An Ethno-Historical Cantata Tells Story of Ascencion Solorsano de Cervantes (1854-1930)
by admin ~ April 1st, 2008
The cultural history of the Amah-Mutsun (“San Juan”) Tribe is the subject of a new collaboration between librettist and mezzo-soprano Helene Joseph-Weil and composer Benjamin Broom. Set out in 14 scenes, and involving multi-media displays and spatial sound effects, the two hour cantata tells the story of Ascencion Solorsano de Cervantes (1854-1930), the last fluent speaker of Mutsun, and draws on oral history accounts by Smithsonian ethnologist J. P. Harrington in 1929. An NPR radio profile and music website provide further information on the development of the libretto, input from current descendants and family members, and a slideshow and audio excerpt from a performance. Benjamin Boon and Helene Joseph-Weil teach music and composition at the California State University, Fresno. The Amah-Mutsun Tribe is located east of Santa Cruz, CA, and is currently in the process of seeking federal tribal recognition.