Unflinching 'Cuatro Corridos' opera comes to Zipper Concert Hall

Unflinching 'Cuatro Corridos' opera comes to Zipper Concert Hall
Soprano Susan Narucki stars in the world premiere at UC San Diego of "Cuatro Corridos," a chamber opera based on true stories of human trafficking along the border. (Jim Carmody)

What may have been last year's most unsettling new opera(s) may also have been the most modest. "Cuatro Corridos" -- which had its premiere in a small black box at UC San Diego and will reach Colburn School's Zipper Concert Hall on Friday night -- consists of four 15-minute operas for a solo singer and instrumental trio of guitar, piano and percussion.

The subject matter is an unflinching look, from four cultural and musical points of view, at a sex trafficking scandal uncovered 13 years ago in the San Diego strawberry fields.


In the librettos by Jorge Volpi, each opera -- by composers Hilda Paredes, Arlene Sierra, Lei Liang and Hebert Vázquez -- tells the story of a different girl kidnapped in Mexico to serve as a prostitute for migrant farmworkers. The scores are modern and meaningful. Soprano Susan Narucki's performances of the four women is shockingly true to the material. The production, which includes a video "border wall," sets the scenes but is careful not to overpower powerful material.

The Los Angeles premiere comes courtesy of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which is presenting "Cuatro Corridos" as a gala benefit. The review from San Diego in 2013 is here.