Bandanna (opera)

Bandanna is an English language opera in a prologue and two acts by Daron Hagen, first performed by the University of Texas at Austin opera theater in Austin, February 25, 1999. The libretto is by Irish poet Paul Muldoon based on a treatment co-written with the composer. The story of the Venetian Moor is recast and updated to 1968 by combining elements of the original Venetian story, William Shakespeare's Othello, Giuseppe Verdi's opera Otello, and new, original characters and situations. The opera's unifying concept is the idea of the borderlines between emotional, metaphysical and moral states. The commission itself is notable for two reasons: first, it stipulated that there be no strings (other than the customary string basses associated with symphonic band) in the pit, second, it was financed by a consortium of over one hundred college bands from across the United States, all members of the College Band Directors National Association.

Opera by Daron Hagen
Daron Hagen, the opera's composer
LibrettistPaul Muldoon
February 25, 1999 (1999-02-25)


Miguel Morales (Othello) is the police chief of a small town on the United States-Mexico border. His lieutenant Jake (Iago) is spiriting people across the border illegally; Kane (a Caucasian labor organizer from Chicago) is stirring up trouble. The action centers on the wedding of Jake and Emily (Emilia), the unfortunate planting of Mona's bandanna by Kane and Jake in Cassidy's (Cassio) pocket, and the subsequent murder of Mona by her husband.


The desert. Day of the Dead 1968. Illegal immigrants cross the border into the US, where they are met by Jake.

Act One

The border town. Day of the Dead celebrations are in full swing. Mona and Emily talk about Emily's impending wedding, and how Morales won't forgive Mona's recent marital infidelity. Cassidy, Jake, and Kane are introduced: Jake fears Morales is on to his illegal activities; Cassidy seethes with racial hatred; Kane observes that much mischief can come of such a situation. A fistfight breaks out, is interrupted by the arrival of Morales, who has Cassidy arrested. The crowd disperses.

Later, Morales and his wife attempt a reconciliation; Jake expresses how much he hates living a double life, but that he feels morally bound to help the people he is bringing across the border. Kane convinces Jake that, by planting Mona's bandanna on Cassidy, they'll be able to drive Morales into destroying himself.

The next morning, Kane's labor rally is broken up by Morales and his men. Jake is exposed by one of the workers and realizes that he has no choice but to plant the bandanna. While Jake and Morales recall their service together in Vietnam, Jake pulls out the bandanna, which has the intended effect: Morales vows that, if what Jake is saying is true, he'll kill Mona.

Act Two

A few days later, Jake and Emily's wedding is in full swing. Over the course of a handful of formal dance numbers, Jake and Kane arrange for Cassidy and Mona to end up dancing. Morales loses control, lunges at the couple. Mona flees.

The wedding guests having left, Kane finds himself alone with a young serving girl from the local cantina. He seduces her, but, at the last moment, decides that physical consummation is irrelevant. His work here is done. He leaves.

A few weeks later, Emily brings groceries to Mona who has been hiding out in a cheap hotel room. Morales has been stalking her. The two women discuss what to do next. Mona seems to realize that it is only a matter of time before her husband finds her and kills her. After Emily leaves, Mona says her prayers and drifts off to sleep.

Morales silently breaks into the room, strangles Mona with the bandanna, then shoots Jake as he responds to Mona's cry; realizing what he has done, Morales turns the pistol on himself. As the shot rings out, a chorus of 'Disappeared and Dispossessed' sings a requiem for Mona.


Role Voice type World Staged Premiere Cast
25 February 1999
Premiere Cast Recording
29 February 2000
European Concert Premiere
29 April 2006
Conductor Michael Haithcock Daron Hagen Mark Heron
Director Robert DeSimone
Miguel Morales tenor William Lewis Mark Thomsen Christopher Turner
James Kane dramatic baritone Paul Kreider Paul Kreider Alistair McCall
Jake Lopez lyric baritone Daniel Terrazas James Demler Thomas Eaglen
Mona Morales soprano Kerry French Darynn Zimmer Sara Lawson
Cassidy bass baritone Edward White, Jr. Travis Lewis David Butt Philip
Emily Lopez mezzo-soprano Diane Rae Schoff Lesley DeGroot Charlotte Stephenson
Leader of the Company tenor Keith Gipson Alfonse Anderson
Townspeople, Etc. mixed chorus UT-Austin Chorus UNLV Opera Chorus Manchester Chamber Choir
Orchestra UT-Band UNLV Wind Symphony North Cheshire Wind Orchestra
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