Miami performances are at the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami.

Arsht Ziff BOH seat map

Children must be at least six years old to attend.


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Before Night Falls

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Based on the famous memoir of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls follows Arenas’ life from childhood poverty in the Cuban countryside to his emigration to the United States in the 1980 Mariel boatlift and his last decade in New York City.

The opera follows his trials and tribulations as a political prisoner disillusioned by the Cuban Revolution and persecuted by the Castro regime as a dissident writer and homosexual who was forced to smuggle his manuscripts abroad for publication.

In 2000, Before Night Falls was made into an award-winning feature film directed by Julian Schnabel and starring Javier Bardem and Johnny Depp.

Reinaldo ArenasElliot Madore*
OvidioDinyar Vania*
VictorCalvin Griffin
LazaroMichael Kuhn
Pepe/Port/Visa OfficialJavier Abreu
Mother/The MoonElizabeth Caballero
The SeaMelissa Fajardo
Peasant's MotherLaura León
ConductorChristopher Allen*
DirectorDavid Gately
ProductionFort Worth Opera
 * = FGO debut

Sung in English and Spanish with projected titles in both languages

Photo © Fort Worth Opera

Act I Manhattan, 1990

Reinaldo Arenas (Rey), a Cuban expatriate and author, is dying from an AIDS-related disease. His friend Lázaro encourages him to write. Rey tries to finish his memoir, summoning his Muses, the Sea and the Moon, to help him recall warm Caribbean days and nights.

Cuban village, 1958

The beauty of the land makes Rey think of his mother and how love so easily comes and goes. Friends appear, led by Rey’s close friend Pepe. Pepe and Rey decide to join Castro’s Revolutionary Army. Rey’s aunts chase the boys away. Rey’s mother rescues him from his aunts as he announces his intentions, making him promise to keep love for her and his homeland in his heart.

New Year’s Day, 1958

Rebels celebrate victory with their leader, Victor, who hails a new life free from torture, poverty, and ignorance. As Victor whips the rebels into a frenzy, Pepe tells Rey that some want to leave the movement. Rey, confused why anyone would stop supporting the rebels, suddenly sees the violence awaiting those who disagree. His idealistic view of the revolution dies.

Havana, some years later

Rey takes Pepe to meet Ovidio, an author who hides banned books. Pepe fears being caught, but Rey argues that they must fight lies. Ovidio questions Pepe, pointing out that the state persecutes gay artists particularly. He begs Rey to do whatever it takes to have his work published outside of Cuba, offering to introduce him to a couple who will smuggle his books to France. Rey agrees and goes home to write. After the couple takes his manuscript, Pepe arrives to invite Rey to the beach, but Rey is writing and tells Pepe he will come soon. Pepe leaves, secretly watching to see where Rey hides his work. When Rey joins Pepe, the police arrest the author.

El Morro Castle

In an interrogation room, Rey encounters Victor, now an enemy. Victor congratulates Rey, who had not heard of the international success of his novel and who questions how the state can justify suppressing freedom. Victor argues that Rey abused freedom by not praising his country and that the state must protect its citizens from degenerates. Rey, the author, is not under arrest—Rey, the homosexual, is. Victor produces Rey’s newest manuscript and sets fire to it, demanding to know who helped Rey smuggle his work out of Cuba. Rey will not answer and is beaten and put into solitary confinement. Victor pulls Rey out of his cell to witness Ovidio’s public confession of betraying the Cuban people with his writings, naming Reinaldo Arenas as a criminal. Broken, Rey agrees to renounce homosexuality and never publish without the state’s consent.

Act II Havana, 1979

Word has spread that anyone within the compound of the Peruvian Embassy can leave Cuba legally. A young man named Lázaro approaches Rey, recognizing him as a famous author. As they become close friends, Lázaro waits for a visa to leave Cuba. As a dissident, Rey can never leave. Pepe and Ovidio visit Rey one after the other. Rey ousts Pepe, but Ovidio begs for forgiveness. After Ovidio departs, Lázaro gets his visa.

On the street, Rey is accosted by Victor. Ovidio has committed suicide. Victor orders Rey not to attend the funeral. The Muses plead with Rey to escape through the Mariel boatlift. Declaring himself homosexual, Rey gets a visa. He alters his name on the visa so that he isn't stopped as a dissident. Rey and Lázaro happily reunite in New York, in freedom.

Times Square, New Year’s Day, 1987

Rey is haunted by his exile from Cuba. He has met Lázaro to share the news of his diagnosis and impending death. Ironically, his death will be caused by lovers, not tyrants. He begs his guardian angel, Ovidio, to give him three years to finish his memoir.

Manhattan, 1990

Ray entrusts his memoir to Lázaro and ends his life. Lázaro casts his ashes, and writings, out into the world.

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