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Before Night Falls: From Book to Stage


by Stephen Becker 11 May 2010

This month, the Fort Worth Opera will debut an adaptation of Reinaldo Arenas’ memoir Before Night Falls. Audiences may be familiar with the movie of the same name, but KERA’s Stephen Becker reports the opera was in the works well before the big-screen adaptation:

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Before-Page

This month, the Fort Worth Opera will debut an adaptation of Reinaldo Arenas’ memoir Before Night Falls. Audiences may be familiar with the movie of the same name, but KERA’s Stephen Becker reports the opera was in the works well before the big-screen adaptation:

  • KERA radio story:
  • Online version:

When Reinaldo Arenas’ memoir Before Night Falls was released in 1993, producers lined up hoping to score the movie rights from his family. The story of Arenas’ struggle to free himself from the oppression of Castro’s Cuba had all the makings of a dramatic film.

But Jorge Martín had another idea for the family.

MARTÍN: “No one had thought of doing an opera, so they were charmed by the idea.”

Martín secured the rights to adapt the book for the stage in 1995. The film rights were ultimately awarded to artist Julian Schnabel. His movie was a critical success when it was released in 2000 and earned its star, Javier Bardem, an Oscar nomination.

During a recent taping of the Think television show, which will air on KERA May 21st, Martín said that he did see the film, but …

MARTÍN: “ … I didn’t want to see it again, because I didn’t want to get too caught up in it.”

Fort Worth Opera will debut Before Night Falls on May 29. And there’s a good chance many in the crowd will have seen the movie. But Martín says he’s not concerned with the comparisons people might make between the film and his opera.

MARTÍN: “It’s such a different medium. The camera eye is one thing and the operatic stage is something else. And the kinds of things that you want to do with music and drama are very different from kinds of things that you would do with a film. That’s one of the great things about adapting a book and seeing two different kinds of adaptations – something that lends itself to that is very interesting.”

On Wednesday, Art&Seek’s Jerome Weeks will moderate a free panel discussion featuring Jorge Martín and others involved in staging Before Night Falls. The panel is at 7 p.m. on the SMU campus.

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