By Jenn Crawford
UTEP News Service
An international audience of close to 350 attended the premier performance of Opera Bhutan’s staging of George Frideric Handel’s Acis and Galatea, the first Western opera ever performed in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, and the first in the world to incorporate elements of Bhutanese music, dance and culture.
Thirty-one students, staff and faculty from The University of Texas at El Paso took part in the world premiere performance, along with another 40 people from countries around the world, including world-class opera singers, directors and musicians.
The production, and the years of preparation and planning that went into it, strengthened UTEP’s nearly 100-year connection with Bhutan that began with a shared architecture but had evolved to include student and cultural exchanges. For the students involved, the experience of working with top musicians and directors in a beautiful country that is inaccessible to many people in the world was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They were free of the distractions of home and able to focus on learning their craft from some of the best teachers in the world.
“I can still remember the feeling I had when I was performing on stage,” said Mariana Sandoval, a junior music performance major, after returning to El Paso. “Everything that I’ve ever done no longer mattered at that moment where I was truly happy to be doing what I love with people who became family.”