April 22, 2021

Benet Casablancas and Rafael Argullol: the force of myth in contemporary opera | Culture

Benet Casablancas and Rafael Argullol: the force of myth in contemporary opera | Culture

Four centuries ago, Claudio Monteverdi He engendered opera as a baroque amalgam of transversal disciplines: music, poetry and dance had to compose a history that generally resorted to the myths of antiquity to explain the world. Later, this complex, addictive and greater art has been struggling among its multiple resources and adding more expressions to become a total spectacle. But it is at the root of it that they have wanted to return Benet Casablancas Y Rafael Argullol in musical and poetic tandem, to compose L'enigma di Lea.

They premiere on Saturday at the Liceu, with Josep Pons as a conductor and Carme Portaceli,, responsible for the scene. What eight years ago was a timid but decided dream of the composer, today has become a palpable reality for them with traces of nightmare on the stage, in the case of the performers. It is the first original opera of both and they have wanted to work together. "Without subjecting the text to music, on equal terms," ​​says Argullol.

Benet wanted to adapt his book The end of the world as a work of art (Acantilado, 1991). After that truce of let me think about it, the writer launched a counter-offer: Why not create something completely new? "Rafael wrote a first version of the text, in my opinion, not only very beautiful and inspiring, but also met all the conditions that the composition of an opera requires," says Benet. "An intriguing plot and suggestive, very sharp definition and contrasts between characters and scenes together with a rich tissue of symbolic implications that soon impelled my imagination and began to generate a flow of musical ideas to which later would give form".

A polyglot choir

In L'enigma di Lea, the monumental choir of 80 members plays a very important role: "He is the only one who will change the language. The opera has been written in Italian, which is the lingua franca of the genre for us. But the choir will sing in the language of the place where the work is performed, "says Rafael Argullol. The collective role is transformed throughout the piece: "Evoluciona. Part of the initial masculine choir, that appeals directly to the function of the same one in the Greek tragedy, until the important interventions of a mixed group in the two parts that follow. It ends by transforming itself into a replica of the audience and thus directly appeals to the audience, "says Casablancas. The prodigious expressive power of the song is the center of the work, the musician comments: "But the orchestra, always attentive and diversified, plays a no less determining role in it. It creates the acoustic and timbral space that sustains, clothes, enhances and projects the unfolding of the voices ".

This is how a story that talks about the present through myth emerged: Lea keeps a secret that she can not reveal. Neither the punishment nor the abuses, nor the humiliations of that God who is the darkness that burns, as the priests sing, will bend it to reveal it … "We wanted to pose it as a timeless epic, with a symbolic trigger at the beginning. The passion of a woman with telluric force that leads her to the wreck, to a wandering situation between space and time, "explains Argullol.

Lost and frightened, Leah clings to her enigma. There is nothing that makes him betray him. Neither the warnings of those priests who try to take care of the wrath of a God who violates their creatures, nor the phantasmagorical appearances of the so-called "milojos" and "milbocas" while they watch her and judge her in their journey of uncertainties.

Monteverdi, the father of the opera, is at the center of influences for both authors. But to that reference, many others have been added, according to Casablancas: "Multiple and very diverse. Truly, the genre has a glorious past and present in which the lessons of Janacek, Debussy, Berg, Britten, Henze, Moussorgsky, Berio, Ligeti, Knussen or Benjamin have been fundamental to me, "says the musician. "But the truth is that if I have had something very present at all times it is the great foundational lesson of Monteverdi, where music is a servant of poetry to produce a higher artistic fusion: the opera".

Three years it cost him to create a score of 400 pages for the text that Acantilado has just published. "I can assure you that seeing everything that I wrote in solitude, slowly, suddenly comes to life is an extraordinary, unique, magical experience," says Benet.

Both he and Argullol have frequently attended rehearsals this last month in Barcelona and have witnessed how Josep Pons and Carme Portaceli turned their invention into carnal and sonorous material. Allison Cook became Lea to his eyes, along with the other characters, embodied by José Antonio López (Ram) or Xabier Sábata (Doctor Shicksal), among others. They only wait for the verdict of the public before the birth of a new work that expresses with all the force of contemporary music the anxieties that have always throbbed in the genre of opera.


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