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Mavericks Personified: Edwardo Perez
Opera man

Edwardo PerezEnglish doctoral student Edwardo Perez is writing his dissertation. But first, he wrote and produced an opera.

Perez, who holds master’s degrees in music and journalism, has written three plays, one of which was picked for the Hispanic Playwright Festival at Fort Worth Theatre in 2001. But he never considered writing an opera until he took Jacqueline Stodnick’s graduate-level class in Old English, the language written and spoken in England from around the fifth century until shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

In the wake of the Lord of the Rings movies, the class was very popular, Perez said, because it just “sounded so elfish.” Then the brim-full class experienced acute attrition when students learned it was no afternoon at the movies.

“It was rewarding but it wasn’t easy, because Old English really is a foreign language,” Perez said.

One of the requirements was a 10-page paper. To Dr. Stodnick’s surprise, Perez wrote a 35-page proposal on developing Beowulf as an opera.

An opera had never been based on the epic poem, which follows the story of Hrothgar, a Danish king whose legendary hall, Heorot, is tormented by the monster Grendel. Geatland warrior Beowulf sails to Denmark to help defeat the troublesome foe.

Written around the 10th century, Beowulf was based on fabled events that may have occurred as early as the fifth century. Through the years, Anglo-Saxon poets passed down the stories. Perez retains that ancient flavor in costume and set design and in the language of the libretto.

But he goes modern with the music. The 20-piece orchestra for the April premier at Tarrant County College Northeast Campus included brass, with solo flugelhorn and euphonium; percussion, featuring vibraphone and marimba; saxophones and organ. Perez plays the trombone, tuba, euphonium, flugelhorn and trumpet and also percussion and piano. He sings, but not opera: “I don’t have the training.”

Now with his first opera and the course work for his doctorate under his belt, he’s teaching music composition and theory and directing the jazz ensemble at TCC Northeast.

— Sue Stevens

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