An aria for San Ignacio

In true operatic fashion, “San Ignacio de Loyola” is a story about love and faith, courage, and temptation. To underscore the epic nature of this tale, angels and demons mount the stage. ¡Qué tormento! laments San Ignacio in his opening lines—sung in a special one-night performance at the Mission Church on Oct. 12.

In this story, we know that good shall triumph and that St. Ignatius’ companion, Francis Xavier, will carry on the Jesuit mission in places to which Ignatius cannot go. And, thanks to a discovery of a manuscript in the remote Bolivian Church of the Immaculate Conception in 1986, we see—and hear—how the story came to life in performances in the Jesuit missions of the Province of Paraguay three centuries ago.

The opera was directed by Michael Zampelli, S.J., associate professor of theatre and dance at SCU. In spring 2006, for the Jesuit Jubilee, he directed performances in Rome, and he’s headed up productions elsewhere stateside. But this is the West Coast premiere for “San Ignacio,” and having it performed in a Mission church is, Zampelli says, a kind of homecoming.

“San Ignacio” is a missionary opera—originally performed by and for the Chiquitos, indigenous people of South America. It was composed in Spanish and, in its original form, included a parallel drama in the Chiquitanian dialect. The music was composed by Domenico Zipoli, S.J., (1688-1726), Martin Schmid, S.J., (1694-1772), and a third anonymous composer. The libretto was written by two unknown Spanish Jesuits.

When it comes to the look and feel of this baroque chamber opera, it’s another homecoming for SCU’s Department of Theatre and Dance—whose talents have been on display in the opera performances already given in other cities and countries. Costumes were designed by Associate Professor Barbara Murray ’73 and sewn under the direction of Joanne Martin, who supervises the department costume shop. Jerald Enos, founding director of SCU’s Center of Performing Arts, oversaw stage and set design.

“It’s a jewel of a piece,” says Zampelli—one created amid a confluence of cultures, offering a message of understanding and hope. —SBS

post-image St. Ignatius (Randall K. Wong) sings in Mission Santa Clara. Photo: Sophie Asmar
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