Plata Quemada Project

Project History

     This work grew out of a collaborative project between a Latin American literature class, a music composition class, and a dance composition class that took place in the Spring of 2011. Students adapted an excerpt from Plata quemada, a novel by Ricardo Piglia, into a scene of opera and dance. They performed their work at an event at the Meadows Museum late in the Spring semester. Following the performance, the students who wrote the libretto and the music decided to extend the project to cover the entire novel. After contacting the author’s agent and obtaining the rights to adapt the novel, a team of librettists set about writing a script. The composer is still in the process of writing the music, but has finished several additional scenes.
     From the project's beginning, it has been our intention to produce the final work after it is finished. The premiere of Money to Burn will take place in the Spring 2012. At the time of writing, we have applied to the SMU Student Theatre Board for a space in which to present a workshop version of the opera. This workshop will allow our cast to learn the music, our director to develop staging, and our composer and librettists to make any changes necessary to accommodate successful musical performance.
     Despite its very basic nature, the performance given last spring elicited an extremely positive response from the audience. We feel that audiences would like to see the novel adapted in its entirety, and that we have strong potential to communicate its powerful societal messages. Furthermore, this project could be an extremely meaningful opportunity for collaboration between many departments in Meadows and across the University. It may establish a precedent for future collaboration of this nature.

Creative Team

Joseph Holt (Librettist, Singing Actor) is the Jeanne Roach Johnson Meadows Scholar of the Arts, and is currently in his fourth year at SMU, double majoring in Vocal Performance and Foreign Languages and Literatures (Spanish/Chinese). In addition to his work at the Meadows School, Joseph has performed extensively in musical theatre in the DFW area. He has worked with such theaters as Lyric Stage and WaterTower Theater, most recently appearing in Little Shop of Horrors (voice of Audrey II). Joseph has also appeared on stage with the Meadows Opera Theatre in Trial by Jury, Orpheus in the Underworld, and will appear in Le Nozze di Figaro (Bartolo). Joseph was the librettist and vocalist for the scene adapted from Plata Quemada in the Spring of 2011, while he was enrolled in Dr. Francisco Moran's Spanish Novel course.

John McAfee (Librettist, Cellist) is a senior with a triple major in Music, Spanish, and Biological Sciences. Since arriving at the Meadows School to study cello under the direction of Andrés Díaz, John has presented 16 solo recitals both on and off of the SMU campus. He played in the highly selective Meadows Sinfonietta at the SMU-in-Taos campus during the summer of 2009 and also served as Principal Cellist of the Meadows Symphony Orchestra for the 2010 Meadows at the Winspear gala performance. While enrolled in Dr. Francisco Morán’s Latin American Poetry class during the Fall semester of 2010, John collaborated on a dance, music, and poetry project with students in Professor Patty Harrington Delaney’s Composition I class. John is the Sara and David Martineau Meadows Scholar of the Arts, and is also a member of the Robert S. Hyer Society and Phi Beta Kappa.

Ellen Seldin (Composer) is a senior in the Division of Music at the Meadows School, and is completing her third year of Composition studies with Professor Simon Sargon.  Her previous musical credits include performances with Voices of Change and in the Meadows Annual Spring Composers concerts. She plans to pursue Graduate Study in Composition next year.

Soprano Alyssa Veteto (Stage Director), 23, is a recent graduate of the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU with a BM degree in Vocal Performance, where she studied with Barbara Hill-Moore. A native of Amarillo, she began her musical and theatre training early, and at age 16 began singing with the Amarillo Opera. She has been seen in productions of Puccini’s La Bohéme, Verdi’s La Traviata and Falstaff (Robin), Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, and Lucy Simon’s The Secret Garden (Lily). She has also been featured on the professional theatre stage with the Broadway Spotlight Series Company. Theatre credits include Les Miserables (Young Cosette), Beauty and the Beast (Mrs. Potts), Odyssey: A New Musical Adventure (Ghost Artist), Oliver! (Widow Corney), Sweeney Todd (Mrs. Lovett), Fiddler on the Roof (Golde), and The Final Distraction: An Opera (Tess). While at Meadows, she participated in several masterclasses and workshops with esteemed artists such as Kimberly Grigsby and Adam Guettel, and was seen in several Meadows Opera productions including Dido and Aeneas, The Tender Land (Beth), The Two Orphans, Trial By Jury, Orpheus in the Underworld, and Suor Angelica (La prima cercatrice). When not seen on stage, Ms. Veteto enjoys working in theatre production, having served as the stage manager for Civic Amarillo’s production of Annie, as well as the production intern for the Amarillo Opera’s Arts: An Alternative program.

Francisco Morán (Spanish Faculty Advisor) is Associate Professor of Latin American Spanish in the Dedman College of Arts and Sciences at SMU. He has worked with Professor Patty Harrington Delaney on two previous occasions, producing collaborative projects between students in her Composition classes and his classes on Latin American Poetry and Latin American Novels. It was in this course on Latin American Novels in which his students discussed Plata quemada (Money to Burn), and resulted in the original performance in the Spring of 2011.


Photo 1. Rehearsal for the performance based on Plata quemada (Spring 2011)
Photo 2. Joseph Holt rehearsing (Spring 2011)
Photo 3. (from left to right): Ellen Seldin, Alyssa Veteto and John McAfee