The Guarani make their operatic debut
“Ñomongeta”, which translated into Spanish means dialogue or conversation, is the first opera written in the Guarani language. This aboriginal, pre-Columbian language remains one of the two official languages of Paraguay with Spanish.
In the opera, Paraguayan tenor José Mongelós plays a contemporary native Guarani who converses with Christopher Columbus about the cultural impact colonization has had on him and the environment. To achieve this, the work “Ñomongeta” blends contemporary and Aboriginal musical traditions with the lyricism of opera.
The opera was written by the famous conductor, composer and pianist Paraguayo Diego Sánchez Haase and the modest librettist Escobar Aquino, with an epilogue by Pedro Paredes Argüello. The cast is also part of Girolamo deraco, as the director, Lourdes Franco Galli, in the Stylling, and Victor Aguilar Zarza as Luthier.
First in the United States
After being presented in Italy, Belgium, France and Paraguay before the Covid-19 pandemic, the work arrived in September 2022 on American territory thanks to the Hispanic Opera and Americas Society.
“Ñomongueta” was first performed at the Smithsonian Museum of American Indian in New York, where it was very well received by Paraguayan audiences as well as other nationalities.
As the opera is developed entirely in Aboriginal, participants can understand the story through the subtitles, according to Sebastian Zubieta, musical director of Americas Society, in an interview with AL DÍA of New York.
After passing through New York, the Paraguayan Opera will perform this Saturday, September 24 at the Smithsonian Museum of American Indian in Washington DC. It will be from 2 p.m. on the Esplanade Nationale. Access is free.
This activity is included in the Smithsonian Museum of American Indian events for Hispanic Heritage Month, which is commemorated September 15 through October 15.
“Most of the world’s indigenous languages are known only in their own communities. In North America, these languages are often on the verge of extinction, and we support all efforts to develop knowledge of Indigenous languages and efforts to preserve them by Indigenous communities,” said Shawn Termin, Deputy Director of Programs (acting) from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
The premiere of “Ñomongeta” marks a milestone in the history of Paraguayan music, as it is the first presentation of an opera by a Paraguayan author in the United States.
It is expected that after its debut in New York and Washington DC, the opera in Guaraní will come to more cities in the United States.
About the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is an active and visible component of the Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world. The NMAI cares for one of the most extensive collections of Indigenous artifacts in the world, including objects, photographs, archives and media spanning the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.
The National Museum of the American Indian operates three facilities. The museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC, offers exhibition galleries and spaces for performances, lectures and symposia, research and education. The George Gustav Heye Center (GGHC) in New York is home to exhibitions, research, educational activities, and performing arts programs. The Cultural Resource Center (CRC) in Suitland, Maryland houses the museum’s collections as well as the conservation, repatriation and digital imaging programs, and research facilities.