Cruzar la Cara de la Luna
BY Jose "Pepe" Martinez and Leonard Foglia

“A stunning and emotional work.” Houston Chronicle

Cruzar-miniAn electrifying season opens as Arizona Opera brings the world’s first mariachi opera to the stage. Cruzar la Cara de la Luna has become a smash sensation around the globe, blending the passion and artistry of mariachi with the emotionally touching story of a Mexican immigrant family.  Commissioned in celebration of the anniversaries of Mexican Independence and Revolution, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna features the legendary Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan and promises to be an unforgettable night of raw energy, drama and virtuosity.


“A pioneering work about the immigrant experience…heartfelt…shockingly melodic…the Paris audience both wept and shouted with joy at discovering something wonderful and fresh.”



A Mariachi Opera
Music by José “Pepe” Martínez
Lyrics by José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia
Book by Leonard Foglia
An HGOco Production of Houston Grand Opera
Commissioned by Houston Grand Opera
Premiered at Houston Grand Opera in September, 2010



The world premiere was supported in part by:
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Chevron (Presenting Sponsors)
American Express, Bank of America, Gruma,
and The Humphreys Foundation (Leadership Sponsors)

Premiere performances were a part of “Houston Celebrates Mexico 2010,”
supported in part by Bank of America
in association with the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and the Consulate General of Mexico.



Photo courtesy of Edward Wilensky and San Diego Opera
Illustration courtesy of Emiliano Ponzi

Cruzar la Cara de la Luna

Role Artist Date
Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán Music Director José “Pepe” Martínez
Stage Director Leonard Foglia
Choreographer Keturah Stickann
Laurentino Octavio Moreno
Renata Cecilia Duarte
Mark Brian Shircliffe
Diana Brittany Wheeler
Rafael David Guzman
Lupita Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo
Chucho Saúl Ávalos
Victor Juan Mejia

Jose "Pepe" Martinez and Leonard Foglia

José Martínez was born on June 27, 1941, in Tecalitlán, Jalisco, Mexico and began expressing himself musically as a child, singing on the buses in Guadalajara at 10 years old.

Martínez joined his first mariachi band as a violin player at 12, and at the age of 13 played in an official Mexican military band for three years. Soon, he began experimenting with writing his own music. In 1966, Martínez formed his own mariachi ensemble called Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán. He went on a musical tangent, rearranging excerpts from operas, arias and movie themes. His writing style was also influenced by music written by composers and arrangers of the prestigious Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Nuevo Tecalitlán became one of the most dynamic sounding mariachi bands in Mexico throughout the mid-1960s and early 1970s and Martínez’s arrangements became his band’s signature. The group’s albums were dedicated to pioneering a different, full sound for mariachi bands and included popular instrumentals and classical excerpts like Beethoven’s 9th symphony “Himno a la Alegría” (“Ode to Joy”).  Martinez’s popurrís (medleys), however, were what caught the attention of his colleagues and peers in other mariachi ensembles.

In 1975, Jesus Rodríguez de Hijar, the sitting music director of Mariachi Vargas, retired and Martínez was invited for an audition. He was selected and joined Mariachi Vargas that same year. By the late 1970s, Mariachi Vargas was in high demand and José Martínez had written his first arrangements for a solo artist, a female rising star named Rocio Durcal.

Many mariachi music aficionados considered the genres’ “glory years” to be over by this time, but Martínez was still able to awe audiences with his interpretation of the Mexican spirit.

Mariachi Vargas once again raised the bar in mariachi music in 1986 with the release of the album Mexicanísimo, which contained three original songs written by a musically mature José Martínez.”Violín Huapango,” “Lluvia De Cuerdas” and “Mexicanísimo” became some of the most popular and most requested songs within the circuit of mariachi musicians throughout the world at the time.

In 2010, the Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna as part of an initiative to break down barriers in the arts. Martinez worked with Leonard Foglia, an American director, librettist, and novelist, to complete the project. Cruzar was well received, bridging the gap between mariachi and opera with the passionate musical storytelling critical to both.

Martínez is still writing, learning, and performing. He continues to play with Mariachi Vargas, now performing together with his son, “Pepe Jr.,” who joined the group in 1993.