Tijuana.-Take a complete opera, Japanese drummers and Irish dances, throw in a replica of an Italian village, and you have Saturday's Opera in the Street Festival, one of this city's signature events.
It's a free celebration of opera, and art in general, in Colonia Libertad, a historic barrio minutes from the San Ysidro border crossing.
But don't let the name fool you, the festival is more than costumed singers performing in a foreign language, though opera is the entrée.
"Opera won't bite you; it's not elitist," maintained María Teresa Riqué. "You just have to feel it."
Riqué, director of the Ópera de Tijuana Company, helped found the festival eight years ago to raise an appreciation of this art form. To do that, organizers put it in the middle of an urban neighborhood, which architects from the Technology Institute of Tijuana transform into a tiny Italian town.
This year a complete opera will be presented for the first time. The one-act production, "Cavallería Rusticana," by Pietro Mascagni, is set at the end of the 19th century and features mezzo soprano Ana Rojas and tenor José Luis Duval.
The festival began in 2004 as an anniversary celebration of the coffee shop Café de la Ópera, located on Fifth Street in colonia Libertad. It soon became a renowned event, attracting up to 10,000 people from both sides of the border.
The festival offers more than 150 opera singers, musicians, actors and other artists from the region. And, under colorful canopies, a variety of restaurants offer a sampling of their food and beverage.
This year's line-up includes a show by Taiko, a group of Japanese drummers, and a performance by an ensemble of Irish dancers from Lázaro Cárdenas Federal High School.
The festival has never been interrupted, despite the surge of drug-related violence of the last three years.
"It was a way to tell people not to abandon the streets, to tell them to not be afraid," said Riqué.
After all, she added, this type of festival is a reminder that the streets belong to the people.
One of Tijuana's signature events, the Festival Ópera en la Calle, is Saturday, July 9, on calle Quinta (Fifth Street), between Aquiles Serdán and Pino Suárez streets, in colonia Libertad. Event is 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Admission is free. More information is available at 011.52.664.686.3280 (if dialing from the U.S.) and in Spanish at www.operadetijuana.org.