‘A sort of guerrilla’: Che at the opera

Adlington, R. (2007) ‘A sort of guerrilla’: Che at the opera. Cambridge Opera Journal, 19 (2) pp. 167-193. ISSN 0954-5867 (print) 1474-0621 (online)


The undoubted cause célèbre of the 1969 Holland Festival was the large-scale music theatre piece Reconstructie, jointly authored by a team of five young composers and two librettists. The work, which took as its subject ‘the struggle against US imperialism in Latin America’, and revolved around the figure of Che Guevara, embodied the authors’ dual commitment to political engagement and artistic experiment. My account examines the work through the lens of recent scholarship that stresses the politically reactionary function of avant-garde experimentation within the cultural Cold War. In the process, attention is given to broader factors affecting the work’s production and reception: these include contemporaneous debates about cultural popularising and the Holland Festival; the complex motives of the work’s governmental patrons; and the influence upon the authors of Cuba, Castro and Guevara himself.

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