In 1992 artist Claudia Bernardi and her sister Patricia went to El Mozote, El Salvador, to commit themselves to the grueling task of exhuming hundreds of skeletons from a mass grave. Among them, 136 victims had been children under the age of twelve. This slaughter, a bizarre bi-product of a brutal twelve years of a Civil War, had been quickly covered up and dismissed for various political reasons. As a result, it went unreported by the press for a long time. Yet Rufina Amaya Marquez, (1942-2007), one of the handful survivors of this horror, had lived to tell the story.
The Disappeared is a political piece. The underlying political events that led to the massive destruction of an entire village is quite absurd and really difficult to accept. It took me several weeks to figure out what I was going to do with this story, and after much pondering, the image/idea of a traveling circus came into my mind. I chose the circus because of all its metaphorical meanings and its vivid imageries. A circus can be sweet, childish and innocent, or it can be gruesome, freakish and violent, such as the Circus Maximus in ancient Rome.
A disturbing musical parody, the music is quite visual and acknowledges the horrific events which had taken place in the village of El Mozote, as if conveyed to the audience by a traveling circus that had pulled into town and put on a show. Each circus ‘act,’ metaphorically addresses political issues such as power abuse and freedom and the acts are woven together by interludes sung by a female voice inspired by the witness Rufina Amaya. Her voice lives in a parallel reality and accounts for what happened before the pandemonium and in the aftermath but never during the present, actual horror.
Orchestra and Soprano
Commissioned by the Cabrillo Festival