May 1, 2019

PSO “Mango Suite” Project at Richardson

EXPLORING MUSIC AND LITERATURE: Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s “Mango Suite” Project brings together author Sandra Cisneros, right, and composer Derek Bermel at Richardson Auditorium. (Photo courtesy of Derek Bermel)

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) explores cultural identity in literature and music through two separate, yet linked events making up its Mango Suite Project: the Saturday, May 18, 3 p.m. author event with 2015 National Medal of Arts winner and author of The House of Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros and the Sunday, May 19, 4 p.m. world premiere performance of Derek Bermel’s Mango Suite by the PSO. Both events take place at Richardson Auditorium.

Centered on Cisneros’ book and Derek Bermel’s recent work, the Mango Suite Project has captured the interest of the Princeton community with the Princeton Public Library, Princeton University Art Museum, and Labyrinth Books helping to spread word of its events. According to PSO Executive Director Marc Uys, “The Project allows us to demonstrate how artistic mediums can combine to bring into focus important issues like cultural identity.”

The 3 p.m., May 18 free author event features Sandra Cisneros speaking with Grammy-nominated composer Derek Bermel about her experiences growing up amidst two cultures and its impact on her writing of The House on Mango Street. Guest vocalist Paulina Villarreal and pianist Steven Beck will perform excerpts from Derek Bermel’s Mango Suite, which draws inspiration from several of the book’s vignettes. Presented in partnership with the Princeton Public Library and Princeton University Art Museum, the event is intended to foster a community-wide dialogue around challenges faced by Princeton’s Latinx immigrant community today. The free event includes a post-discussion book signing. Labyrinth Books will be selling copies of The House on Mango Street and other titles by Cisneros in the Richardson Auditorium lobby beginning at 2 p.m. Although the event is free, admission tickets are required and are available by phone at (609) 497-0020 or online at

Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov conducts the 4 p.m., May 19 PSO concert featuring the World Premiere Derek Bermel’s Mango Suite with Mexican mezzo-soprano Paulina Villarreal. Also on the program are three works by Manuel de Falla: El amor brujo, The Three-Cornered Hat, Suite No. 1, and La vida breve, Spanish Dance No. 1. Two of these works will feature the artistry of flamenco dancer Griset Damas-Roche. Milanov will host Derek Bermel and Sandra Cisneros in a pre-concert talk taking place in Richardson Auditorium at 3 p.m., and open to concert ticket holders. Concert attendees are invited to a post-concert reception at the Princeton University Art Museum which is currently exhibiting “Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States.”

Paulina Villarreal is a prominent recitalist, cabaret, operatic, and musical theater singer. She was recently named one of the top prize winners at the international Lotte Lenya Competition in New York and at the Comic Opera Guild Competition in Michigan. A graduate of the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, she has been a soloist with companies and orchestras around the United States including Opera Saratoga, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Fusion: New Works, the prestigious Tanglewood Music Center, the Boston Pops, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. Villarreal is the founder and artistic director of the annual concert series Cantos para Hermanar al Mundo, devoted to the promotion of classical vocal genres hosted in Northern Mexico.

Griset Damas-Roche was born in Havana, Cuba, and after 12 years of a professional ballet career at the National Institute of Art of Cuba, her interests moved to flamenco and Spanish classical ballet, spurring her to the position of soloist in the Spanish Ballet of Cuba. Eventually, she made her way to Columbus, Ohio, where she currently teaches flamenco at her U Will Dance Studio while continuing a professional dance career. She was invited by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra to dance with them at the Ohio Theater in 2018 and 2019 as a part of the Spanish Festival, and by the Chautauqua Institution to perform in its 2018 Summer Season. In 2019, she won a grant from Greater Columbus Arts Council to attend the International Festival of Flamenco in Albuquerque, N.M.

Tickets ($96, $80, $62, $35, and $28-youth) for Derek Bermel’s Mango Suite are available at or by calling (609) 497-0020. Subscriptions for the 2019-2020 Season and Pick 3+ ticket packages are also available.

Programs, artists, dates, and times are subject to change.