Artist Projects

Imperial Silence: Una Ópera Muerta / A Dead Opera in Four Acts


John Leanos

Imperial Silence is a multimedia performance that journeys to the ‘other’ side to illuminate cultural taboos around silence, death and dissent in the satirical Mexican and Chicana/o tradition of the Days of the Dead. This hybrid performance fuses dark humored animation with Mexican folklore dance, Mariachi music, hip-hop, bossa nova and blues conceived and created by director/librettist, John Jota Leaños, composer Cristóbal Martinez, the Mariachi ensemble, Los Cuatro Vientos and loco actor Sean Levon Nash. The live/dead performance includes a live DJ, stage actors, folklore dancers and Mariachi singers who interact with projected animations. The animations in the opera have screened and have won several awards at national and international film festivals including Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Morelia International Film Festival and others.


The opera’s four acts include Act I—Los ABCs ¡Qué Vivan los Muertos!, an animated primer on war and empire; Act II—Deadtime Stories with Mariachi Goose and Friends, an animation that re-examines Mother Goose children’s rhymes and culminates with the great fall of Humpty Mariachi Dumpty; Act III—¡Radio Muerto!, a live performance and animation of a skeleton traveling the road to Mictlan (the Aztec underworld) while listening to the radio; Act IV—DNN: Dead News Network, a dead animated newscast exploring the silencing of dissent and “spin” in the corporate news media. The opera’s Intermezzi involve a live electronic mix and acoustic Mariachi accompaniment of the baroque songs “El Corrido de Pat Tillman,” “Lamento Desaparecido,” “This is the House that Blacks Built” and others.

Project Updates

  • 2005: First act of A Xican@ Net.Ópera is performed at the Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco

  • 2006: Animations from A Xican@ Net.Ópera are shown at the XicanIndie Film Festival in Denver