It is said that Pope John Paul II never wastes a moment. Nor does local composer Guillermo Silveira, who calls himself “one of the Americas [sic] leading composers,” and whom others sometimes call the “gay Jesus”a moniker he assumes proudly. Silveira, whose long hair and wispy goatee give him a Christlike appearance, is gearing up for a busy month.
On April 9, he presents a “multimedia musical composition” at the Brazilian-American Cultural Institute. On Saturday, Silveira mounts another installment of his ever-in-progress operatic tribute Please, Call Me…Jackie, based on the life and times of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The following weekend, he presents a cantata called “The Last Spring of the Second Millennium.” The weekend after, Silveira will host his retrospective, also at the Brazilian-American Cultural Institute.
Silveira’s personal Web site bills him as being among “the most commissioned, prolific, and fascinating composers of his generation.” Prolific he is: At 40, Silveira, who moved to Washington from Buenos Aires in 1984, has already composed hundreds of cantatas, operas, symphonies, scores, and songs.
And on a recent afternoon, Silveirascribbling musical notations alongside passages from a book of obscure poetrymakes it obvious that he simply can’t stop producing. A collaborator on one of his projects, Alejandra Duque, paints grotesque caricatures of President Clinton and company in erotic poses (among them, Newt Gingrich, Hillary, and Bill in a threesome), while Silveira gathers inspiration for musical accompaniment. “I’m writing a variation on ‘Blue Moon,’” he says in heavily accented English. “It’s very American. I imagine Newt Gingrich as the light tenor.”
“Silveira’s work,” local pianist Jose Luis Caceres observes, “is rhythmically complex.”
Indeed, Silveira, whose compositions sound intentionally discordant, draws inspiration from the frenetic work of painter Jackson Pollock. In one full-length symphony concert he composed, “Argentina Fantastica,” it’s difficult to discern between the composition and what seems like a simple series of random piano strikes, screeching violins, and drum beats playing a game of probability.
In Please, Call Me…Jackie, Silveira has written a series of short operatic acts, each one focusing on a specific period of Onassis’ life. “She is to America as Evita is to Argentina,” he says. “Jackie is like American royalty.”
Since 1985, Silveira has mounted short installments of the evolving opera. At times, the composer has performed bits himself. “Imagine Andrew Lloyd Webber singing his own lyrics,” says Carlos Schröder, judging from an installment of Please, Call Me …Jackie he has seen. “You are getting close to Silveira’s creative nucleus.”
Silveira hopes to have the disparate parts of Jackie commissioned into a full-length opera. His fee, however, may dissuade potential investors. Silveira’s asking priceon the price list that appears on his Web siteis upward of $200,000. The dream continues.Guy Raz
Performance schedule details can be found at http://members.tripod. com/-GuillermoSilveira.