Opere's opus: Garcia Lorca in his native tongue
“I’ve been doing these plays for more than 20 years now,” Fernando Operé explains, talking about the UVA Spanish Theater Group that he launched soon after he came to the U.S. from Spain in the late 1970s.
Opere is a professor in the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese Languages and Literatures at UVA, and he has a history of involvement with the theater. He studied in Barcelona as a young man and worked in the Spanish Underground Theater Movement during the Franco Regime in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Perhaps it was struggling to create a space for performance then that makes him so committed now to continuing to introduce Spanish-language plays into the arts scene in Charlottesville. Opere is passionate about bringing drama to life for his students and for the Spanish-speaking community.
“We in North America are feeling the impact of the Hispanic world growing,” Opere explains. “Charlottesville has two large Hispanic groups: people who have come here from Mexico and from El Salvador. It is hard to get these people to our plays, but it’s important to continue to offer the opportunity.”
Opere admits that the majority of the audience for the plays is UVA students and faculty, but each year the audiences become a bit larger, a bit more diverse, and a bit more receptive.
This year the group presents "Bodas de Sangre," a piece by Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca. Lorca is perhaps the most recognized Spanish dramatist and poet of the 20th century. This classic play is a three-act tragic drama exploring the themes of love, forbidden passion, and the uncontrollable forces of destiny.
Operé directs, and his students become the actors who bring the play to life. “There’s an artistic purpose to what we’re doing, but it’s more than that,” Operé insists. Producing the plays offers his students the opportunity to understand the text more completely and to practice their language skills.
“I’ve been told I’m wasting my time doing these plays,” Operé says, “but I’m going to continue doing them. You have to do what you believe in.”
"Bodas de Sangre" plays February 6-9 at the Helms Theater at UVA, 109 Culbreth Road. 8pm with 2pm matinees on February 8 and 9. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the UVA Spanish Department in Wilson Hall 112 or before each performance. $5-10. Contact Fernando Operé at email@example.com for more information.