Under the Designs of Gods: Il Guarany and Atzimba [1]

Jaime Aldaraca Ferrao [2]

ALDARACA, Jaime. Under the Designs of Gods: Il Guarany and Atzimba.  19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. X, n. 1, jan./jun. 2015. https://www.doi.org/10.52913/19e20.X1.06b [Español]

 *     *     *

To Mariana Rubio de los Santos


1.      Hado for the Greeks, fatum for the Romans; “nothing escapes the dominion of God” for the Christians; the Wheel of Fortune or Arcane X in the Tarot; the Masonic Grand Architect of the Universe; luck, fate, and destiny. All of them embody the supernatural and inescapable power which, according to belief, guides human life towards an end which was not necessarily chosen. Deus ex machina!, oh, machine of the gods!

2.      Fate opens the curtains for the project “Unfolding Art History in Latin America”. In order to connect and unfold Art History in the “Non-Western Traditions” section, the proposal hereby presented consists of the analysis of two mid-to-late 19th-century operas, the Brazilian Il Guarany (1870) and the Mexican Atzimba (1900).[3]

3.      My starting point is the opera’s ephemeral nature: the inevitable confrontation with its inexistence in today’s space and time. Another difficulty is its totality: it includes various artistic disciplines, weaving together music (orchestra, soloists, choir director), literature (via libretto), performing arts (acting, ballet, dance), architecture (scenery) as well as costumes. Therefore, opera has multiple authorship.

4.      My intention is to address the stage performance of the operas by analysing the series of documental and visual elements that emerged for and from its representation: novels, letterings, scripts, reviews, pictures, photographs, scores, articles, remains of stage sets, and so on. All of them are the sort of fragments arising directly or tangentially from the works in question and, in turn, reveal “in such a complex reality, brief moments of a continuum that has lasted [...] are for us -for our gaze - truth in itself, i.e., its trace, its poor rags: that which remains”.[4]

5.      I hereby present the opera as a site with which part of a society identifies itself, upon which it is reflected, and in which it is enlightened and moved in a public and immediate way. Historicizing these fragments, these clues, these footprints, generates the retrieval of specific moments, valuable material for a critical reflection on art history. In this specific case, we focus on how and why mythical indigenous figures were constructed and represented in operas from two geographically distinct regions.[5]

First Act: From Brazil to the (Western) World: Il Guarany

6.      Based on the novel by José de Alencar, O Guarani (1857), Il Guarany is an “opera ballet in four acts” with music by Carlos Gomes and libretto by the Italians Antonio Scalvani and Carlo D’Ormeville. The opera’s argument changes some aspects of the novel.

7.      The action takes place around 1560 and revolves around Cecilia (a Portuguese young woman), who is courted by Gonzales (a Spanish adventurer) and Don Alvaro (a Portuguese nobleman). Hunters subordinated to Don Antonio (a gentleman, Cecilia’s father) kill a young woman of the Aimoré tribe and the natives swear revenge. On the scene comes Pery, chief of the Guarani tribe and friend of Don Antonio’s, who warns the Portuguese about the wrath of the Aimorés. Soon after, the action is sharply cut, which is characteristic of the opera of this period. Cecilia’s father offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to Don Alvaro. While the rest of the characters enter the castle, Cecilia and Pery linger in the premises. Sheltered by luxurious nature that exceeds the dimensions of the castle [Figure 1], they confess a wild feeling of mutual attraction; they fall in love with each other.

8.      In the second act, the adventurers Gonzales, Rui-Bento, and Alonso meet in a cave. Pery hides himself. Gonzales tells the colonizers that he knows about a rich silver mine, and promises to share it with them if they help him to kidnap Cecilia. Pery discovers the greed and lust of the Europeans in the plans to betray Don Antonio. Another sharp cut. In a room, Cecilia contemplates the sky and nature from her window [Figure 2]: “Oh!, come è bello il ciel!...Par che natura nellora del silenzio, arcanamente penetri dentro lanima”.[6] Gonzales bursts into the room and tries to kidnap her, but our mythical Guarani hero appears on the scene to save Cecilia’s honour and, with an accurate arrow shot, injures Gonzales’ hand. Gonzales convinces the audience that Pery was the intruder. Meanwhile, the Aimorés prepare to attack Don Antonio’s castle [Figure 3]. The chief harangues the warriors, who capture the couple and start getting ready to practice anthropophagy. Pery escapes, informs Don Antonio he has been betrayed and tries to rescue his daughter. The Guarani confesses his love for Cecilia. In order to free her, he swears to deny his religion and proclaims loyalty to the Western gods. While Pery saves Cecilia, the gentleman sets fire to some gunpowder barrels in his castle so as to kill the enemies and a thunderous blast hastens the scene: everything turns to ruins. Starting from scratch, it is clear that there is a predominance of nature over man-made constructions, reduced to rubble and debris [Figure 4]. Later, in the distance, from the Aimorés camp on a hill, Cecilia sees the catastrophic state of the castle and kneels down while Pery helps her and points his finger up to the sky.[7]

9.      The world premiere of the opera took place on March 19th, 1870, at La Scala, in Milan. The legend goes that Verdi, on his way out of the presentation, would have said: “Questo giovane comincia lá dove finisco io”. The Brazilian novelist Rubem Fonseca demolished the myth:

10.                                  Verdi was not present at the premiere of the opera by Carlos Gomes at La Scala and could not have said such a sentence which, actually, was said by Rossini, referring to Bellini. Verdi only saw Il Guarany two years later, in Ferrara, when he told the Gazzetta Ferrarese: “I attended the opera by my colleague Gomes with great satisfaction, and I can assure it is a refined feat, revealing the fiery soul of a true musical genius”.[8]

11.    Il Guarany premiered at the Lyrico Fluminense Theatre on December 2nd of that same year. It found immediate success, and was staged worldwide: the work “was presented in the main Italian cities [...], [in] London [...] [and] Santiago de Chile, in 1872; Buenos Aires, in 1874; Vienna, in 1875; Brussels, Barcelona, and Montevideo, in 1876; St. Petersburg, and Moscow, in 1879; Lisbon, in 1880 [...] and New York, in 1884”.[9] In Mexico, headlines about the opera are found in the press as from 1881. Il Guarany was first staged at the National Theatre around 1883, where “the three subsequent operas of universal reputation: Don Carlos by Verdi, The Hebrew by Appoloni, The Guarany by the South American maestro, Gomez [sic]”[10] were premiered. The company Defossez was in charge of the staging.

Second Act: From Michoacán to Mexico: Atzimba

12.    With music by Ricardo Castro and libretto by Alberto Michel, Atzimba bases its plot on the chapter  called “Villadiego” from Eduardo Ruiz’s Michoacán. Paisajes, tradiciones y legendas (Michoacán. Landscapes, traditions, and legends).[11] The scenario is one of the many variants of the type of conflict referred to as “sleeping with the enemy”, the type of narrative primum mobile of stories such as Romeo and Juliet or operas such as Aida, by Verdi, and Norma, by Bellini. Atzimba tells the story of the requited love between a Purepecha princess called Atzimba (sister of Tzimtzicha, the last Purepecha Calzontzin), and Jorge de Villadiego, a Spanish captain, around 1522.

13.    The opera begins in the king’s palace, where General Hierepan, head of the indigenous army, talks to the Huépac lunar priest, who laments the unexpected presence of white men. Hierepan comments that Moctezuma, the Aztec king, is a coward who had surrendered his command to the enemy. The general harangues his priests and warriors to counteract the invasion by the bearded white men. In another scene, Hierepan tells Huépac that he loves Atzimba, but he has noticed that she is in love with the Spanish captain. Huépac swears that the white man will be killed and offered to the moon. Later on, Jorge bursts into Atzimba’s room and, while declaring his love to the princess, apologizes for his recklessness. The princess gives in and falls in the arms of the Spaniard. Noises are heard, Atzimba infers the presence of a spy and asks her lover to flee. Huépac finds the princess and threatens her, saying he knows about her secret affair with the enemy. Atzimba reveals her feelings for the foreigner and her hatred towards the Tarascan warrior. Huépac insults the damsel, calling her indecent and lustful, to which Atzimba retorts that he should not forget his place in the hierarchy, for he is speaking to a princess. After numerous plot twists, typical of the operatic scripts of the time, once defeated, the Spanish captain is sacrificed. The opera ends with Atzimba, desperate with the misfortune of her beloved, taking the dagger away from Huépac and committing suicide. This action is an echo of the “take this dagger and kill me” from the legend of Cuauhtémoc.

14.    Atzimba premiered on January 20th, 1900, at the Arbeu Theatre by a zarzuela company. The review praised Castro’s and Michel’s work, but criticized the limited performance of the company: “Great, frank, spontaneous, huge, and noisy describe last night’s triumph achieved by the authors of Atzimba. The enthusiasm of the public overflowed from the beginning [...] However, the interpretation was poor [...] Luján was cold, out of tune, and didn’t know a single word of his role [...] Parra, monstrously ignorant, and Valdivieso, bland and lanky, had the worst performances of the evening”.[12] With the triumph of Atzimba, critics predicted a bright future for the musician:

15.                                  Castro is a musician with a great future ahead of himself; but he needs to be saved from floxera [sic], [from the] habits of the triumphant genius, who meets friends, wears a crossed frock coat, gets inspired by the green muse of Musset, lets his mane grow and fattens thanks to the influences of fermented barley [...] Castro is not one of those - he has worked hard to present his first work, has inspired a legitimate admiration, and certainly will continue to do so.[13]

16.    On February 1st and April 23rd Atzimba was staged again at the Arbeu Theatre. In order to be executed by the Italian Company Sieni-Pizzorni-López and gain a greater international projection, the libretto was arranged and translated into Italian. On November 10th the “final premiere” was staged at the Principal Theatre. Despite its apparent success, the work remained untouched for 28 years until, on September 16th, 1928, director José F. Vasquez restaged it at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It was staged again on August 3rd, 1935, at the same place. Condemned to oblivion, Atzimba was performed for the last time in 1952:

17.                                  one of the reasons why Atzimba was not staged again is that the second act got lost under circumstances that remain unknown [...] at the time, there were political reasons that motivated someone to secure the score for themselves. At that time, Carlos Chávez was the director of the INBA and all the music of Romanticism [...] was rejected.[14]

18.    On February 7th, 2014, as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the author, the opera was restaged in the Ricardo Castro de Durango Theatre.[15] The composer Arturo Márquez was in charge of orchestrating the lost fragments and passages based on piano-vocal score with accompaniment reductions.

Third Act: Counterpoint to the constructs of mythical indigenous figures

19.    In the 19th century world, the civilizing function of the opera was one of its important features; theatres and opera houses were both socialization places for those with aristocratic pretensions and places of artistic creation where the arts converged. Nevertheless, they also assumed a political and ideological role in the construction of a national identity. A case in point is the Italian opera, imposed as the favourite genre by supporters of the Risorgimento who hawked and cheered: Viva Verdi! –an acronym of the Viva Vittorio Emmanuelle Re DItalia!

20.    The American continent was no exception and, in order to achieve cohesion, a model was required which would be convincing for most of the population: a foundational myth persuading them of a common origin, with a common history and a common direction, distinct from that of other geographical areas and cultures. Whereas this quest for an identity was crystallized in Brazil in the late fifties with José de Alencar and his O Guarani - the first novel of an indigenous trilogy followed in the sixties by the sequels Iracema and Ubirajara -, in Mexico, Ignacio Ramirez, the Necromancer, proposed in the 1860s to “collect, explain, and publish all traces before the conquest of America; national wisdom must be built on an indigenous base”.[16]

21.    Both operas are set in the 16th century and develop their arguments at a time of mutual recognition and collision between Europe and America. Both works revolve around an antagonistic love affair. Although Cecilia and Pery get to stay together and have the opportunity to build a life in the future, Pery must first deny his gods and acknowledge Western faith: “Glidoli dei Guarany rinnego; alla tua fede iniziami, prostrato al suol te nprego[17]; Atzimba’s and Jorge’s fate is different, their tragic outcome is death: the princess commits suicide and the Spanish captain is sacrificed to the moon goddess.

22.    On a musical level, both compositions imprinted local colour to their operas. Gomes included syncopated rhythms, counterpoints and triplets, typical of the “modinhas” (the first genre of Brazilian popular music), for example, when the Aimorés approach and attack the castle at the end of the second act or when a tribal dance is performed while the Aimoré chief holds Cecilia and Pery in captivity in the third act. Castro, in his turn, included native instruments in the instrumentation of the Tarascan Dance and the Warrior Dance: 4 seashell horns in B flat (Bb), and teponaxtlis (wooden slit-drums).[18]

23.    On the cover of the score of Il Guarany [Figure 5] three different layers coexist. In the foreground, one can see the title of the opera and the name of the author in capital letters written over bountiful nature and an awning with the lettering “Opera Ballo in 4 atti”. In the centre of the image, a second layer shows the opera stars strolling in the rainforest. Their clothes reveal differences: while Pery is wearing his bronze skin and a kind of toga over his shoulders; Cecilia, holding on to Pery’s arm, is wearing a black long tail dress which covers most of her white skin. Framing them, a forest of banana trees, ferns and exotic flowers. In the background, crowning the cover,[19] a third layer figures a peak that resembles the Dedo de Deus (God’s Finger) rock formation in the Serra dos Órgãos National Park. Both the libretto by Scalvani and D’Ormeville and the designs of the sets by Carlo Ferrario [Figure 1, Figure 3 and Figure 4], privilege nature over man-made constructions: opulent trees, luscious plants and paradisiacal landscapes surpass buildings and ruins in size and prominence. In the specific case of interiors, for instance, in Cecilia’s room [Figure 2][20], despite not being present in the set, the sky and landscape are cited and praised by the leading role, a distinctive feature of the literature of Romanticism. The front cover of Il Guarany could represent the end of the first act, when Cecilia and Pery confess mutual love.

24.    On the front cover of the music score for Atzimba [Figure 6][21], grey stone ruins featuring a red decorative border with white fretwork that resembles Mitla designs frame some information about the score, with the title of the work crowning the centre. These elements are in front of a second layer that figures a lake, probably Lake Pátzcuaro.[22] On the front cover of Atzimba, which somehow resembles the frontispiece of Mexico a través de los siglos (Mexico throughout the centuries), the ruins constitute the main protagonist of the image, as opposed to the exuberant nature that figures on the cover of Il Guarany, alluding to a contrast: different stages of cultural development. While the Guarani and Aimoré indians are more connected with nature, the Purepechas relate to cities where they live and on which they depend. This characteristic was also reflected in the two approaches to solving the stage design[23]: as previously mentioned, in the watercolours by Ferrario for Il Guarany, the fertile nature overshadows the buildings. In contrast, in Atzimbas stage decors, authored by a Mr. Méndez [Figure 7], a heterogeneous architecture prevails and stands out. We can see columns modelled after the second body of the base of the monument to Cuauhtemoc, by the engineer Francisco M. Jiménez [Figure 8]. Also, there is a throne on the stage [Figure 9], figuring a synthesis of Western and non-Western elements: a mix of a canopied throne with a tepotzoicpalli[24] attached to it. The scenography may have been inspired by the painting El descubrimiento del pulque (The discovery of the pulque, 1869) [Figure 10], since it also figures a cross-shaped ornament and a similar decoration on the canopy. Likewise, in the painting by Isidro Martinez, Los informantes de Moctezuma (Moctezuma’s informants, 1895) [Figure 11], an Atlantean column in the background bears a strong resemblance to Mr. Méndez’s proposal for interior spaces.

25.    The operas in question display two different approaches to dressing the indigenous characters. In the various representations in Il Guarany, a prevailing feature is the nude torso - their only ornaments were necklaces, a feathered headdress and a wrap skirt. Even though the costume of Pery, represented by tenor Ludovico Giraud in 1880 [Figure 12], is made up of a wrap skirt that goes below the knees and a long-sleeved top and gloves, the fabric of the top simulates the Guarani’s tanned skin. Therefore, the scanty clothing of the indigenous characters ranges from a skirt to a robe. This feature becomes a constant presence in future representations [Figure 13, Figure 14 and Figure 15]. The creation of this imaginary Brazilian indian, almost naked, is based on the paintings A primeira missa no Brasil (The First Mass in Brazil, 1860) [Figure 16] and Moema (1866) [Figure 17], by Victor Meirelles; Iracema (1881) [Figure 18], by José Maria de Medeiros; and O úlimo Tamoio (The Last Tamoio, 1883) [Figure 19], by Rodolfo Amoedo.[25] In Atzimba, in contrast, a different way of representing their clothing is proposed: the body of the warrior Hierepan is covered by a robe and a cloak [Figure 20]. It makes a blatant reference to Moctezuma [Figure 21], by the sculptor Manuel Vilar. The higher degree of nudity can be interpreted as being in tune with the notion of wildness; hence, this concept is of no effect in Atzimbas indian.

26.    In short, two ways of conceiving and appropriating the indigenous people are observed. In both of them, to think, build and represent the indigenous people was a task delegated to the Creoles. The Brazilian case proposes a whole system of representations ranging from the natural to the noble savage who, once having gone through religious conversion, lays the roots of the nation.[26] This view is crystallized in the backdrop of the Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro [Figure 22], in which the painter Eliseu Visconti places Gomes, Alencar and even Pery among the constellation of personalities of Western history that share the canvas with 19th century thinkers. However, we must not forget that in order to be an active part in this process, O Guarani had to pass through the sieve of Western morality. Furthermore, the future fruit of Cecilia’s womb would be “whitened” by means of its mother tongue, Portuguese. The Mexican case is different: it is based on a chapter of their regional history, the main characters die and for many years the opera is buried in oblivion. The way the argument unravels seems to suggest the tragedy of miscegenation and the rejection of all things Spanish.[27] With the same content and set in the same geographical area, ten years after the premiere of Atzimba emerges La Leyenda de los volcanes (The legend of the volcanoes) by Saturnino Herran [Figure 23]: a pictorial narrative that shows the love between a “white princess” and an “indigenous prince”. As in Atzimba, the outcome is fatal. The indigenous theme and the miscegenation, accepted at that time, were passed through a decadent fin de siècle filter, in which love affairs and eroticism are ill-fated, charged with guilt, joyless: erotic freedom was punished with fruitless love.

27.    Although the two operas construct an image of the mythical indian, they were conceived at different times: while the love affair of Il Guarany is watered by romantic literature, Atzimbas tragic affair is forged in Symbolism, in the union of Eros and Thanatos. Both operas propose two decorous outcomes for forbidden love: while in the Brazilian opera purification is carried out through whitening and Westernization, in the Mexican one, it was achieved through the death of the main characters. At the end of the day, both in Il Guarany and in Atzimba, a divine design unfolds in both arguments: while the Guarani is under the command of Christian gods, Atzimbas lovers subject themselves to the Purepecha divinity. Fatum Fatis ego perea: may fate take its course even though I will perish.


BIART, Lucien. La princesse Atzimba et le capitaine Villadiégo. Revue des Deux Mondes, tomo 117.

CARMONA, Gloria. Álbum de Ricardo Castro. Investigación iconográfica y documental. México: CONACULTA, 2009, p. 147.

DIDI-HUBERMAN, Georges. Imágenes pese a todo. Memoria Visual del Holocausto. Barcelona: Paidós, 2004.

FLORESCANO, Enrique (coord.). Espejo mexicano. México: CONACULTA/FCE, 2002.

FONSECA, Rubem. El salvaje de la ópera. México: Cal y arena, 2009.

GIRON, Nicole. La idea de cultura nacional en el siglo XIX: Altamirano y Ramírez.  In: AGUILAR CAMIN, Héctor et al. En torno a la cultura nacional. México: Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1976.

GRUZINSKI, Serge; ZÁRATE, Verónica. Ópera, imaginación y sociedad. México y Brasil, siglo XIX. Historias conectadas: Ildegonda de Melesio Morales e Il Guarany de Carlos Gomes. Historia Mexicana, vol. LVIII, núm. 2, oct-dic, México: COLMEX, 2008.

PIÑÓN, Alida. El Universal, May 30th , 2013. On-line version in: <http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/cultura/71919.html>, last seen in September 18th, 2013.

El País, January 21st, 1900.

La Patria, January 23rd, 1900.

Monitor republicano, Distrito Federal, October 8th, 1882.

English translation by Elena O´Neill


[1] I would like to publicly acknowledge the teachers and fellow-collegues of the Getty project Unfolding Art History in Latin America, “Non-Western Traditions” section, specially the researchers Fausto Ramirez, Laura Malosetti, Hugo Arciniega, Deborah Dorotinsky, Roberto Conduru, María José Esparza, Elaine Dias, and Consuelo Carredano. Their comments, contributions, analyses and suggestions enriched my perspective and helped me turn this paper into a respectable work. To all of you: thank you very much!

[2] UNAM, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, IIE.

[3] Although the time-lapse between the two releases is 30 years, the selection was made on purpose. Both operas shared two characteristics: indigenous themes and a love story concerning otherness. Thus, I discarded the comparison with Guatimotzin (1871) by Aniceto Ortega and El reypoeta (1901) by Gustavo Campa. The case of Ecuador’s opera Cumandá, by Luis Humberto Salgado, based on the novel by Juan León Mera (1879), shares the characteristics of love story and indigenous theme, however its premiere was in 1940. For the same reason, I excluded the poem Tabaré (1888) of the Uruguayan writer Juan Zorrilla de San Martín, which has as its theme the love affair of the Indian Tabaré and the Spanish woman Blanca in the context of the war between Charrúas and Spaniards in the 16th century. Up to the second half of the 20th century, the work of the Uruguayan poet generated five operatic versions (the adaptations of Alfonso Broqua, Arturo Cosgaya, Heliodoro Oseguera, Tomás Luis Alfredo Breton and Schiuma).

[4] DIDI-HUBERMAN, Georges. Imágenes pese a todo. Memoria Visual del Holocausto. Barcelona: Paidós, 2004, p. 65.

[5] Warning: I do not intend to make a musicological study, but only to sketch some lines so as to "unfold Art History”.

[6] “Oh! What a beautiful sky! It seems that in moments of silence, nature mysteriously penetrates the soul” [From the Spanish translation by Jaime AldaracaFerrao]

[7] The opera’s authors took the freedom to change the ending of Alencar's work. While the novel's denouement consists in a palm tree that disappears in the horizon due to the water that destroys everything, and Cecilia’s promise to meet Pery again in heaven, in the afterlife, the open ending of the opera allows the main characters to build a future in the world of the living, here and now.

[8] FONSECA, Rubem. El salvaje de la ópera. México: Cal y arena, 2009, p. 107.

[9]GRUZINSKI, Serge; ZÁRATE, Verónica. Ópera, imaginación y sociedad. México y Brasil, siglo XIX. Historias conectadas: Ildegonda de Melesio Morales e Il Guarany de Carlos Gomes.  In: Historia Mexicana, vol. LVIII, núm. 2, oct-dic, México: COLMEX, 2008, p. 818.

[10] Monitor republicano, Distrito Federal, 08-09-1882, p. 3.

[11] I would like to highlight the “Biart-Ruiz controversy”: towards 1893 (two years after Ruiz’s publication), “La princesseAtzimba et le capitaine Villadiégo” was published in the Revue des Deux Mondes (vol. 117), work signed by the Frenchman Lucien Biart who, although making reference to Ruiz, moves between plagiarism and an almost identical phrasing.

[12] El País, January 21st, 1900, p. 2.

[13] La Patria, January 23, 1900, p.1.

[14] PIÑÓN, Alida. El Universal, May 30th, 2013. On-line version available at: <http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/cultura/71919.html>. Accessed on September 18th, 2013.

[15] On April 10th and April 13th 2014, the staging of Atzimba returns to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. I had the opportunity to attend the presentation on Sunday 13th and I consider its staging very unfortunate: the costumes for the Michoacan Indians were more like the Sufis’, the scenery of the pyramids resembled vol-au-vents, unjustified nudes appeared and during the instrumental interlude, an arbitrary and peep-show choreography of Atzimba and her ladies was exhibited which, in addition to being indecorous, lacked any sense. Perhaps this last judgment sounds morally shallow; however, until today I cannot explain the reason for choreographing the company’s ladies as pole dancers.

[16] FLORESCANO, Enrique (coord.). Espejo mexicano. México: CONACULTA/FCE, 2002, p. 37, apud GIRON, Nicole. “La idea de cultura nacional en el siglo XIX: Altamirano y Ramírez”.  In: AGUILAR CAMIN, Héctor et al. En torno a la cultura nacional. México: Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1976, pp. 51-83.

[17] “To the idols of the Guaranis I renounce; to your faith initiate me, prostrated on the floor I beg you”. Third scene, Fourth Act. For the complete text in Italian, see www.librettidopera.it

[18] CARMONA, Gloria. Álbum de Ricardo Castro. Investigación iconográfica y documental. México: CONACULTA, 2009, p. 147.

[19] It is not unreasonable to think that the peak in the background is the Dedo de Deus (God's Finger), considering that in the final scene of Il Guarany, the notes on the script mention that Pery addita il cielo, points to the sky.

[20] I consider relevant to point out other “Non-Western” elements in the watercolors for the sets of Il Guarany. Carlo Ferrario solved Cecilia’s room by resorting to a set of exotica: a Moorish coffered ceiling, geometric designs and stylized canopy columns that are strongly reminiscent of Neoegiptian decorations. This “search for the otherness” in the opera is also crystallized in Verdi’s Aida, opera premiered a year after the Il Guarany (1871), recreating the plot in Ancient Egypt.

[21] The cover corresponds to the piano reduction of the “Lyrical drama in three acts”, which is located in the reserve of the library of the National School of Music, UNAM. It should be noted that the document itself does not qualify Castro’s musical work as opera.

[22] This graphic composition principle is found throughout the 19th century. An example is the frontispiece of the work of Casimiro Castro, Mexico y sus alrededores, in which we find a trail surrounded by nature. Unlike the one in Mexico y sus alrededores, Atzimba’s trail is shifted to the right.

[23] It is relevant to point out to the reader the spatial differences between the two theaters where the premieres took place: the dimensions of La Scala in Milan exceed by far the meager stage of the Arbeu Theatre.

[24] The tepotzoicpalli was a seat made with woven sedges with a high backrest and covered with jaguar skins. It was intended only for the leaders and was a symbol of power of the tlatoani.

[25] It is pertinent to mention that the foundation of the iconography of an almost-naked-indian is located in the representations of Theodor De Bry and the allegory of America by Ripa. Despite the temporal distance, the constant per secula seculorum is the emphasis on an unblemished nature.

[26] In relation to this, Dr. Elaine Dias commented that the Brazilian Empire gave the indigenous peoples an extreme importance during the 1860s and 1870s, when the gaze was diverted towards the war against Paraguay.

[27] As well as the tragedy of miscegenation and whitening-Westernization there exists another condition born out of the clash between America and Europe, “the malaise”. In the 19th century history and arts of the River Plate, “the malaise of miscegenation” is embodied in Lucia Miranda, “la cautiva”, who was held captive by wild indigenous people. In the Argentine case, studied by Laura Malosetti and Cristina Iglesia, the indigenous people are deprived of nobility and stigmatized as evil and negative, which justifies their extermination.