SYNOPSIS with SELECT SONGS



The Setting: Late summer 2012 in the Aragon village of Borja, Spain, during the depths of the Great Recession.

Cast of Characters

CECILIA: (mezzo soprano) The aged restorer of the “ECCE HOMO” fresco, Marcos’ mother
BEATRIZ: (contralto) Cecilia’s sister
THE ARTIST MARTINEZ: (baritone) The ghostly presence of the long-dead artist who painted the 1930 original
MAYOR: (tenor) The town’s bombastic leader
MARCOS: (tenor) Cecilia’s middle-aged son, Adriana’s husband
SILVIA: (soprano) Marcos’ teenage daughter
ARTURO/A: (baritone or mezzo) Silvia’s teenage lover
OLD PRIEST: (bass) Local priest and Cecilia’s life-long friend
ADRIANA: (soprano) Marcos’ diva wife, grand-daughter of the Artist Martinez
CHORUS: (optional) Townspeople and tourists

ACT I

Scene 1
In the Santuario, we find CECILIA with her sister BEATRIZ at their morning devotionals. Cecilia reveals she’s had a dream in which the Lord has come to her requesting the restoration of the long ignored ECCE HOMO fresco. Beatriz is concerned that her sister might not have the skill, nor permission, to undertake the job. The scene ends with the introduction of ARTIST MARTINEZ, the ghost of the fresco’s originator, bemoaning his fate and the lack of respect his work has been shown.

Scene 2
In the plaza, the MAYOR addresses the VILLAGERS about their economic plight and strategies to improve tourism. MARCOS informs the gathering that as a gift to his wife he will commission the restoration of the “Ecce Homo” painted by her grandfather. The Mayor latches onto the idea that this will be good for the town. No one else shares his optimism. By the meeting’s end, Marcos hands off the money to OLD PRIEST, who is charged with finding the proper restorer.

Act I
Scene 3
Alone in the Santuario, Cecilia studies the fresco and prays she will have the courage— and strength of eyesight—to do the work the Lord has bid her to do.
On his way back to the Santuario, Old Priest reveals the fresco has very little artistic value and he may cut corners in the selection of the restorer. While he visits with Cecilia he makes her swear that if she proceeds with the restoration she must never divulge it was her work. She promises he won’t be disappointed.

It’s Faith that Guides My Brush
Marcia Ragonetti (mezzo)
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Scene 4
In the plaza, Cecilia’s son Marcos laments the state of tourism and the imminent demise of his struggling hotel which has been financed by his mother. And when his aunt Beatriz happens upon him affixing a “For Sale” sign, we learn that his inability to repay his mother’s loan has caused their estrangement.

My Little Hotel
Paul Fowler (tenor)
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Scene 5
In the hat shop that bears his name, Artist Martinez reminisces on the holidays he spent here as a young man in the 1920s; teaching art, flirting with his students, and drinking the local wine. When the young lovers, SILVIA and ARTURO, arrive to open the shop they rue their tough luck coming of age in such dark economic times.
Martinez’ Hats/Come to Borja
Adam Ewing (baritone)
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Soon Marcos’ wife, the village diva, ADRIANA, makes her entrance late again for the Mayor’s meeting. We soon learn she has been diagnosed with a most serious disease—that of having too much money. When Marcos arrives and tells her of his gift she is nonplussed, except to say she’ll be happy to see her grandfather’s fresco restored, as long as it’s not the work of his mother.

Affluenza!
Anastasia Jamieson (soprano); with Ars Nova Singers
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Scene 6
Back in the Santuario, Cecilia begins the restoration of the “Ecce Homo” as a worried Artist Martinez looks on. While he’s anxious to see his work restored, he’s not convinced Cecilia’s the one for the job. And of course he’s right, for soon things go dreadfully wrong. And while he attempts to assist her, he cannot. At the curtain, the fresco is in a state of great transformation.

ACT II

Scene 1
The next morning a group of townspeople are gathered in the church. A sheet covers the “Ecce Homo” as Old Priest stonewalls the crowd, standing guard as if at a crime scene. In a quick maneuver, Arturo slips off the fresco’s veil producing a gasp of great horror. A mob forms to find Cecilia, the suspected perpetrator, while Arturo and Silvia take a “selfie" and post it to Facebook.

Scene 2
When the Santuario is empty, a distraught and disheveled Cecilia reveals herself from behind a pew, followed by the worse-for-wear Martinez. Old Priest enters and reminds Cecilia of her vow not to divulge what she knows. But when Marcos enters she confesses immediately to the crime. With that, the first wave of TOURISTS storms into the church looking for the “Potato Head” Jesus they’ve seen online.

Scene 3
In the plaza, more tourists arrive as internet MEMES invade the town and circle the globe. But how should the town respond? Cover the fresco and lock the church? With courage and conviction Arturo steps forward to present his grand idea—Let’s exploit this artistic aberration! When Cecilia arrives with her mea culpa, Beatriz rallies to her defense, and the Artist Martinez begins to accept his culpability in what’s unfolding.

Scene 4
Back in the Santuario, Adriana and Martinez clean up some family business as amends are made and wounds are healed. Marcos suggests to Adriana that as bad as his mother’s work has turned out to be, the economy is thriving and his hotel is full. Alone now with Cecilia, Old Priest confesses that he used Marcos’ money not for himself, but for the support of his aged wife in the local nursing home.
Act II
Scene 5
In the plaza, facing a tidal wave of tourists, the townspeople celebrate the rebirth of their village. United in their forgiveness the villagers proclaim their love for Cecilia, hailing her the town’s new hero. Silvia serenades her grandmother.

In a last ditch effort, Adriana crashes the party insisting on royalties as Martinez’ heir. But her demand is denied, since the Mayor holds the final card: It’s not the church, nor the Martinez family, nor even Cecilia who owns the fresco, but the the town! And our sage leader offers the ultimate solution; that all four parties should share equally. With that, Marcos reimburses his mother for her loan, and their reunion is complete.
Come Getcho Ecce
Amy Maples (soprano) and Adam Ewing (baritone); with Amanda Lucarini, Paul Fowler, Ars Nova Singers
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Beautiful Swan
Amy Maples (soprano) and Marcia Ragonetti (mezzo); with Amanda Lucarini, Paul Fowler, Adam Ewing
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Scene 6
Beatriz joins Cecilia in the church for worship as they did in Act I, Scene 1. Artist Martinez shows up dressed for traveling, satisfied with the respect he’s been shown and confident about moving on. For the finale, Cecilia and Beatriz lead the full cast in a number with text from I Corinthians.
God Chose
Amy Maples (soprano), Kristyn Christman-McCarty (mezzo), Paul Fowler (tenor) and Adam Ewing (baritone); with Ars Nova Singers
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