On Thursday, October 18, 2018, the UNM English Department hosted the 9th annual Rufolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest. The lecture featured guest speaker Héctor Armienta, the nationally-recognized composer of the Bless Me, Ultima opera. In addition to the adaptation of Anaya’s iconic novel, Mr. Armienta’s work includes a trilogy entitled Aguas Ancestrales/Ancient Waters and a forthcoming opera entitled Zoro, produced by Opera Southwest and slated to open at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in 2020.
UNM faculty, students, and members of the Albuquerque community, including Mr. Anaya’s family members, attended this year’s lecture. After opening remarks by Dr. Melina Vizcaino-Alemán, who chaired the organizing committee, and welcome remarks by Chair Anita Obermeier, Opera Southwest Executive Director Tony Zancanella introduced Mr. Armienta, who described his journey adapting Bless Me, Ultima and working with Mr. Anaya to create the three arias that compose the opera’s libretto. Mr. Armienta presented pages from his outlines and plot summaries, as well as interactions with Mr. Anaya to produce the final libretto. To cap the lecture, Mr. Zancanella played a fifteen-minute clip of the opera, and Mr. Armienta took questions from the audience before moving into the Frank Waters Room for a light reception.
Mr. Armienta joins a list of distinguished speakers in the annual lecture series on the literature of the Southwest, established in 2010 through a gift from the renowned fiction writer Rudolfo A. Anaya and his late wife Patricia. Mr. Anaya is founder of UNM’s distinguished Creative Writing Program, and Emeritus Professor of English at UNM, and he also founded the Rudolfo A. Anaya Scholarship Fund for Hispanic graduate and MFA students with an interest in Southwest studies. His papers are held at UNM’s Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections.
Previous speakers in the lecture series include Acoma Pueblo poet Simon Ortiz (2010), Las Cruces writer and playwright Denise Chávez (2011), Taos writer John Nichols (2012), Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday (2013), Chicana writer Ana Castillo (2014), Santa Fe mystery writer Anne Hillerman (2015), Latinx poet Rigoberto González (2016), and Santo Domingo Pueblo potter and poet Nora Naranjo Morse. At this year’s lecture, many of Mr. Anaya’s family members donated to the Anaya Lecture series. Community member Juan Vigil made a $500 donation to the Anaya Lecture Fund. Mr. Vigil is a community member who lead the movement to name the Rudolfo A. Anaya North Valley Library in 2017.
For further information about the lecture series and its upcoming 10th anniversary, visit the Anaya Lecture Series website.
To donate, please visit the UNM Foundation website.