Story by Phillip Townsend

W

here the Green Rose Grows

There are those who love where they live. Then there are those who are passionate about their hometown, both its history and its future, and those who have a vision for their community. Rosalinda Alexander is the latter.

Getting to know her, you discover a bold, whimsical artist with inspiring hope and an infectious laugh, an original dreamer with a big heart and a passion for Visalia’s history. Rosalinda truly believes in Visalia and its people, and she has some unique, even visionary, ideas for making the world a better place.

Something to Talk About

Rosalinda Alexander attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, where she auditioned for the vocal performance program. “Thankfully, the voice teacher there, Professor Jo Clemmons, saw something,” Rosalinda says, “and she took me in the program and taught me how to sing classically.”

She got to perform in operas at the university and earned spots with the chorus for the San Diego Opera Company and Lyric Opera San Diego. The grandeur and quality of the performances amazed her. “Theaters with four levels of people,” she remembers. “There’s ballerinas on stage and a huge orchestra and high-quality costumes.” 

Rather than staying in San Diego or chasing a career in opera to another metropolitan area, she thought, “Visalia needs to see something like this.”

Homegrown Talent

The expansive San Joaquin Valley is renowned for its agriculture and often marketed as a gateway to the Sierra Nevadas. It is not known as a place that cultivates art, especially opera. That is not to say, however, that talent does not exist in the valley. Rosalinda believes in the people of the valley.

After Rosalinda returned home, she founded the Visalia Opera Company in 2009 with help from the Arts Consortium, and the company produced opera concerts for Taste of the Arts, fully orchestrated productions of Hansel and Gretel, Le Nozze di Figaro and a mariachi opera called El Bracero — all performed at the Main Street Theater with permission from the Enchanted Playhouse.

“Our classical singers here in the valley, they’re amazing,” she says. “We’ve got top-notch talent. I’m very grateful. The Visalia Opera Company was able to produce operas here because we had singers that were capable of singing Mozart arias.”

An Unexpected Intermission

The opera company held a special performance at the chapel at the Visalia Cemetery in 2018. It was a Christmas concert, at least on the surface. Inspiration for the event, known only to Rosalinda, was her father, Frank Verde. He attended that night, and it became a powerful and symbolic performance. She would not realize just how special it was until the next night.

That night, she officially announced the launch of her eponymous nonprofit Green Rose Productions. The “green” was an ode, she says, to her maiden name Verde, her father’s name. It has come to symbolize so much to Rosalinda over the years.

The following night, her father passed away unexpectedly. Rosalinda recalls, “He told my mom that he felt the angels singing to him during our concert.”

Although she misses him terribly every day, she feels that he is still with her. She is also grateful that her father was able to experience her tribute to him — that she had had the opportunity to say goodbye to him in that special way. “It was a very beautiful send off,” she says.

A Change in the Plot

“I loved producing operas,” Rosalinda says. “At this time, I am focusing my energy.”

The Visalia Opera Company has since been on hiatus, and Rosalinda has decided for the time being to lay the company to rest.

As part of her efforts to focus her energy, Rosalinda has recently made a big shift in her career. She made the difficult decision this year to leave her position as performing arts director at the Creative Center in Visalia. She held this role for seven years, working with differently abled students. Together, they wrote and produced two original productions a year. “The students are really brilliant, brilliant people,” Rosalinda says. “Over the years, we became a great team. Writing shows with the students will forever be in my heart and mind. The students changed me, as an artist and as a person, for the better.”

This move will further allow her to focus on Green Rose Productions. The organization is a multifaceted creative arts production organization. The goal, she says, is to create art events that build community. One such event is Green Rose’s flagship event of the year, Dia de los Muertos, held on Nov. 1. “This is an important event in the Hispanic culture and in my life,” she says. “This is a way to honor our ancestors — our own and our Visalian ancestors. We have a rich history, and many of the people who built this town deserve to be honored.”

El Bracero and the Future of Green Rose Productions

Rosalinda is preparing for the turn of a chapter. “I wrote the mariachi opera El Bracero years ago with a grant from the Irvine Foundation.” El Bracero is based on Rosalinda’s own family and the Prado family (of Del Prado restaurant in downtown Visalia), she says. It includes original music by artists from the Central Valley.

Rosalinda has spent the last six months revamping and expanding the story, making El Bracero the best mariachi opera it can be. “I want El Bracero to bless everyone that is associated with it, including the braceros the story is based on. I’d like to shed light on the fact that many braceros are still owed funds for their work after helping the United States work the fields during World War II. I’m very excited to see the growth of El Bracero.”

Her opera continues to be performed by performing arts companies to this day. East Los Angeles’ Garfield High School drama department is producing the new expanded work in May. Then, in June, ÁNIMO Film & Theatre company in Los Angeles will perform the production.

Rosalinda believes that the Central Valley is the center of the world and that people in the valley can produce art that can change the world. “If you can change it here, to be a peaceful place to live, then I think it’ll echo,” she says. She hopes that Green Rose Productions can be part of that change, both here in the valley and around the world. 

Stay Connected

If you want to learn more about Green Rose Productions, explore its production efforts, support the organization, visit greenroseproductions.org. You can support Rosalinda and the PIMs at  patreon.com/rosalindaandthepims.