Calendar of Events


Dec 6, 2017 at 7:00 pm

“St. Francis de los Barrios”—a new opera


Artistic Director of San Diego City Opera Cynthia Stokes and professors from San Diego State University and the University of California San Diego are the creators of a new rock opera with sharp political overtones that will be staged as a preview showcase at UC San Diego as a showcase to launch the 2017-2018 season of the Qualcomm Institute’s performance series, the Initiative for Digital Exploration of Arts and Sciences (IDEAS). The work, St. Francis de los Barrios, is the first opera commissioned by the San Diego City Opera.

“The City Opera is a bold and young company,” says UCSan Diego theatre professor Allan Havis, a celebrated playwright who is wrote the libretto for the opera—nearly 10% of which will involve Spanish-language text. “The dramatic material is in that rare subset of contemporary opera pushing boundaries on music and story content, fusion of visual and performance styles, and political commentary.”

The showcase performance on December 6 marks the near-completion of the opera. Previous work on the project included a concert at SDSU last March, featuring five songs written for the opera, and a song festival appearance earlier in November at the Cornelia Street Café in New York City. The showcase in December is to finish the opera composition for a later full production of the work by 2019. “St. Francis de los Barrios embraces an exciting fusion of pop, folk, and modern-classic musical idioms,” says renowned composer Joseph Waters, a professor of music composition at SDSU, and the new work’s composer. In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune last March, Waters called the opera “an indie-classical, trans-genre rock opera based on St. Francis of Assisi, set in the present-day Tijuana red light district, Zona Norte, among transgender HIV-afflicted sex workers living in danger and poverty.” The admixture of musical styles highlight the timeliness of the themes that the opera touches upon, including immigration, religious tolerance, sexual identity, global threats, and the very nature of a billion-dollar wall boondoggle. The story centers on Francis, a charismatic and androgynous young man, squatting in abandoned buildings of Tijuana. Stricken with a terminal disease, Francis has survived by selling his body and illicit drugs. When the opera starts, he has turned his life around from street vagrant to mystic prophet. Francis has healed the sick, found housing for homeless families, and large images of the Virgin Mary form on the streetscape of any hovel occupied by Francis. Within weeks, his reputation as Saint Francis grows far beyond Mexico borders—so much that his work is seen as a threat by Mexican authorities, drug cartels, and border agents along the U.S.-Mexico border. In the Vatican, Pope Francis decides to visit the remarkable young man, triggering alarms in the two bordering nations, already on edge in the turbulent reign of Donald Trump. The internal complication for Saint Francis concerns his complex, past love relationship with Selina, a medico, or nurse, who gave birth to their child a year earlier, and Pedro, Francis’s long-time lover. Cast as a prophet by his followers, young Francis senses that the world will end in less than a generation, an end he’ll never see because he believes that he cannot live beyond the next few months. In an exchange with the visiting Pope, ‘street’ Francis convinces Pope Francis that the age is fast approaching its final horizon.

Reception follows the one hour performance.

Event Website

Date and Time

Dec 6, 2017 at 7:00 pm


Atkinson Auditorium inside Atkinson Hall at UC San Diego

Event Registration

Registration is not required for this event.

Event Fee



Johnny Nguyen    858-822-5306


Faculty, Staff, Students, The General Public

Event Host

Qualcomm Institute’s IDEAs performance series

Event Category

Concerts, Performances and Exhibitions