Last weekend (May 16), the Florida Grand Opera showed a new work with an extremely realistic background, and the circumstances under which the performance took place could not have been more representative. "Boat people stranded on island, three dead" -- screamed the headline of the daily newspaper "Miami Herald" that morning, and an opera entitled "Balseros" had its world premiere the same evening. It was named after Cubans who in recent years had fled Fidel Castro's regime, crossing over to Florida in primitive boats. The new work by American composer Robert Ashley honors the Balseros' courage. At the same times, it is meant to make the opera palpable to the Balseros and their Cuban compatriots in Florida. The effort is likely to pay off, since the former ethnic minority has become a majority. About 60 percent of the population in Miami speaks Spanish better than English. Georg Hirsch saw the premiere.

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