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Filmmaker Alberto Arvelo (PC: Mel Melcon)

San Diego Symphony Collaborates with Filmmaker Alberto Arvelo

Arvelo's film accompanies Antonio Estévez’s piece “Cantata Criolla,” which is based on a Venezuelan folk tale


The San Francisco Symphony and Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare recently premiered a new black-and-white film by Alberto Arvelo, which was specially created to run alongside the orchestra's performance of Cantata Criolla by Antonio Estévez.

Performances of the work alongside the film took place at California’s Jacobs Park on May 26 and 27, 2023.

Based on the Venezuelan folk tale of the singing cowboy Florentino, who finds himself facing off with the devil in a singing contest, Cantata Criolla uses a text by Arvelo’s grandfather, Alberto Arvelo Torrealba

Payare and Arvelo met when the latter was working on a documentary about Venezuela’s famed public music-education program, El Sistema — in which both Payare and Gustavo Dudamel participated together as students.

"Of course, I have this intimate connection with this poem," Arvelo said. "Not only because my grandfather wrote it, but also as a Venezuelan. It represents our culture and connection with the landscape and nature.

"Both Rafa and Gustavo are amazing conductors, and both are emotionally connected to the cantata," he continued. "Rafa wanted something different. He was intrigued by the confrontation between good and evil, and how the music reflected that. So, I did his version in black and white. In a way, it’s more primal."

"What the audience will see — especially at the end of the concert — is fantastic," added Payare. "That part was so complicated to put together. But watching it is an amazing sensation. I’m really looking forward to shar[ing] this with everybody."

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