I am originally from Los Angeles, and as many Angelino stories go, I am the product of vastly different cultures. My mother was born and raised in India and my father is Latin American, with roots in New Mexico. Through their travels from opposite ends of the globe, they met and married in Africa and then decided to settle in LA. That’s where my story begins… I have memories of listening to Le nozze di Figaro at the age of 3, followed by a Ravi Shankar or Celia Cruz chaser!
My path to becoming a composer was rather circuitous, beginning with intensive training to become a concert pianist. I longed to be a composer, though. It felt like an impossible dream because of my gender, but I didn’t allow those odds to extinguish my fire. After my first year as a piano major at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts), studying under the late and great, Leonid Hambro, I switched my major to composition. I soon realized that I would be the only woman in my graduating class! This dramatically altered my course as an artist and as a woman living in this world. It gave me a greater sense of purpose and pushed me ever harder to reach my artistic and humanitarian goals. While at CalArts, I had wonderful opportunities to study with Rand Steiger, Morton Subotnick and another late and great - legendary film composer, Leonard Rosenman.
After college, I spent many years in LA as the Director of Music at Hal Roach Studios, and composed music for dance productions and independent films. I also started an “all-girl band”, Mozaic, playing the Hollywood circuit, (Roxy, Whiskey A Go-Go, Troubadour, etc.). Later, I co-owned a recording studio in the heart of Hollywood, Kitchen Sync Studios, recording such iconic artists as Eazy-E and Ice T.
I had other aspirations, though… My deep love of opera and counterculture drew me to San Francisco where my first opera, WUORNOS, premiered at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The subject of this opera is Aileen Wuornos, known as “America’s First Female Serial Killer." This was a historic “first” for many reasons. The opera featured a large cast and full orchestra.
My second is opera, Juana – a Spanish language chamber opera based on the rich, historical novel, “Sor Juana’s Second Dream”, by the award- winning writer, Alicia Gaspar de Alba. It’s about 17th century Mexican nun, poet and feminist icon, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. It premiered in 2019 with Opera UCLA. (Juana will have its East Coast premiere in NYC with dell'Arte Opera Ensemble in 2022.)
Another Spanish language opera of mine, Las Tres Mujeres de Jerusalén (The Three Women of Jerusalem), commissioned by LA Opera, premiered in March 2022. It is based on the Passion, seen through the eyes of three women who encounter Jesus during the Eighth Station of the Cross. Its premiere at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels marks many firsts for LA Opera – I am the first woman composer to be commissioned and Las Tres Mujeres de Jerusalén is the first Spanish language opera commission for their Cathedral Operas. It will also be the first opera for the company that will feature choral groups from around the world to join the live choruses, opera singers and orchestra of 100+ musicians performing on stage!
Las Tres Mujeres de Jerusalén is the first in LA Opera’s cycle, “Song of LA”, which will be part of the official entertainment for the 2028 Olympics held in Los Angeles.
My current opera-in-progress is the chamber opera, touch, based on the rich and complex life, of Helen Keller. The libretto is co-written by the New York librettist and playwright, Marianna Mott Newirth. It is commissioned by Opera Birmingham and will have its premiere in 2024!
Aside from opera, I still enjoy composing for dance. Most recently, two new ballets premiered with my commissioned scores: Marika Brussel’s House of Names (San Francisco), and Heidi Duckler’s Reckoning Ramona (Los Angeles).
Through my decades long journey in live music, whether it is opera, dance, chamber or symphonic projects, I still have a great love for film music, and am looking forward to pursuing new cinematic adventures in the near future.
I am very grateful to the following institutions, organizations and corporations for their generous support, awards and commissions: LA Opera, Opera America, Opera UCLA, Opera Birmingham, dell’Arte Opera, Marika Brussel Dance, Heidi Duckler Dance, Earplay Ensemble, San Francisco Arts Commission, la Festival Contemporania de Habana (Contemporary Music Festival of Havana, Cuba), California Arts Council, Creative Work Fund, Zellerbach Foundation, Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation, Bill Graham Foundation, Meet the Composer, Horizons Foundation, Astraea, UC Berkeley, Dance Lumiere, QCC, Charles Schwab, Wells Fargo, OUT Magazine, the Advocate, ComuArte International, Resonancia (Chile), West Edge Opera, Theater Bay Area, the Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquesta del Instituto Politécnico (Mexico) and Orquesta Marga-Marga (Chile).
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