Golondrina

An Opera of Los Angeles

SYNOPSIS


As the sun rises, we see Lucia enter into the Olvera Street Plaza to open her restaurant. She sings to the birds and wonders out loud why she doesn’t have a family ("when will my bird come home and stay"). Lucia gets news that the Plaza and Olvera Street are going to be torn down to make way for Union Station. There was a 51-49% vote in favor of putting the station in place of Olvera Street. Lucia is devastated by the news and runs to the plaza Church to pray. Felix, the local drunk, is arrested for Public Drunkenness by the police chief James Davis. Davis then speaks with the railroad commissioner Blunt. They discuss the coming progress that will transform this seedy area into a respectable train station. They then talk to the winery owner Gino about how he can cash in on Eminent Domain and marry his long-term love Lucia.
 
Christine Sterling wanders into the plaza with her children looking for Olvera Street. She tells the story of Olvera Street’s history to the children. After they wander off, Lucia and Gino discuss his plans to take the Eminent Domain money, marry her, and live in Hollywood. Lucia is shortly tempted but realizes her life is saturated in Olvera Street and she rejects Gino since he won't fight with her to save the street. Gino storms off. Lucia then becomes frustrated with the horrible situation and angrily sings to the birds about how they are losing their homes in the trees. The parish priest comforts Lucia and compares her to the swallow birds (golondrina), after which she laments being driven away from home by singing the popular song La Golondrina.
 
By this time, Christine finds Lucia in the Plaza and asks her where Olvera Street is. Lucia tells her it is the dirty alley where she is standing. Lucia, Christine and Lucia's friend Catalina sing about needing a plan to save Olvera Street.
 
Time passes. Under the veil of night, railroad planners are surveying the site for the station and sing about how they are going to displace families for the greater good. A condemnation notice is posted on the Avila Adobe (the oldest existing home in Los Angeles) and draws attention of the merchants. Christine then gathers a crowd and makes a speech about how they shall not condemn the Avila Adobe. Harold Chandler (owner of the L. A. Times) sees Christine's admirable passion to save this landmark and vows to help. Gino and Lucia hear the speech and reconcile by promising to work together. That evening, the two lovers get lost in the adobe and are once again engaged.
 
Intermission

Christine and Lucia are setting up for a large fundraiser fiesta for the Olvera Street project. The city will not give them money but they will approve the project if she raises money on her own. Felix is "on the wagon" and does some cooking for the fiesta. Unfortunately he drinks a toast and falls off the wagon only to be arrested again by Davis’s policemen. At the fiesta, companies pledge to donate materials and money. There is a traditional dance sponsored by the Sons and Daughters of the Golden West (an actual group that is still active today). At the end of the fiesta, Christine announces they have enough donors to move forward, and that the street will be closed for 6 months. Lucia, Gino and Catalina are devastated since they would lose their businesses if the street is closed that long, and they threaten to take Christine to court.
 
The lawsuits have been settled, and a chain gang is seen working on the street. Lucia is serving food but declares it is her last day providing food because she has to stop because it isn't making enough money for her to sustain her business. Meanwhile prisoners find a box of wine and begin drinking it. Of course Felix is on the chain gang and falls off the wagon again. Gino finds the prisoners drinking his wine and fights with a feisty prisoner who stabs Gino. Seemingly on his deathbed, Gino recollects his past as it flashes before his eyes. Soon Lucia and Christine find him dying. The ambulance arrives and they take Gino away to the hospital. Lucia in a fit of rage acuses Christine of ruining her life and killing her fiancée.
 
Christine runs off to the plaza as the sun sets and finds Catalina there, where she tells her she is cancelling the project. The two candidly talk about how much Christine has done, with Catalina telling Christine she shouldn’t quit. Lucia then wanders in to find Christine and apologizes, realizing that Christine is really trying to do good. The two of them agree to work together to continue the project.
 
There is a short photomontage with historic photos of Olvera Street from its early days until the renovation.
 
The final scene is the opening ceremony, Easter day 1930. Mr. Chandler introduces Christine. In the meantime you learn Felix and Catalina are married and expecting a child. Christine says she doesn’t need a speech and will talk to the crowd from her heart. She takes the podium and speaks of the history of Olvera Street, the greatness of the Mexican people, and thanks everyone for their work and support. The chorus sings Ave Maria and Amen.

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