Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a poet, dramatist, scholar, and nun, and outstanding writer of the Latin American colonial period. She is considered the first recognized feminist. Her landmark, 975-line poem Primero sueño (alternately translated as First Dream or First I Dream), first published in 1692, is one of the greatest literary works of the Hispanic Baroque. The poem tracks Sor Juana’s mind as it aggregates knowledge, following the soul as it dreams and wakes. She fights for her intellect and curiosity, and shares her insights on mysticism, feminism, and the power of the natural world. Within those moments, she touches on her relationship to nativism of the time, from images of sun to Darwinistic principles to elements of transcendence. 

Photos by Shervin Lainez

Now, Sor Juana’s tale of the soul’s torturous quest for knowledge appears for the first time in operatic form, using her very own words. Commissioned by MetLiveArts and co-produced by VisionIntoArt, this collaboration between visionary composer Paola Prestini and jazz icon Magos Herrera takes the form of a processional performance through The Met Cloisters. Herrera herself plays Sor Juana, and award-winning German vocal ensemble Sjaella represent both the nuns and and the poem’s vivid images, which range from birds to pyramids to characters of Greek mythology. 

For this work, each singer will wear a bespoke escudo de monja that doubles as an acoustic speaker and a light source. These personal sonic devices will allow the audiences to hear personal aspects of Sor Juana, and will also serve as beams of light and projection surfaces.

Artistic Team

Composers: Paola Prestini and Magos Herrera

Director: Louisa Proske

Choreographer: Jorrell Lawyer-Jefferson

Masks: David Miguel Herrera

Costume Designer: Andrea Lauer

Performers: Ensemble Sjaella


Alberto Ruy-Sánchez is a Mexican writer and editor born in Mexico City on 7 December 1951. He is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Since 1988 he has been the chief editor and founding publisher of Latin America's leading arts magazine, Artes de México. He co founded the Vuelta Magazine with Octavio Paz.

Belen Sanz (UN women Director for Latin America)
Representative of UN Women in Mexico, during her direction in UN Women in Colombia she accompanied the historic peace process that this country experienced, supporting the participation of women and the promotion of a gender approach in construction. of peace, this process being one of the highest levels of inclusion of women in peace agreements.

Carmen Beatriz López Portillo (Director of Sor Juana Cloister)
Mexico City Sor Juana Cloister director, today an institution dedicated to education, Carmen is also a researcher, author of several titles and has received several international recognitions thanks to her work at the head of this institution. Father was president of Mexico, one of the most powerful women in Mexico.

Ronda Kasl is Curator of Latin American Art for The American Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Previously, she was senior curator of painting and sculpture at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She received her doctorate from New York University, and is a specialist in the art of Spain and Spanish America. She is the author of The Making of Hispano-Flemish Style: Art, Commerce, and Politics in Fifteenth-Century Castile (2014).

Mónica Lavín is a Mexican author of six books of short stories, notable among them Ruby Tuesday no ha muerto (1996 recipient of the Gilberto Owen National Literary Prize); Uno no sabe (2003, finalist for the Antonin Artaud award); and her most recent collection, La corredora de Cuemanco y el aficionado a Schubert (Punto de Lectura, 2008). She was awarded the Elena Poniatowska Ibero-American Novel Prize for her work Yo, la peor (2010) on Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz.

C. Griffith Mann is Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge of Medieval Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A specialist in the arts of late medieval Italy, Dr. Mann has curated exhibitions on the medieval cult of relics, the art and archaeology of medieval Novgorod, and thirteenth-century French manuscript illumination. Before joining the department, Dr. Mann served as deputy director and chief curator at The Cleveland Museum of Art (2008–13) and the director of the curatorial division at The Walters Art Museum (2002–08).

Sara Poot is a Mexican writer, professor, academic and researcher, corresponding member of the Mexican Academy of Language. She is especially recognized for her research on the New Spain poetess of the Siglo de Oro Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, as well as for her studies on the prominent Mexican writer Juan José Arreola and his contemporaries.

Limor Tomer is the General Manager of Concerts & Lectures and a curator of performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Before her work at the Met, Tomer served as adjunct curator of performing arts at the Whitney Museum, and executive producer for music at WNYC Public Radio and Classical 105.9 WQXR in New York.

Conrado Tostado is a writer, contemporary art curator and founder of the Center of advanced studies in México City. He was the director of Museo de la Ciudad de México and was the Mexican cultural attaché in India. In 2007 he was the Director of Cultural Affairs at the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana in Mexico City.

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