2017, they have the selection criteria, as you will see, one of them is community engagement, and so we wanted to create something that was directly linked to the community, to the city of Berkeley and something that will be current and relevant to our time. When I did my research on the city of Berkeley I found out something I didn’t know, which is that Berkeley was the very first US city to become a sanctuary city. Now, it didn’t have much to do with immigration back then. Actually, I have a link to the mayor’s office, which explains what it was. So in 1971, Berkeley passed a resolution to protect sailors resisting the Vietnam War. And as they say here, as a sanctuary city, in the last paragraph, Berkeley has committed to not support, communicate with, or submit to the demands of the federal immigration and customs enforcement officers. Now the whole concept of sanctuary city, which I’m sure you’re very familiar with, means that local authorities do not cooperate with federal authorities, whenever the individual conscience mandates differently.

So the concept of Berkeley being the first sanctuary city struck me as important. And that also became the basis of the whole dialogue. The recipients of the Hewlett Foundation were announced in November of 2017, which obviously didn’t give me much time to work on the piece, but I’m telling you the … So the Philharmonia orchestra has been in residence at Cal Performance a few times already, and they had already scheduled the residency for March of 2019 when we were granted one of the arts commissions. And so that meant that we had to immediately go on into the research phase, which was conducting interviews. And we conducted two sets of interviews, the first round was in January of 2018, the second one was in March of 2018. The first one was just myself, and a few undocumented students from campus who valiantly came forth to discuss their experiences. And that was facilitated by Sabrina Klein and in cooperation between Cal Performances and UC Berkeley. That was very illuminating. I recorded those interviews. They were recorded in confidentiality and later destroyed, never uploaded to the Internet, and when they were shared with Nilo, they were sent via regular mail. Nilo lives in Miami, Florida. And he joined me in March, for a second round of interviews. And so he himself was able to hear to some of those testimonies. Now, many of those testimonies were being shared for the very first time, which means that it was a very emotional and it was very intense. We had to find a balance between trying to hear their stories and get information we wanted to get, but at the same time allowing them to come to share just whatever they were comfortable with sharing.

The next step was the creation of the Libretto. So Nilo went back home. He started to write a Libretto, which I think I got the first drafts in May of 2018. Now Nilo has always said, “The Libretto is not a journalistic document. It is not just a transcription of these interviews. It is a work of art.” And Nilo’s poetic language can encapsulate so much. And you will see that when I actually show you excerpts from the libretto itself. Now the composition with the piece happened between May and November of 2018 and it was a highly collaborative process. Because honestly when you are writing a piece of this importance, you have to be in touch continually, with your Librettest if you’re a music composer. So this is not just me listening to the words and set them to music. It is a back and forth, by email, by phone, by a text message, whatever media you can, any time of the day you need to communicate.

We wanted to create awareness, about these current affairs, and I mentioned the challenges of writing chronologically. Now why? Because I don’t write chronologically, and for those who are creative minds here, you understand that, you know, there is a certain difference between writing something in a chronological fashion and not. For me it’s important to establish connections between different parts of the work. Music is an art that unfolds over time. Therefore you want to quote what we call motifs, musical motifs of different parts of the composition. And for that to happen you have to have a very clear idea of what’s going to happen. For example, the movement number six, if you want to quote any movement number two. So you cannot necessarily start working on the movement number two without having written parts of movement number six.

So it all fits back and forth. But that was really challenging because I didn’t have the luxury of doing that this time around. I had to write it chronologically because of the time constraints. My publishing house also had to elaborate a piano vocal score. Now what I produce is an orchestral score, which is around this big, and it has all the instruments of the orchestra, the chorus, and the solo voice. But that has to be reduced to a piano vocal score, which is just the voice parts and a reduction for the piano, which is useful in rehearsal contexts and that score is a little larger than this. So, all that production line had to be fed by me. And so now there’s a reason why I didn’t have the luxury of just finishing the whole work before submitting it to my publishing house. We had to have to work together.

The delivery of the final and engraved orchestra materials happened in December of 2018, and the rehearsals have been happening all over the place. Volti has been, Volti is a San Francisco based choir, professional choir, of about 20 singers. And the UC Berkeley Chorus is a lot larger than that, and is based here on campus. They have been rehearsing separately until last week when they started to rehearse together. And then the Philharmonia Orchestra, which is based in London, started rehearsing on February 25th and I flew actually in March for a rehearsal with them and Ana Maria Martinez and we’re going to be rehearsing all the way until the day of the premiere. There we go.

Sabrina Klein: In fact, I think the premiere is the first time everything comes together on the same stage.

Jimmy López: Well, the day of the premiere, we’re going to have a rehearsal it from 11:00 to 2:00.

Sabrina Klein: In the morning, right. It’s going to be pretty fresh though when you see it at three o’clock on Sunday.

Jimmy López: This is an unusual setting, I have to say. I’ve been flying all over the place for rehearsals, but we make it work for sure. Now I want to show you, can you read this? I just wanted to ask, can you?

Sabrina Klein: And there is a copy of the Libretto and the programs if you picked one up on your way in right at the back of the book.

Jimmy López: So this is Nilo’s Libretto and I just wanted to walk you through it really quickly. It is divided into four sections. The first one is called the First and Longest Journey. And I really love the approach that Nilo had to this the Libretto and if I ever had writer’s block, it was right at the beginning of the piece because the words are so grand and so biblical. I think if there are grand that … It was really challenging to set them music. “Before the divide of lands, before everything and nothing. There was a will, the will to migrate.” So with these words, Nilo is rooting the whole concept of migration to times in memorial and basically telling us that even though this is a very current subject, migration has been part of human nature since the very beginning and part of nature as well actually.

Then he makes references that are intriguing to me. It talks about leaves, three clouds and I interpret that as journey, as movement. He talks about the Lord of the shells. The shells were the very first coin that I think humanity ever used for trade. And they also relate to the ocean, the expanse of the ocean, which has been the ultimate frontier or was the ultimate frontier for centuries.

Sabrina Klein: Jimmy, are the notes in red your thoughts?

Jimmy López: Yes. Good to clarify that. Yes. Those are not Nilo’s words. Then the chorus goes on to talk about, years before fearless and birth, women and men took their first steps and journeyed night and day. And I love that, he’s talking about the freedom of movement, because back then people just moved around. They just walked, and without the fear of having to be stopped at a checkpoint. So there was no such thing. And it is just that he’s hearkening back to those times where movement was just free.

Then he goes on a little bit … What I see, is almost looking at planet earth from outside and then zooming in. Because he then starts to give us a little bit of hints of where we are geographically. He talks about the Puma and the Eagle. Both are animals, are strongly associated with Native Americans in the north and in the south. The Puma being more of the south. For example, the city of Cusco in Peru is shaped in the shape of a Puma, and the Eagle has been traditionally associated to Native Americans here in North America and also to this day symbol of the United States.

Now we go to modern day, talking about children who came along the highway. So now he’s giving us a little bit of a hint that we’re departing from that time in memorial world and going into modern times talking about borders and boundaries. Then he goes to talk about settling, “several in places, the sacred and blessed under the watchful eyes of their gods.” And by talking about that he’s … Well basically the nomadic periods of humanity has ended and some people have started to form settlements, societies, and there is a reference to religion as well.

So, after we go from this grand section, which includes all the forces, the Soprano, the Chorus, and the orchestra, we go to movement number two, which is titled Borders and Boundaries. And that is for Chorus, Acapella. Acapella meaning that chorus sings unaccompanied, no orchestra, no solo soprano. And here it becomes a lot more, let’s say focused on what we’re talking about today. Current affairs, division, fences, walls.
Jimmy Lopez: The third movement called Children, was initially a modest movement in terms of the proportions that they occupied. But it became larger and larger because as I started to write it, coincidentally, the whole child separation crisis started to unfold. So it was very, very tough because there was no time for me to relax, and I wanted to turn on the TV and all I saw in the news was this. And that made very immediate and very real. And so I will have to come back to Nilo and say, Nilo, “Could you give me just a few more verses.” and “Yeah, sure.” And then the next day is like, “Nilo, I actually, I think I need 16 to 20 versus more.” And then the next day is like, “You know actually gave me four times as much as you gave me.” Because I just didn’t feel that the music had reached it’s full development and I didn’t feel that we had told the entire story. So we need more and more because as we saw it happening on the news, we felt that this was a subject that was gaining more and more importance. So this movement in the end, I think became the heart of peace and is one of the longest or if not the longest, I think it is about 10 minutes alone.

So one thing that he does beautifully is how he depicts, for example, the innocence of children at the beginning, talking about “two years of age, four summers tender as dawn, ancient as God, a new promise, a new joy in the air.” But then he skillfully breaks our hearts later on talking about “children being smuggled out, because they didn’t deserve to be killed, safe from the arms of harm, rescued as if they were an extinct race.” So those are very powerful words and they are a direct allusion of the current crisis. Then the soprano continues using those words, imprisoned, interrogated. There’s a whole sense of protests and accusation here, but it’s just basically talking about what is happening today. So there you see that when we were talking about, in the first movement about, this grand perspective of things, now is becoming very real.

When we go into movement four, called A Dreamer who Studied Linguistics, which is based on one of the testimonies that we have. Here is where we really go into the nitty-gritty of the current crisis. And where does the language becomes less poetic and more immediate. We talk about … If you can see the first paragraph there, “I was the boy who feigned to be asleep in the back seat of a truck.” This is something that is very clear, we talk about a deceitful war and declare fraudulence treacherous.

Some of them … and everyone reacts differently to this crisis, and all the dreamers have different reactions, and one of them was very strong in his words. And I think anger is one of the reactions that is also valid. Some of them… They’re all fighters for sure. They’re all taking different ways, but some of them channel that anger also in terms of activism. So we felt that it was important to show that aspect of their experience as well. Now, there is a resource I wanted to mention, the word silence, secret and landless. A resource called alliteration, which is when you repeat a sound within the same … It’s that kind of a poetic resource. And I use it musically, you will perceive that if you remember it at the beginning of the fourth movement, you’ll hear the chorus, whispering, the orchestra making sounds with paper, and just breathing and all that feeling of trying to camouflage yourself trying to cover yourself and leaving in secret.

Number five, called Suenos is written entirely in Spanish. And I was Nilo’s decision, I think is a stroke of genius because admittedly many of the dreamers that come to this country come from South America and all of our dreamers we interviewed were native Spanish speakers. So I think it was important to represent that. And also from a musical point of view, when you set words in Spanish to music, is very different when you set words in English to music because each language has its own cadence and as a composer and a musician, you have to respect that. You see the translation, for example, the original says, “suenos, suenos, suenos, el mundo vende suenos” It’s very different to set that into music than “dreams, dreams, dreams, the world sell us dreams.” And not that one is better than the other. It’s just that they have different lengths, different cadences, different number of syllables, and all that. So one has to really, as I can pose here, understand the intrinsic rhythm of the poetry.

Yes, I mentioned that there was a link between the remote past and the present, talking about dreams that do not measure borders and distance, that find in everything an occasion for the journey. When I was talking about this, one dreamer who was very passionate about his views, talking about monstrous white factories brought from the north where his mother used to work for only a dollar a day. This is a different view, for example, what he understands as imperialism and colonialism in a way. So that a factory that is supposed to bring prosperity to a place, does the exact opposite by creating pollution, by creating added poverty, and by creating work conditions that are not ideal. So this is another person’s perspective, from the south. This is a beautiful combination of Nilo’s poetic language and really everyday language when she talks about buying a dream. Obviously, she was talking about here, crossing the border because the whole fifth movement is about the story of a mother and a child, who are separated at the border because she’s trying to let him pass by hiring the services of smugglers. But we never say that explicitly, but it is understood. And the word “compra un sueno,” “buy a dream,” implies that.

Then the sixth movement, this is where the whole arch of the piece comes together because this sixth movement makes references to all the previous movements and also brings us back to this grand review, that we had at the beginning. Because obviously we want people to leave inspired as well. I don’t only want to create a piece that will focus on all the negative aspects of the current crisis, but also offer a hope towards the future. At least I am hopeful that things will go better in the future. And I do want to believe that because it’s not the very first time that we have encountered this crisis. We have encountered it in the past and we will unfortunately encounter in the future as well. So, he becomes very specific here, and I thought that was important to frame musically as well. He talks about the agony of the slave, and as I referenced the slave trade of course, the tears of a farmer and the farm workers movement led by Cesar Chavez, the cry of a raped girl. We’re talking about the Me Too Movement and the whole current crisis. This is my interpretation, this is not what Nilo has said this means, but this is the way I understood it and I thought it was … in a few words, he encapsulates all the current crisis that we’re living that is so multifaceted and it affects so many different populations. He talks about brown boys being deported, so basically making a reference to racism because the population that is mostly affected, is a population of color. A black girl being shot, a reference to police brutality. Politicians who hunt, mothers and fathers. And businessmen who fear the future child. And this is when unfortunately, business fears regulation, let’s say. Anyway, but the very end, he says, “Because nothing can stop the wind from blowing and nothing can stop the sea from flowing in.” Now this hearkens back to the very beginning because it talks about nature, and just having this unstoppable force to make its way through. And I think that’s actually the message which we want to give here. And no matter what we do and no matter how many artificial borders we want to set, it’s just part of our nature and it will continue happening. So, resisting it is absurd, and unreasonable. Yes, nothing can stop the dreamer. I want people to leave the concert hall with that message their ears, all right.

Sabrina Klein: Wonderful. Let’s talk. Well a couple of things come to mind having … Thank you for that exploration of the Libretto by the way, and for people who are not familiar with these terms. The libretto clearly is the text that is sung in an oratorio. I want to go back to one of your first slides where there was a quote from the Chicago Sun Tribune?

Jimmy López: Yes.

Sabrina Klein: That said … Oh no it was the New York Times. So this is not ordinary oratorio, as if we all know what an ordinary oratorio is. So, would you tell us a little bit about what an oratorio is and why you chose it for this project and how we might expect to see that play out on the stage on Sunday?

Jimmy López: Right. So, an oratorio traditionally is a form that has been used throughout the centuries to depict mostly at first biblical stories like the Story of the Nativity. One of the most known Oratorios is Handel’s the Messiah, which I suppose some of you have listened to. But in any case, it tells the story of the Nativity. So, it was used to depict that story. But it’s different from an opera for example, you’ve done an opera is fully staged and it has characters in it and tells the story from beginning to end. Whether it be a love story, a tragic story, whatever it is. And the oratorio does tell a story as well, but it has more of a narrative quality where the chorus and the singers can take on different roles and they narrate the story, there’s more time for reflection. We’re not so driven by action because there’s no action going on stage. To make matters a little more confusing, sometimes oratorios are semi-staged, but that is not always a requirement. And actually most of oratorios are conceived to be just played in concert like the one you’re going to see on Sunday.

Sabrina Klein: So, they really have just a couple of components. There’s the Libretto, the poetics text that you just walked us through. There’s the music you composed to paint the musical version of those words. There’s this full orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, it’s huge. I don’t know how many people are in it, but-

Jimmy López: For my piece at least it will be a 70 piece orchestra.

Sabrina Klein: 70 orchestra and 80 singers and a soprano, world class soprano Ana Maria Martinez singing that. And that’s all there is, which is a huge presence. But there’s a simplicity in all that complexity.

Jimmy López: Right. Well the thing is that we have a single soprano, that’s also a little unusual in the oratorio because in the oratorio you’ll find more singers taking on different roles. We decided to focus it on a single soprano, she takes on the role of sometimes first person, second, third or omniscient narrator. And those are all devices that Nilo used to tell the story and the chorus sentence comments reinforces or opposes whatever the soloist is doing. So, all of these dynamic, this point of view continuously changes something that will not be possible within opera. Because in opera, ghd singer in front, we’ll have to stick to a single role. And in our oratorio she can embody many different voices. That’s why I called it Dreamers actually.

Sabrina Klein: Because originally it was titled Dreamer?

Jimmy López: Yeah, and actually, If you caught that-

Sabrina Klein: I did.

Jimmy López: … on the video from Washington Performing Arts, which was recorded before I started writing a single note. I call the oratorio Dreamer because that was the initial concept, we thought we going to focus on a single story and tell it from beginning to end, but then Nilo and I felt, “Well that’s not why we chose the oratorio.” And also we have heard so many different stories we couldn’t miss the opportunity to actually have those stories told.

Sabrina Klein: And that was a challenge that you and Nilo both talked about in the course of the interviews, that there isn’t a single story that among dreamers there is a diversity-

Jimmy López: Correct.

Sabrina Klein: … that is often not represented in the social political discourse?

Jimmy López: That is correct, that is correct. We tend to use labels really to separate people. I think it’s very convenient to have labels, but at the same time you tend to dehumanize people by using labels. And the thing about remorse is some of them came as babies, so they have not known any other country or language. Some of them came as teenagers with a formed identity, some of them found out about their status only when they were going to apply to college. So, all of a sudden their dreams are shattered for the future, and then some of them enter depression, some of them come from mixed status families, meaning that their sibling was born in the United States, but the other one, they were not, meaning the sibling has all the rights and privileges of a citizen while they don’t. And that, within the same family creates a lot of dissonance. So, some of them flee war, or they flee the drug trade, or they flee poverty. So, the experiences couldn’t be more diverse, and we tend to look at them as a single block of people, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Sabrina Klein: And we also came to recognize that dreamers come from all over the world, not just-

Jimmy López: Exactly.

Sabrina Klein: … Latin American countries.

Jimmy López: Yes.

Sabrina Klein: But at some point the focus became on these stories, these were also the students who came and spoke with you.

Jimmy Lopez: Because we wanted to focus it on the stories that we heard, and most of the stories we had were for students who came from Latin America, we decided to focus on that.

Sabrina Klein: So, there are other oratorios needed to be written about other dreamer experiences, any of you out there who are looking for a creative project, there’s still more to be said on this subject. You and Nilo had worked together on a previous opera based on a novel Bel Canto, which some of you might’ve read by Ann Patchett. So you had that collaboration under your belt as you came into it. You also have your own experience as an immigrant, you came to this country not directly from Peru, but you were born in Peru and then you spend a lot of time in Finland. So, you’ve been an immigrant in two different environments.

Jimmy López: I have, go ahead.

Sabrina Klein: And as you said, Nilo is a refugee from Cuba. So, I’m just wondering about those experiences the two of you had in this process, how that might’ve played out in your collaboration or conversations you guys had?

Jimmy López: Actually the very first time I experienced what to be immigrant was, was when I was 11 years old and my family moved to Miami for a year, in Florida. And I lived there for one year. So, I had to adapt to a completely different language, I spoke some English, but going to school and having all your subjects in English was a real challenge for an 11 year old child. And also leaving behind all your friends, people might think, “Oh, Miami, there’s a lot of South Americans, so it might not be as foreign.” But honestly nothing could be further from the truth again, Peru and Cuba are not the same also. And just coming to this completely different context and be seen as the other, and being seen as the kid from outside, did make me mature quite a lot, because I had to find a way to survive. And I did actually eventually come to terms with it and started to do better in my studies, and started to polish my English and so forth. So, it was a very valuable, valuable experience for me.

Then when I was 21, I decided to go to Finland. So Helsinki to study music composition under Sibelius Academy, and I stayed there for seven years. So, I have many friends, I actually speak the language, my sister for different reasons, moved there a few years later and also still lives in Finland. When I went to Finland, of course it was a different experience because that was again a brand new language that I didn’t speak at all. So, I had to learn over there. And I looked so different that it was immediately apparent, and people see you as exotic as you’re from somewhere else. And you’ll see them as exotic, it was interesting that kind of constrast. But then, the whole learning experience of adapting to an entirely new culture, country, climate, that was very enriching.

Sabrina Klein: The weather must be a bit different in Finland from Peru.

Jimmy López: Slightly. And from California as well.

Sabrina Klein: And from California.

Jimmy López: So, I’m glad I came this side to find a middle ground. And I came to the Bay in 2007 to do my PhD at Berkeley and I have stayed ever since. So, I have experienced what it is to be removed, my experience and that of The Dreamers, again, it’s very, very different. But I do understand some of the concepts, meaning displacement, being seen as the other. And I’m sure that Nilo has experienced that as well. So, that obviously has to inform the work on this piece.

Sabrina Klein: Well, I’m being an immigrant means that this impulse to move to someplace else, is reflected in the lyrics there. And Nilo has experienced being a refugee as being forced out of his own country-
Jimmy Lopez: Right.

Sabrina Klein: … for safety, those needs to move desires for a new home-

Jimmy Lopez: Exactly.

Sabrina Klein: … played out differently for both of you?

Jimmy Lopez: I think so, Nilo has never shied away from dealing with topics that might be seen as controversial. But as I said in the initial video, it can all be seen as politics and especially, I’ve had a lot of journalists approach me who are not familiar with music and I’m glad that this subject has gotten a lot of attention from media outlets that are usually not interested in classical music and they’re interested in understanding what I’m doing just because they’re interested in the whole topic of dreamers. But in the end, this is a work of art, it is an Oratorio for a choral symphonic work, that is trying to create empathy. And Nilo as you have seen hasn’t literally depicted all the stories word by word. It is really a poetic interpretation of them. And I have tried to create appropriate emotional frame to his words so that … Because music for me has so much power. It is so direct, it is more direct than any language or any language you can use. So, it has this immediacy that can help for other people to relate to those experiences. So, my hope is … I think our audience in Berkeley is going to be very open to it. And my hope is that other people who might not be as open in other parts of the country can experience this as well.

Sabrina Klein: I certainly think in the development of the commission, that was intentional that the very current, very immediate topic would draw attention to the classical art form of the oratorio and ask questions about how this music is relevant today. And some of that’s in the content, but some of that is also in the way you make music, what you put into the music. You gave us a little hint of that when you talked about Suenos or the alliteration of the S sounds, silence, I forget what they are, landless.

Jimmy López: Landless.

Sabrina Klein: And that we would be listening for the music containing that silibant sound, sibilant, silibant? So what’s that? With the sounds of paper, the sound of a rustling. Is there a couple of other places we might listen for on Sunday for how the music expresses what you hear?

Jimmy López: Well, I do a lot of what I call word painting at certain times-

Sabrina Klein: Word painting?

Jimmy López: Yeah, I like to call it word painting because I create a musical aura around a certain words. When we begin, for example, saying that word before, as I was saying that was really hard to come up with because I started different drafts, I started grand, quiet somewhere in the middle. And then I went on for having the solo soprano, starting an upbeat same before alone, and then just have a Tibetan singing bowl continue that sound. Now, I felt that it was important to start with a solo soprano because the very first sound that humans produce, it was very likely that of a human voice. And after that I put the Tibetan singing bowl because it’s an ancient instrument that has been used in meditation and that allows us to concentrate.

Sabrina Klein: What instrument?

Jimmy López: Tibetan singing bowl.

Sabrina Klein: Oh, the Tibetan singing Bowl.

Jimmy López: It’s a bowl that is rubbed circularly and it produces this ringing tone. And so when you hear her come in with a word before, then after that you hear this echo of the bowl just ringing. And then when we talk about the divide of lands, I come in with a chorus quietly. And when we put the word divide, I open up the harmonies, what we call the music at divisi, so from a single note we come into a cord and then the cord is sustained. And then when she talks about lands, then I ground it with double bases, the cellos, and the low woodwind instruments. So, there’s, this opening especially really draws the whole poetry.

Sabrina Klein: So even if we don’t know all the technical aspects of music, the way you just laid it out, we’ll hear the music reflecting the poetry and the-

Jimmy López: Well, the more you know about of course the technical aspects, the more you will understand what devices I’m using. But I think even if you don’t, you will have a feeling that I’m trying to give meaning to the words through sounds. And this is what enhancing the meaning of the words is.

Sabrina Klein: Neither paper nor Tibetan balls are traditional orchestral instruments?

Jimmy López: No, no they’re not. But the percussion section is traditionally the one that allows you for more flexibility when introducing instruments that are foreign to the orchestra.

Sabrina Klein: Are there other instruments we might hear?

Jimmy Lopez: Well I did buy myself wind chimes on Amazon, which I actually kept on my porch, and those are beautiful, they just ring with sound when the air blows. I selected them personally before sending them over to the London. So, I have those as well.

Sabrina Klein: So there’ll be wind chimes?

Jimmy Lopez: There will be wind chimes.

Sabrina Klein: Well, we certainly heard the wind in the poetry and the concept of movement that you keep reminding us.

Jimmy Lopez: There is something that I call also the dream aura, why? Because obviously these being dreamers there’s for example, for those who understand more of our music, I use a lot the whole tone scale, which has a little bit of this dreamy quality was just a lot during impressionism talking about composers like Debussy for example. So, I use that scale to create an atmosphere in terms of the harmony. But I also use that and I use the vibraphone board to create this ringing sound and I use other instruments in the percussion section that allow you for this suspended feeling, most of the harp in the top register. So, there is not one instrument that creates an effect, it is a combination of instruments that’s what we call orchestration, precisely.

Sabrina Klein: That’s why it’s an orchestra.

Jimmy Lopez: Precisely, yeah. For me the orchestra is a tool that allows you for so much variety and so I don’t think it has any comparison to other tools. It’s the most rich for me.

Sabrina Klein: We’re going to take questions from you while in just a minute, I going to ask Jimmy one last question while you organize your thoughts and I think a microphone will be available so we can hear your questions for Jimmy. You’ve given us a lot of sense of what matters to you and how you work. If we wanted to really see Jimmy Bellido Lopez in this piece, what should we look or listen for?

Jimmy Lopez: I prefer not to tell you what to listen to. I’d rather leave you, I keep saying come with open minds and open hearts regardless of your views on the subject or your experience or not in the field of music. I think I prefer for the audience to let themselves be carried away by the music and the words. And so come in without any preconceptions of what the piece is a good to come informed, like what we had today is important, I think for all of you and it will enhance your experience for sure. If you want to research a little more on my music, that’s also good. But in the end, this is a brand new work which is unique and special. I would rather have you just really come like a blank sheet of paper that is ready to receive.

And then after that from your opinion have a discussion, and if you are not very much informed about the subject, we assume everyone in this room is. But those who might come or might watch it livestream or not, my hope is that they will do more research on the subject and for those who are not familiar with orchestral music at all, I invite you to listen to the second half also, which has nothing to do with dreamers, is the Firebird by Igor Stravinsky, a 20th century composer. And it’s a fantastic piece of music as well. So definitely stay for that.

Sabrina Klein: And it’ll be a complete contrast I think.

Jimmy López: Yeah, one is vocal-

Sabrina Klein: Structure and ideas.

Jimmy Lopez: One is vocal symphonic, the other is purely orchestra, which I have written also purely orchestral works, most of my outputting DVDs were orchestra works. So, my hope is that this will open a door for you to listen to symphonic music also.

Sabrina Klein: Okay. Wonderful. Do we have a few questions from you all?

Audience 1: I love the idea of tying migration just to overview to see that it’s not something that’s happening right now at this moment. It’s been going on forever and going on all over the world. And the way we’ve handled it is that we’ve opened, the world has left the butterflies freedom to fly freely and we don’t try to stop that. So, I want to congratulate … the whole thing sounds fabulous, but the idea of putting it in context of nature, migration. I love that. Thank you.

Jimmy López: Thank you. I love that you mentioned the butterflies because I recently found out due to the research that Wei Cheng, one of the Cal directors made that, “The monarch butterfly, the Orange Butterfly is a symbol of migration action.” And we haven’t made a decision yet, but we are probably going to have the chorus were orange ribbons as well, which also have a separate meaning against racial discrimination and all that. But yes, indeed as I said, it’s a subject that is … It’s really as modern as in my theme and a story as in my theme has been with us always.

Sabrina Klein: I do have to say that I’ve appreciated watching your journey and Nilo’s journey with this. They came into this saying they did not want it to be political, this was not about politics, but the inevitability of telling a real human story that’s playing out in front of us in a social, civic, political context makes it inevitable that we will have not just personally the emotional connections, but taking some political view, even if that political view is just a reminder that this is about people.

Jimmy López: My intention is not really to change the person’s political views, they might continue to support this or that party or this or that politician. My hope is that they will understand that this goes beyond politics, there is something that goes beyond, which is the common human experience and the dignity of the human being. When you trespass those barriers, you’re not anymore talking about politics, that’s why I think that this subject, even though it might be framed within the limited scope of politics, it really has already gone beyond that. It’s about human decency, is about basic freedoms that are being denied to people all just in the name of politics. And politics is not unfortunately, well is not a ground of a subject, it doesn’t have the capacity to incorporate all of human experience. Politics is very, very narrow as demonstrated by the current deadlock or gridlock in Washington DC right now. So, we have to go beyond this work goes beyond that.

Sabrina Klein: And you do that in this piece by taking us back to before.

Jimmy López: Exactly.

Sabrina Klein: And projecting us forward.

Jimmy López:So, my hope is for people to really understand that there are human beings behind these stories and to try to put themselves in their shoes and they see, well, what would I do? What is the right thing to do regardless of your political affiliation?

Jimmy López: Do you have any more questions?

Audience 2: Thank you so much. This is wonderful. Could you talk a little bit about the link with the music from Latin America? And you mentioned a little bit about percussion because it’s such a strong and important part of the music and how you wove that together, particularly drumming.

Jimmy López: Well, my works are inevitably influenced by South American sounds because I come from South America, but I have lived in different places. Like, I lived in France for a year, I live in Finland for seven years, I lived in California for almost 12 years now. So, at this point my music is a little more cosmopolitan than South American to be honest. But there is, of course presence of Latin American music in it, but I haven’t made any deliberate effort to include Latin American music into this piece. There are other pieces of mine, there are more strongly influenced by it, even in the title the one called Peru Negro, it’s an homage to Afro Peruvian music, for example. But in this one I really let myself just be carried away by the words and I felt that, keeping it … if I have, for example, a specific geographical reference in the music, I think I will have taken away from the ground perspective that Nilo gave me.

Sabrina Klein: The universal.

Jimmy López: Exactly. So, I decided to go on with something that, doesn’t necessarily make any direct allusions, but the presence, the rhythm is there.
Sabrina Klein: So, it might’ve snuck in there, but you’ll have to let us know where you hear it. There another question in the back.

Audience 3: Thank you. I think the aspect of artistic literacy is one of the most important things we can offer students. I’m shocked sometimes at the lack of diversity in artistic information that young people have these days because I’m really interested in young people and I’m an elder. And so I’ve had the great benefit of great diversity in music. So, last Saturday I heard contemporary art songs and I heard the percussionist William Winant play three flower pots as his instrument. So, you were surprised that the use of paper or a Tibetan bowl in contemporary oratorio, but the world has really changed in contemporary music. So, I think that some of the students in listening to hip hop and other percussionists might actually understand the diversity of instruments and a larger context. And I do think that the western orchestra is a fantastic element, but there’s just so much artistic literacy that needs to happen at UC Berkeley. I’m speaking up for that right now and thank you for … I’m so sorry I can’t attend because I’m going to see one woman show called Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name? And it’s lrma Herrera speaking about that, that nobody can say Elma instead of lrma. So, I look forward to live streaming it.

Sabrina Klein: Thank you for your comment, thank you. And certainly using non-orchestral instruments in orchestral instrumentation is not new, but you’ve selected specific pieces for this orchestration that-

Jimmy López: Yeah, those choices have to be born out of need, out of necessity. If you feel the subject calls for a certain instrument or a certain sound the orchestra doesn’t already process, then you, you just have to go after it.

Sabrina Klein: And some composers have designed their own instruments in order to get that sound.

Jimmy López: Like Harry Partch?

Sabrina Klein: Yeah, or Olivier Messiaen with his wind machine. A composer is willing to go in a strange new places. You had a question back here in the back row down here.

Audience 4: Thank you. I wanted to ask when and the how and where music first came into your life.

Jimmy López: Well, it came early because my sister started to play the piano when I was around five years old, and I started to also play a little bit, but I didn’t take it seriously until I was 12. But I don’t come from a family of musicians, my father was an architect, my mother is a retired elementary school teacher, and my sister is a biologist. So, I was strange, and I never met my grandmother who I was told used to play tangos on the piano, that’s all my connection with music in the family that I have. But my parents were very understanding and very supportive, so that definitely helped. I think when I was around 12 years old and especially during that year in Miami, I think I turned into music more because as a vehicle of expression because it was so hard to deal with the outside world and that helped me focus, after that I focused more on more on music.

Sabrina Klein: And music is a language that communicates across.

Jimmy López: It is a way of communicating for sure.

Sabrina Klein: I’m curious about what your expectations are for hearing or seeing an oratorio, just quick show of hands, how many of you have seen an oratorio and performance before? How many of you just heard one, a recording? So, I’m just curious about your expectations, knowing that there’s a 70 piece orchestra on the stage with an 80 person chorus and a soprano and what the topic is about now and you know more about the Libretto than almost anybody else except Nilo and Jimmy and the singers, the chorus. What are your expectations? What do you expect to see or hear? Has there been anything that Jimmy has said that has changed your mind about what you think the experience will be like?

Audience 5: I’m curious about the motivation to produce empathy in the audience. And I guess I’m going to feel guilty if I don’t feel empathetic, I wonder if you could say a little bit more about that, how, besides the actual text of the Libretto, the story, how might the music actually produce a sense of empathy for a listener?
Sabrina Klein: That’s a great question.

Jimmy López: Well, it’s a very different experience just reading to the Libretto in the quiet of your studio, than listening to it sung. I think it’s the same for any … If you take the lyrics out of a song and you just read it to yourself and then you listen to the song, you understand that music on it’s own has already the power to communicate certain emotions. So, when you set text into music, you can either reinforce the message or subvert it. There very different ways that you can set a text into music, and by creating this frame, you never can dictate what emotions the audience is going to feel, but you can generate some emotional response from it. And I think this is the power of music because music without words already is capable of eliciting emotion. When you add another layer like the text in this case, you can actually have more profound impact. Ideally and you want to create a work of art where the music and the words are inseparable from each other. And this is what I was talking about, something that is highly collaborative. And when I feel that I need more texts and I need to change the text then I would ask Nilo to do that. And sometimes I will ask for his opinion on what the music I’m setting and seeing what his feelings are about it, and what he wants to communicate and if he feels music is communicating that.

So ultimately we want to create something that is inseparable, looking at the Libretto won’t be enough. And we don’t have a recording of the piece, that’s why I haven’t played any selections of it. Otherwise I would have played excerpts of the piece. But in the future I probably, every time I show the Libretto, I will accompanied it by the musical excerpt because they’re really interlinked to that point that they’re inseparable.
Speaker 9: This has been interesting. So, I’m wondering if you’re at all familiar with another piece that deals with migration and refugees by Manthia Diawara of Mali called An Opera of the World.
Sabrina Klein: I don’t know that piece.

Audience 6: It’s a stage performance. It was also made into a film that was shown at document a couple of years ago, and it’s hard to find in America, but I would recommend it. But it also is trying to convey empathy and understanding of both the temptations and the risks and the life threatening risks Manthia’s taking a life in your own hands, whether it’ll leave the village, whether or not to leave the village. And then what happens if for those who followed the Pied Piper of the coyote in a sense and then get stranded on the beach where they flee for more money yet and then they try to make it across the Mediterranean. And that is a tumultuous crossing from North Africa. In any case, I’m imagining that these topics are coming up more and more and as streams for art and for artistic expression they’re still so real, they’re so present as opposed to the old historic operas or oratorios and wondering if you’re aware of other people who are also treating these topics in musical form or dramatic form.

Sabrina Klein: Well, I don’t know about these particular topics, but there are quite a few groups who are composing around current issues, who are very interested in drawing attention to things that our society hasn’t paid attention to in a way that they would like. Last year Kronos Quartet was here with a new oratorio about the Massacre of My Lai in the Vietnam War and the very current necessity to look at what war does and has done to American soldiers caught in environments where there’s a hopeless loop, where perhaps they are suggesting we really don’t belong. And so I do know that there is an impulse in a lot of contemporary classical music to look at issues that other people are, maybe not paying as much attention to is we would like. I don’t know of any other specifically dealing with immigration right now.

Jimmy López: Off the top of my head two come, the have been recently premiered, I think one was recently premiere Julia Wolfe composed an oratorio.

Sabrina Klein: Oh that’s right, Anthracite Field.

Jimmy López: And I think you had to do with a tragedy that happened, early in the women’s rights movement and it was a factory.

Sabrina Klein: Women’s labor.

Jimmy López: Correct.

Sabrina Klein: Yeah, the triangle factory fire.

Jimmy López: Yes, yes. And that’s something to pay attention to, I haven’t had a chance to see it, but I’m very curious about it

Sabrina Klein: Julia also wrote about coal miners.

Jimmy López: She did also, yes. She has had to two oratorios touching upon important subjects that are from the past that resonate with the present. And actually Opera Parallele is about to premiere, an opera based on the life Georgia O’Keeffe called Today It Rains. But what I want to call attention to that composer whose name I don’t remember, because she had another opera called As One, which is about a transgender individual. And so that’s what’s important. I remember the Libretto is there Mark Campbell, and mark worked also in that opera called As One. So, if you can look it up, that’s another thing and that’s interesting.

Sabrina Klein: This is really something that Cal Performances is interested in exploring, which is the relevance of these classical forms. It’s classical music forms and bringing events to audiences who might not be paying attention to them. But also in bringing the power of these traditional art forms to new topics and the dynamic between the two of them. You talked a lot about collaboration and how many different people and entities and organizations it takes to make something like that. It’s also a collaboration between a really current demanding, difficult, complicated moment in history and in our lives with these rigorous but dynamic art forms that can be calcified but don’t need to be. So, that’s part of the dynamic here that we’re interested in exploring these traditional forms drawing new attention.

Jimmy López: Yes, as a composer when you’re giving a platform or as an artist when you have a platform you can choose to speak about things that are or are not relevant, it’s really up to you, no one asked me to write necessarily on the subject of dreamers and no one was going to force me to do it. It is a task that we undertook because we thought it was important to tell and it was relevant to our time.

Sabrina Klein: And like you said, the original title of this, the working title was sanctuary, which was a different idea. And then as the time’s evolved and the conversation evolved, the story evolved.

Jimmy López: Exactly.

Sabrina Klein: I have a couple of questions.

Audience 7: Another question, reminded me when I was a kid, when we used to learn about the opera, we had to read the libretto before we could go to the opera or watch it. And so what this invites is more activism on the audience to be more learned about it. So, reading the Libretto and seeing what you did was wonderful and I’d love to read it.

Sabrina Klein: Nilo will also be talking about the Libretto at 1:30 on Sunday before the performance.

Audience 7: Great.

Sabrina Klein: He’ll be reading from it and talking about it. So, if you would like to review the Libretto with the writer.

Audience 7: That’s great. So, the question is, and it’s very controversial about super titles.

Jimmy López: Oh, we will have super titles.

Audience 7: Oh, okay. Because you talked about being both in English and Spanish, but I’m just wondering if that would … Do you feel that it detracts from the performance to have it? Or we’ve just become more accustomed to having an age like that if we’re not prepared to go into an event like this?

Jimmy López: No, I think it’s essential nowadays because he has opened up the doors to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in that because of the difficulty of understanding a singer especially in a brand new work.

Sabrina Klein: And where it gets changed elongated, it’s twisted when it’s sung.

Jimmy López: I speak from my own experience, when DVDs came out with subtitles, I became a lot more engaged in opera than it was before, because opera before was like … Especially if you don’t have a visual component, right? If you just see let’s say, or hear on a CD back then, then you just have the audio and you’ll have the company with the Libretto and after a while you really disconnect. This is more immediate and it is really a great age. So, I think we have to use every tool available to us. I think the gentle man back there had a question, yes.

Audience 8: Thank you. You wrote this piece for a very big group of people, right? Can it be scaled down to a much smaller group?

Jimmy López: I conceivably could but, I don’t feel motivated to do that just yet. I wait until, uh, until the premiere and see, but I think the impact might be diminished if you have a smaller forces. I believe that there are other pieces that will lend themselves more to that. But I’m afraid that diminishing the impact, will cost me to make a piece less effective too.

Sabrina Klein: There a conscious application of the grand and the big, the conjuring of deep time and space, and the largeness of orchestral sound and then the singular soprano voice, the intimate to the individual. And these things are not possible in alternate forms. So something different happens if you decide to do it, it would be very different.

Jimmy López: I think so too and I somehow feel that, had I conceived it for a chamber ensemble and soprano for example, it will be very, very different. And even Nilo himself would have written it differently.

Sabrina Klein: We’ve talked about all these different collaborative forces though, all the different organizations, the different artists, the fact that Nilo is a playwright by trade. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright he wrote Anna of the Tropics and many other plays. And the theater is his normal medium. So, when he brings his theatricality to bear in poetry for a Libretto, he taps in a different part of his creativity. Jimmy, knowing that he’d be working with a large orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen, who’s a superstar in his own right, who will be taking over the San Francisco symphony in a year and a half has his own artistic connection and demands about the orchestra. Then each of the musicians brings their musicality and their instruments, Ana Maria Martinez brings her presence. And as each of these things add their creative moment, the reality of being in Zellerbach Hall over there for the premiere has its own demands. So, it’s the space, it’s the audience. It’s the artist’s collectively and individually. It always stuns me when I see something like this to remember, Oh yeah, human beings made this. This was on purpose and that sounds obvious, but we can sometimes get swept up in music that’s so beautiful and moves us, we forget that it came up and about and for human beings.
Sabrina Klein: And I think it’s a reminder of how important it is that you are the first audience for this piece, you bring the final piece of collaboration, you are Berkeley audiences, you are students, you are music lovers, you are people who’ve never been to a concert hall before. All that combination completes the collaboration with this piece. And I think the fact that it’s premiering here is not incidental to what it’s going to sound like and what they experience is going to be like. Does that make sense to you?

Jimmy López: Absolutely.

Sabrina Klein: So, obviously I’m excited about it and it’s only the second oratorio I’ve ever been to in my life. I’m not an expert on oratorios at all, but I feel I have different things to listen for, different ways to experience this now, because of your generosity of sharing your process and your thoughts with us, is there any last thing you want to leave us with about this project?

Jimmy López: Well, just a reminder, whoever is not able to attend in person, I would encourage you to tune in because we’re going to have a live stream and I hope you also for the titles to be streamed directly, to be fed into the stream so that you can see them as a subtitles. And as I said, really try to just come with an open mind and open ears for sure.

Sabrina Klein: Open heart.

Jimmy López: And an open heart and invite people who you know, who might be interested in even people who you think might be a little adverse or not very friendly with this particular subject because that’s the whole point, to open up the conversation, to open up a dialogue and continue it. An invitation for all of you to really try to understand the presence and the now contemporary classical music and the power that he can have, when it tackles modern day subjects, maybe like these ones.

Sabrina Klein: Well, and-

Jimmy López: Go ahead.

Sabrina Klein: … Statistically speaking, most of us got here through immigration, right? So, bring yourself, bring your stories at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning in Zellerbach Playhouse next to the auditorium, there will be a round table conversation called stories of migration featuring the musician Van-Anh, who will be playing some of her Vietnamese instruments for us and telling about her immigration story as well as others on the UC Berkeley campus. And Nilo we’ll be talking about the Libretto at 1:30 also at Zellerbach Playhouse. So, come and engage a little more deeply with the work of art, bring a friend who doesn’t know what they’re getting into, and be their spirit guide. I think it will be more fun both for you and for them. And I just want to thank Jimmy for flying in late last night and being generous with your time.

Jimmy López: Thank you, thank you.

Sabrina Klein: And we’ll see what the performance will be around at intermission at least I will, Jimmy might be backstage, but I would love to hear your thoughts at intermission and after the performance. Come and find me and tell me what your experience was like. Thank you for inviting us, Peter.