My name is Rafael de Acha. My career spans over 40 years in the arts. I grew up in Havana, Cuba and came to the United States in 1960. I’m multi-lingual, and speak Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French. I am a trained musician, having first attended the Juilliard School of Music, where I studied voice with Marion Freschl and coached repertory with Jennie Tourel. My voice was bass-baritone, and I specialized in the Mozartian roles and in the concert repertoire, singing in a dozen languages. I went on to get an undergraduate degree from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where I was a student of the great Italian basso Italo Tajo. While there, I met and married my wife Kimberly. We graduated together and both went on to earn Masters of Music degrees in Voice from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
But – rather than sing – I wanted to be a stage director. Specifically: an opera stage director. Early in my career, I staged many operatic productions throughout the country and abroad, including the American stage premieres of operas by Handel and Mozart for a little company named the New England Chamber Opera Group, that Phil Morehead and I started while I still was in graduate school. After graduation, I taught for a year at Centenary College, a small college in Shreveport, LA., and then received a fellowship from the National Opera Institute to join the staging staff of the New York City Opera for one season (1973-1974), where I worked as assistant director to Giancarlo Menotti on The Consul, Gerald Freedman on Alberto Ginastera’s Beatrix Cenci, Jack Edelman on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, and on several assignments in the company’s repertory, including Carmen, Rigoletto, and The Barber of Seville.
A portion of my career was a sort of detour that I would not trade for anything in the world. From 1976 to 1985, Kimberly and I worked on board several passenger cruise ships. These included major liners of Norwegian America Cruises, Royal Viking, Paquet Croissieres, and Pearl Cruises of Scandinavia. At first as a member of the cruise staff, and later as cruise director, I traveled to over 130 countries all over the world, spending the years 1981 to 1983 primarily in the Far East, where I led the first visits of a passenger ship to the People’s Republic of China, as executive cruise director of the S.S. Pearl of Scandinavia from its maiden voyage. On board the ships I put in place all entertainment, sports, publications, and all other cultural and public relations activities.
We moved to Miami in 1985, wanting to find our land legs. From 1986 through 2006, I ran New Theatre, an Equity theatre in Coral Gables (Miami-Dade) Florida, which I co-founded with Kimberly. There I directed over one hundred productions of plays by Shakespeare, American classics, European works – some in my own translations – and forty world premieres by American playwrights, including major successes by Nilo Cruz, Mario Diament, John Strand, and Michael McKeever.
I have enjoyed teaching workshops on Shakespeare for the Theatre League of South Florida on several occasions, and I have also had the opportunity to serve as a panelist for Dade County’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the State of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, Theatre Communications Group, the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. I have been honored with awards from the Dade County Cultural Alliance, Phi Kappa Phi, the Miami Arts Exchange, the Hispanic Theatre Festival and the Miami-Dade County School Board, and have had the Miami Herald, Miami New Times and the Sun-Sentinel repeatedly name my productions among the year’s best. Last year the Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners issued a proclamation, naming Friday August 18, 2006 after Kimberly and me, in honor of our twenty years serving the community in South Florida.
I keep busy doing some writing, some cooking, some gardening, some reading, and untiringly attending all sorts of arts events around South Florida. Kimberly and I live surrounded by lots of trees, flowers, a yard full of redbirds and doves, a ten-year old cockatiel named Papo, and two kittens – brothers from the same litter – named Boogie and Bandido.
I have always wanted to write about the arts. Through the years I’ve written a fair share of Director’s Notes that have appeared on theatre programs here and there, mostly ephemera. But I was always so busy being in the arts, I never found the time and space to step back, take a deep breath, and take it all in. Now I am – taking it all in – and loving the freedom that comes with it.
For quite a number of years running an arts organization – a theatre – I found myself doing only theatre, reading only theatre, talking only theatre. Now, like a bird let out of a cage, I am rediscovering the moveable feast that the arts in Miami offer week after week. This blog will log my arts-attendance, week-in, week-out, with my subjective, one-sided, partial view of what’s happening in classical music, dance, the visual arts, film, and a few other things in our South Florida neck of the woods. I will endeavor to be fair in my evaluations, avoid the three P’s: pretense, preciousness and pretentiousness, and the three B’s: bitchiness, boredom, and boorishness. If I sin in any of those areas, send me an email. If you like what you read here at NEWS & VIEWS, especially then, send me an email too. I would like to have your comments and to make this a conversation among people who have in common a love for the arts.