In My Own Words/En Mis Palabras

In the fall of 2021, Portland Opera to Go will present the opera, In My Own Words/En Mis Palabras by Roger Ames and Jeffrey Gilden. This English and Spanish bilingual opera, created for 7th through 12th graders, is about coming-of-age and finding your voice.

Our goal is to make opera accessible, comprehensible and fun for audiences of all ages and experiences! In My Own Words/En mis palabras is a bilingual production which tells the story of a first-generation Mexican American girl caught between her traditional father and her older brother, who has fully embraced American culture.  It asks essential questions like how can I be both Mexican and American; What do we owe the past?  How do we hold the past and the present together?  


Production Details

Duration: approx. 55 minutes

Accompaniment: piano and guitar

Commissioned by Central City Opera, 2005

School Pricing: $1.75 per child in attendance with a $100 minimum 


Ana Maria, a Latina teen – soprano

Rodolfo, her older brother - tenor

Esteban, her father - baritone

Abuela, her grandmother – mezzo-soprano


Scene 1 - Ana Maria’s home

Scene 2 – a few months later; a funeral home


Scene 1:

15-year-old Ana Maria is alone, writing in her journal as she expresses her confused thoughts. In another room her brother and father argue about her. Rodolfo then comes to her and encourages her to “spread her wings” – he’ll support her. She is torn by loyalty to her family.

Rodolfo departs but soon her father confronts her about the clothes and makeup she is wearing. He reminds her of the sacrifices he has made to make a better life for his children. She argues that she must make her own choices.

Ana Maria is again alone when her grandmother enters. Abuela asks her about the changes she has been making to her appearance. Ana Maria wants her to understand. Abuela points out that a person can choose who they want to be, but that choice can affect others as well. Esteban bursts in and accuses Ana Maria of having a boyfriend. He forbids her to see him or her friend Sara anymore. Ana Maria threatens to run away. Rodolfo defends her and turns on his father. Their anger at one another causes serious consequences.


Scene 2:

Rodolfo and Esteban talk awkwardly about memories of Abuela. Ana Maria enters and sees her father for the first time since leaving home. They are civil, but can’t find the words to make things right. Ana Maria leaves the room. Abuela appears (as if Esteban is remembering her) and advises him to stop clinging to the past and to embrace the future in the person of his beautiful child. Ana Maria also speaks to the memory of her grandmother, wondering how she can mend things with her father. Abuela reminds her of how much he has always loved her and tried to protect her. She counsels Ana Maria to let the past guide her into the future. Esteban returns and joins them in a trio of love and promise.

This Portland Opera to Go production will be available from September 20 through November 13. 

If you are an educator interested in bringing Portland Opera to Go to your students, please contact Alexis Hamilton, Portland Opera’s Manager of Education and Community Engagement by emailing