Mi amigo Craig McDonald and I share a glorious fixation on the wild, weird saga of Pancho Villa. Tom Russell has also ventured out into the wild Chihuahuan Desert, so dry you couldn’t spit, in search of his elusive ghost.
The tale was featured in my Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans, and Craig’s debut Hector Lassiter novel, Head Games, is a caper based on the very real premise that somebody — for mysterious and certainly nefarious reasons — stole the Mexican revolutionary’s head from his tomb after his assassination.
Craig scouted up a new take on the story — this in the form of “an experimental chamber opera” depicting the life of the bandit-revolutionary. You have truly become immortal when an opera is constructed to tell your story. Cowboys we are, and cowboys we shall always be…
Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance is an experimental chamber opera about the life and death of Pancho Villa. Commissioned by Ballroom Marfa, the project is the third installment of The Marfa Triptych, a genre-hopping trilogy of musical performances by visionary composer Graham Reynolds. The opera is an insightful examination of the Mexican and Mexican-American impact on the culture and politics of West Texas, contributing to the current and timely conversation about borders and the limitations of the concept of delineated states.
Exploring facts from Villa’s biography while also examining the mythology surrounding him, the opera will ask what Pancho Villa means to Mexican and American culture and where these meanings intersect and conflict. The opera brings together artistic collaborators from both sides of the river to engage in a borderless conversation about the shared history between Mexico and the United States.
It’s playing in Seattle in November — however, I have a gig that weekend. I would love to see it live, but I’ll settle for a DVD,… hopefully.
A strange and wonderful thing…