Balada's 'Death of Columbus' Bows in Pittsburgh
The world premiere of Leonardo Balada's full-length opera, Death of Columbus, the sequel to his earlier Christopher Columbus, will take place in a semi-staged performance at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in January, 2005. Robert Page will lead the combined forces of professional soloists, the Carnegie Mellon Repertory Chorus, members of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. In the days following the live performance, a studio recording will be made for the Naxos label as part of their ongoing series of Balada works.
Balada was commissioned by the Spanish government to compose an opera to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's famous voyage to America. Christopher Columbus premiered in Barcelona in 1989 [see MadAminA!, Fall 1990] starring José Carreras and Montserrat Caballé. Called "a masterpiece" by The Washington Times, the opera received such international acclaim that Balada was soon asked by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alicante International Music Festival to write a sequel. While Christopher Columbus takes place on the Santa Maria before land has been sighted, Death of Columbus is set on Columbus's tormented deathbed, and features flashbacks from the years following his epic voyage.
"Columbus was very worried about his historical legacy. He was worried about what his discovery did in terms of the Spanish conquest of the Indies," said Balada. "In the opera I composed music based on his deathbed scenes. I created a story around a fictitious character who torments Columbus, which is, in fact, the voice of his conscience. The opera asks many questions about what the discovery meant for the world."
Balada has been on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University since 1970. He is credited with pioneering a blend of ethnic music with the avant-garde techniques for which he became known in the 1960s.