Scott Vargas Christmas Story

Arizona Opera’s production of “El Milagro del Recuerdo.” It is the company’s second mariachi opera following the premiere of “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” in 2014.

Arizona Opera returns to the stage this weekend for the first time since the pandemic, and you might recognize a few faces among the cast of its regional premiere of “El Milagro del Recuerdo” (The Miracle of Remembering).

Four of the cast members are making their Arizona encores singing the roles they originated when Arizona Opera staged the first-ever mariachi opera “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” (To Cross the Face of the Moon) in 2014.

The four — baritone Ocatvio Moreno, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, mezzo Vanessa Alonzo and bass Miguel de Aranda — are re-creating those roles in a Christmastime mariachi opera that explores family and holiday traditions through the lens of missed opportunities.

“El Milagro” is something of a prequel to “Cruzar,” or, in the view of librettist Leonard Foglia, the story in the middle.

“When I was writing this piece, I knew who I was writing for. I wrote it for the people involved” in “Cruzar,” said Foglia, who wrote “Cruzar” with the legendary Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán band leader and composer Pepe Martinez. “They come with so much history and living with these characters.”

“El Milagro” is the third mariachi opera commissioned by Houston Grand Opera, with Foglia as librettist for all three. Martinez composed the music for “Cruzar” and was nearly finished with the followup, “El Pasado Nunca Se Termina,” when he became ill in 2015 and his son, Javier Martinez, stepped in to finish it.

Foglia said when he proposed “El Milagro” to Houston Opera, they turned again to Javier Martinez.

“The Houston Grand Opera gave me the chance to continue the legacy of my father with this opera,” Martinez said from his home in Mexico City in November.

In “El Milagro,” Laurentino (Moreno) returns home in 1962 to Michoacán after working as a bracero (seasonal worker) in the United States. His wife, Renata (Duarte), starts in on him about his long stretches away from home as Laurentino tries to convince her that he wants only to provide for his family.

“These precious moments you can’t get back,” Foglia said of the story’s core theme. “In a way it’s no different than parents working away from their children, but in this case the men are gone for months at a time.”

Martinez said the music is a mix of mariachi, American classic rock, some Broadway, flamenco and pop music.

“I put in a little touch of some rock ‘n’ roll and sounds of Mexico. I tried to (merge) the two cultures but it still sounds like mariachi,” said Martinez, who composed his first song at the age of 8 and drew inspiration from watching his father in the recording studio growing up.

“It’s mariachi with a little orchestra. It has violins, guitarrón, trumpets. It’s really different than the other ones because the presence of mariachi .. they act on stage. The other part of the orchestra they have in the pit.”

Arizona is only the second professional opera company to mount “El Milagro.” Unlike “Cruzar,” whose immigration theme struck an international chord, this opera has a very tight window because it is set around Christmas.

“I am so happy to premiere this opera in Houston and (Arizona),” Martinez said. “It’s very nice that Arizona Opera is giving us a chance to present the opera. There are a lot of Mexican people right there and I think they are going to be identifying in some way.”

COVID protocols: Ticketholders will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event or proof of a COVID-19 vaccination with photo ID. Masks also are required.

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Cathalena has covered music for the Star for more than 20 years. Shes a graduate of Arizona State University has worked at Sedona Red Rock News, Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, New York; and USA Today.

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Arizona Opera’s production of “El Milagro del Recuerdo.” It is the company’s second mariachi opera following the premiere of “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” in 2014.

In A Christmas Story

Despite being the main antagonist, his role is small. Scut first appears when Ralphie, Flick, Schwartz and Randy are walking and he laughs at them. He pushes Randy down and scares Ralphie and his friends by acting like a bear or a monster. They run into Scuts toadie Grover Dill, who brings them back to Scut Farkus. Scut grabs Schwartz, makes him say “uncle” and pushes him away. Grover then scares them away. Grover then gives Scut a friendly punch, with Scut punching him back. Later in the movie, he chases after Ralphie and his friends in fast motion. After school, he again chases Ralphie and his friends in fast motion.

Later, before school, he scares Ralphie and his friends, and Grover tells Ralphie to come to them, presumably to beat him up. Ralphie and Schwartz run off, leaving Flick, who Scut makes say “uncle” as well as leaving him with a black eye. After school Scut hits Ralphie with a snowball and tells him that when he tells Ralphie to come, he better come. Ralphie starts crying, and Scut calls him a crybaby, mocking his crying and laughing nastily.

Having had enough of Scut and Grover Dill bullying him along with his friends and Randy, (as well as a few bad days in general), Ralphie finally snaps and charges angrily at Scut, tackling him to the ground. Ralphie proceeds to beat up Scut in a blind fury (which present-day Ralphie, who narrates the film, describes as saying that “a fuse blew” and he had gone “out of his skull.”) When Grover tries to step in and help Scut, Ralphie punches him, and Grover takes off, saying he was gonna tell his dad. The other kids come and watch, and Randy, Schwartz and Flick squeeze through the fence to get a better look. Randy takes Ralphies glasses (which he took off after Scut threw the snowball) and runs to get their mom. While fighting him, Ralphie starts swearing non-stop, which shocks the other kids. Randy comes with their mom, who pulls Ralphie off of Scut and takes him and Randy home.

After they leave, Scut is now humiliated and gets up (now with a bloody nose and a loss of pride and dignity), still crying softly, and Schwartz and Flick sneer at him and walk away. From then on, Scut Farkus never bullied anyone again.

It’s unknown what happened to him after that, but its possible that his reputation as a fearsome bully was ruined after all the kids witnessed his beating. It’s also possible that he got punished by his parents.

In My Summer Story (theatrically known as It Runs in the Family)

In the sequel, a new bully named Lug Ditka takes Scut Farkus place as the top bully. Then he along with Grover Dill have become Lugs toadies.

Scut Farkus has been regarded as one of the most iconic movie bullies and villains in film history and Zack Ward’s portrayal has been critically acclaimed.

If you are on the cast list, please note that there will be a mandatory parent meeting on Monday, October 20th at 6:00 pm. Both a parent and the cast member must be at this meeting. There will be papers that need to be filled out by a parent, and you will receive a rehearsal schedule and a script. The cast will then stay for a read through. We will be done no later than 8:00 (and possibly sooner).

Congratulations on making the cast of A Christmas Story! This was one of the largest turnouts for a smaller- sized cast! If you did not make the cast list, please know that everyone was very, very good and because of that, the process of picking a cast was agonizing! In November, we will have auditions for both The Hobbit and Twelfth Night. I strongly encourage you to consider auditioning for either of these shows.


Who were the two bullies in A Christmas Story?

Ralphie and his friends Flick and Schwartz are tormented by the neighborhood bullies Scut Farkus and Grover Dill. Ralphie eventually snaps and beats up Farkus.

What brand of soap was used in A Christmas Story?

Speaking of soap, the Lifebuoy soap Ralphie has to keep in his mouth after swearing was actually a wax mold. The brand Lifebuoy was one of the most popular brands of soap in the U.S. from the 1920s into the 1950s, thus its appearance in the film, which takes place around that time period.

How old was Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story?

Grover Dill is the secondary antagonist of the 1983 film A Christmas Story. He’s Scut Farkus’ right-hand man who assists Scut in bullying Ralphie and his friends (it is possible that he became Scut’s toadie to avoid being bullied himself). He was portrayed by Yano Anaya.

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