The News from Tierra Nueva – Musical

By Barbara Harbach, Libretto by Linda Rimel
Catalogue Number: 982
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H982, Full Score, 208 pages, $109.00 (piano/vocal score)


In 1961 in Tierra Nueva, the only journalism job Rita can land is society reporting. She covers the “surprise” engagement party [“It’s Hard To Sit Still”] for Jorge, from one of that nation’s leading families. Jorge leaves the party to pick up Elaine, a graduate student from the U.S. [“Elaine”], who is surprised to learn that, according to local custom, Jorge has tacitly proposed marriage by regularly dropping by at the same time on the same day of the week, and she has tacitly accepted his proposal by being available to see him [“I Had No Idea”]. To spare him humiliation, she says that, for her remaining weeks in the country, she’ll pretend to be his fiancée; after that, he may tell people anything he wants about why she’s not returning to marry him.

Waiting for her flight out of the country [“I’m Hitting the Road”], Rita sees Elaine shamelessly flirting with man after man. This would be a big scoop if she were still writing for the society page, but, determined to leave that beat behind her, Rita ignores the story.

In 1994, Rita covers the press conference at which President Clinton introduces Andrea as the first woman ambassador to Tierra Nueva. Rita sings “Nothing Could Stop Me!” and recognizes Andrea as Elaine. Complimenting the band, she rattles off a list of “Women Composers” along the lines of “Tchaikovsky.” Another reporter challenges the wisdom of appointing a woman ambassador to a machismo culture. Andrea and the Tierra Nuevan ambassador respond with “Fred Astaire.”

Before Andrea’s first embassy party, the son of el Presidente drops by to help, as he’s been doing early every morning. [“I’m Ramón”] When festivities begin [“Welcome!”] and guests see Andrea, they scream and faint. They think she is the ghost of Elaine. Aunt Mariana explains that her brother Jorge has been reclusive since the death, years ago, of his fiancée, Elaine. Andrea phones her mother.

In Act Two, in the secret headquarters of the masked revolutionary, La Máscara, guards sing “If Not Tonight.” La Máscara fires up the troops. [“Is It Enough?”]  He sees Andrea’s face on TV—and exits.

La Máscara arrives at the embassy and hides his disguise. Mariana warns him to stay away from “that woman.” [“The New Ambassador”] [“Is It She?”] Elaine tells him that she’d rejected him because of foolish, youthful notions of love. She rejects him again, saying that she’s holding out for La Máscara. He does an impression of La Másacara [Reprise: “If Not Tonight”] and tells her that he is La Máscara. She doesn’t believe him. Mariana warns Elaine [“Someone Like You”] to stay away from La Máscara.

Rita Núñez discovers the cape and mask. Jorge tries to discourage Mariana’s infatuation with La Máscara, but she says that the appeal is that he opposes her “wicked” brother, el Presidente. Elaine meets La Máscara but tries to keep her distance. When he quotes her previous rejection of Jorge, she recognizes him. [“What If I Were To Tell You?”] Rita Núñez asks what he, enemy of el Presidente, is doing there. He stalls her. Mariana demands that Elaine unhand him. When el Presidente enters, La Máscara takes off his mask and el Presidente sends him to jail.

Elaine notices that Ramón has been dropping by at the same time every day. To avoid an international incident, Andrea must marry him. She doesn’t much mind. The guests are dancing in the street; Andrea invites them in. [Reprise: “It’s Hard to Sit Still.”] El Presidente frees Jorge. Mariana comes around to approving of the two weddings. Rita gets a great scoop.