Cowles to Perform in Opera – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Cowles to Perform in Opera

Professor of Music Bob Cowles will be featured in an upcoming production of Frida, an opera about the life of the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Presented in conjunction with the Spanish Action League, the show opens the Society for New Music’s 38th season at the Carrier Theater (800 S. State Street) in Syracuse on Sept. 11 and 12. Both performances begin at 8 pm.

The production highlights the work of stage director Eric Johnson, composer Robert X. Rodriguez, conductor James Welsch, lighting and projections designer Barry Steele, choreographer Danita Emma, producer Neva Pilgrim, and set designer Juan Cruz. The production boasts an outstanding cast of regional singers and dancers. Cowles will be featured as a Calavera, a death figure from Mexican folklore.

The chamber orchestra is comprised of core members of the Society for New Music. In keeping with the Mexican setting of “Frida,” Rodriguez has created a unique musical idiom.  The score calls for mariachi-style orchestration of 11 instruments in which authentic Mexican folk songs and dances are interwoven with the composer’s own “imaginary folk music,” tangos and colorations of zarzuela, ragtime, vaudeville and 1930s jazz. Among the “stolen” musical fragments developed in “Frida,” there are two traditional Mexican piñata songs, two narrative ballads, the Communist anthem, Tchaikovsky’s “Fourth Symphony,” and Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.” 

Deeper musical characterization is achieved through the extensive use of vocal ensembles. Rodriguez says, “Frida sings as she lived – against the tide from the very first note.” Channeling the pain of a crippling injury and a tempestuous marriage, Frida created a large body of work that now ranks her as one of the most important female artists of the 20th century.

General admission is $15, $12 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information, please e-mail the Society for New Music at or call (315) 245-1689 or (315) 446-5733.

Cowles joined the faculty in 1992. He holds a master of music from The New England Conservatory of Music and a doctor of music from Indiana University. He serves as Artistic Director of the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble and Director of the Colleges Chorale and Cantori. He is also a member of the American Choral Directors Association and the International Federation of Choral Music.