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Magdalena – Studio Cast Recording 1990

Magdalena – Studio Cast Recording 1990

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Synopsis

Time: 1912, before war and revolution wracked the world, turning the social order topsy-turvy. Place: Colombia, the headwaters of the Magdalena River, deep in the South American jungle. Flowing north from the frozen Andes into the steaming Caribbean, the Magdalena touches every soul on her shore. Before the simple shrine of the Miracle Madonna, Muzo Indians grind corn, weave, play a badminton-like game called Peteca, and bring gifts, as Padre José surveys the serenity of the surroundings (“The Jungle Chapel” / “Women Weaving” / “Peteca!” / “The Seed of God”). A final gift is a primitive carving of “The Omen Bird” (“Teru”). A relic of pagan times, the Teru is a harbinger of good fortune at the emerald mines. Maria, the beautiful Jefa (Chief) of the Muzos, is Padre José’s most loyal convert. Maria loves Pedro, a young Muzo rebel who drives the only bus, scoffs at religion, and resists all efforts to reform him. Padre José tells Maria he must make a journey of many weeks to missions down river. In his absence, Maria is in charge. Maria vows to guard the chapel and its Madonna with her life. Horn blowing, engine backfiring, radiator spouting steam, Pedro’s ancient but valiant vehicle chugs into the chapel courtyard. Cheered by children, Pedro defends his “gasolina” against the attacks of angry passengers in “My Bus and I.” Major Blanco, the military aide who manages the Carabaña estates during the Patrón’s near-permanent residency abroad, confronts Maria: why have her Muzos stopped work in General Carabaña’s emerald mines? Finding Maria’s response less than reassuring, Blanco announces his departure for Paris to alert the General. Alone with Maria, Pedro rekindles the warmth they felt for one another as children. He gives her a special stone, a shining gem they found together in their youth (“The Emerald”). Paris, two weeks later: Madame Teresa’s Little Black Mouse Cafe. Behind a façade of formal etiquette and exquisite food, the Little Black Mouse is a temple of high living and low thinking. Amid a mad mélange of wine, waiters, entertainers and habitués, we meet Zoggie, Madame Teresa’s very personal astrologer, and her “friend”, the fat, sinister Colombian bon vivant, Grand Gourmet Don Alfredo Cortez de Carabaña (“The Civilized People”). General Carabaña is tasting wine, cataloguing by name and vintage a series of superior champagnes. With a great sweep, Madame Teresa makes her grand entrance and prepares for Carabaña the flaming sauce for one of her famous desserts. She sings of life, love and men in “Food for Thought.” Major Blanco brings the sobering news from Colombia: a strike in the Carabaña emerald mines! Abetted by Blanco and Zoggie, Carabaña begs Teresa to “Come to Colombia.” Teresa demurs, reluctant to leave Paris, till Zoggie reminds her of the “astrological” importance of emeralds in her future, and the General promises her the Carabaña emerald necklace – one hundred perfect stones! Teresa agrees to go (“Plan It By the Planets”). She takes leave of her beloved Little Black Mouse (“Bon Soir, Paris”), and all embrace the coming voyage to Colombia (“Travel, Travel, Travel”). Two weeks later, at the River Port in Colombia, the Indians await the arrival of General Carabaña and his entourage. The Old One sings of the timeless, majestic river “Magdalena,” while on the porch Pedro pumps coins into a broken-down player-piano. The ancient instrument, tinny and out of tune, starts and stops fitfully. When it plays, rambunctious youths dance. When it stops, they pound it, beat it and kick it until it plays again (“The Broken Pianolita”). Unperturbed, the wise old Indian sings on. To welcome General Carabaña, Maria and her Muzos offer a fiesta, an outpouring of respect and love for their absentee patron. As a tribal elder leads the men carrying the Miracle Madonna, they sing the soaring “River Song.” At the peak of Maria’s greeting, an angry Pedro drives his bus, loaded with drunken Indians of the pagan Chivor tribe, into the midst of the celebration (“Pedro Wrecks the Festival”). In fury, Maria snatches a whip and lashes out at Pedro. Delighted, he urges his drunken Chivors on, and the festival climaxes in chaos and disaster. That evening, “Guarding the Shrine of the Madonna,” Maria is visited by a chastened, seemingly penitent Pedro. Accepting his apologies, she recalls a similar incident from their childhood. Pedro, sensing her vulnerability, sweeps Maria away in a storm of passion (“The Forbidden Orchid”). At the sound of a pre-arranged signal, Pedro carries Maria into the jungle. In a dance of fear and frenzy (“The Theft”), the Chivors invade the shrine and steal the statue of the Madonna. Still later that night, in a clearing in the jungle around a great Mora tree, the moonlight is so bright that the nesting birds mistake it for the sun and start to serenade the dawn. Pedro and Maria join the Muzos in a celebration of “The Singing Tree”. Pedro declares his love for Maria and declares that he will marry her upon Padre José’s return. Word comes that the Madonna is missing, stolen from her shrine. Maria realizes she has been deceived. Falling to her knees, she prays for forgiveness as Pedro seeks to justify his motives (“Lost”). An edict from Carabaña, forbidding assembly until the strike is settled, forces Pedro and the Muzos to fight back for “Freedom!” At his hacienda, Carabaña gives a gala homecoming ball (“A Spanish Waltz”), and Teresa prepares a banquet of unparalleled magnificence. Teresa learns that, behind her back, the General has agreed to settle his strike by marrying Maria in an “alliance of state”. She overhears the General give orders to plant dynamite in Pedro’s bus and hears him – the final blow – volunteer to give Maria the Carabaña emerald necklace he promised Teresa in Paris. Madame Teresa plots her revenge by creating a sumptuous endless parade of food, her “Pièce de Résistance.” The General eats and eats until his ailing heart gives out and he dies at the table. She exits triumphantly with the Carabaña emeralds. Despondent over the turn of events, Maria looks to her faith. She tells a sympathetic Padre José all that has happened in his absence. Pedro’s bus lies wrecked at the bottom of the cliff, and he is missing, perhaps – ! Maria recalls her love for Pedro (“The Emerald Again”). As the morning mists begin to lift, Pedro appears, but unrepentant. Sadly, Maria bids him a final farewell and leaves. Realizing the strength of Maria’s faith, Pedro bows to the power of the Madonna, and goes off into the jungle. The sound of the Muzos’ singing is heard. Outlined, as in the first rays of the rising sun, gift bearers are seen approaching the empty shrine. Suddenly Pedro appears. In his arms he carries the statue. Now with the Miracle Madonna safe in her shrine, Padre José back with his flock, and Maria reunited with Pedro, the Jungle Chapel resounds with ringing bells and joyous children’s voices in the Finale: “The Seed of God.”

– Evans Haile

Credits

Teresa: Judy Kaye General Carabaña: George Rose Maria: Faith Esham Pedro: Kevin Gray The Old One: Jerry Hadley Major Blanco: Keith Curran Padre José: Charles Damsel Zoggie: Charles Repole Orchestra New England Connecticut Choral Artists Conceived and Produced in Concert and Conducted by Evans Haile