Wed. Feb 26th, 2020

Farinelli rises in the Zarzuela



Just like the ruins of Machu Picchu were engulfed by the Peruvian jungle, hiding for years what were the residences of Pachacútec, the “Farinelli” of Tomás Bretón disappeared after being released in the extinct Lyric Theater of Madrid. No sign of her until now, rescued by Zarzuela with a free version of the playwright María Velasco and by the hand of a Guillermo García Calvo who does not leave her astonishment: «To discover this opera is to change the schemes of Spanish music. A shock”. A work comparable to any other European. A score with moments that should be in all anthologies … ». The musical director of the Zarzuela (since January 1) is undone in praise for a score that has been forgotten for more than a century and to which García Calvo asks “what was that jungle that ate it”, he says, at the same time it has made him reflect «on how little we know each other».

“No one [vivo] He has heard it ”, the newly renovated director of the Jovellanos Street precinct, Daniel Bianco, who values ​​this programming as part of the Zarzuela’s commitment to“ preserve, recover, review and disseminate ”the Spanish lyric heritage ditch. Hence the relevance of two dates that will record a recording (which will be in charge of Classic Radio) nonexistent so far. «We believe that we know all our composers, but what we see is nothing more than the tip of the iceberg. That is why, as theater professionals, we have the obligation to make it known ”, recognizes the mezzo-soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera, Beatriz in a cast composed by the also mezzo-soprano Maite Beaumont (Farinelli) and the baritones Rodrigo Esteves (Jorge) and David Menéndez (Doctor), in addition to Emilio Gutiérrez Caba, in the role of storyteller: «For actors, music is part of our life, even if we don’t sing. We are first cousins, ”he acknowledges.

To recover «Farinelli» (in concert version, from Orcam, on February 15 and 17) is to fulfill part of a composer’s dream: not to be remembered exclusively by «La verbena de la Paloma», but also to return to that Spain of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when opera was a momentous affair. Since the Alfonsina Restoration, 1874, the great production of zarzuela did not cease in the effort to create a national opera that competed with the European creation.

Effervescent environment

An atmosphere of effervescence in which the greatest theater that Madrid has seen was built and in which numerous compositions would emerge. However, both one and most of the others would end in oblivion. Writes the musicologist Emilio Casares Rodicio that up to «700 operas composed in Spain have drunk the black waters of Leteo. Dozens of them applauded by the demanding public of the eight hundred, and, waiting “eternally” for a miracle like the one that happens today in the Zarzuela, which acts, once again, like a true National Theater ».

But to get to “Farinelli” you have to go back to December 1887, when some words of Breton are preserved: “Alone and Siguert [un escritor con el que había colaborado años antes] and I, we speak of Spanish opera and I came up with an issue that cannot be newer, original, musical, comical and appropriate: Farinelli ”. He loved it and set out to look for data ». A month later they already had the plan laid out and, in April, “the work was almost fixed.” But it was not going to be all that fast. Other great dramas would keep the musician busy and the project would be parked until 1901, when he returns to him, although with Juan Antonio Cavestany as a librettist (Siguert had died in 1896). Casares remembers that Breton had tried his fortune as a librettist, but that he was “quite criticized. Maybe that’s why he went to the Sevillian writer ».

It was the invitation of Ruperto Chapí as artistic manager of the Lyric that finished relaunching the opera that would end in September 1901 the first version for singing and piano, and two months later, the score of the orchestra. «It is a mystery why the choice of theme – explains Casares -, far from the great historical or realistic dramas that the operatic Breton liked. It is possible that Chapí influenced so that the salmantino, who had just had the greatest success in the history of the opera with “La Dolores”, did not affect dramatic issues, and, on the other hand, thought that the audience that attended the Lyricist did not it was exactly that of Real, and he preferred something lighter.

The memories of the “Farinelli” that was seen more than a century ago, according to Casares, come from comments by the critic Roda and also the musicologist Rafael Mitjana, who pointed out how Cavestany started from “some” Memories “of Farinelli, not yet published» and “dramatic elements of a Scribe novel entitled” Carlos Broschi “, which together with others of his invention provide not a small number of musical situations.

Thus, the premiere of May 15, 1902 was reached in which the misfortune of the castrate was addressed because of being in love with a singer, Elena Pieri (Beatriz, in the play), with whom she cannot marry because she is her sister. A libretto that, in the words of Casares, “is placed outside of what was at that time the fundamental line of our opera, dominated by literary realism, verism,” a movement that painted reality as it was and described The primary emotions of the protagonists. Quite the opposite of this «Farinelli» that moved away from the worries of that Spain. Opera addresses it (in a prologue and three acts) from fiction and does not even present itself as a national glory. Even so, García Calvo has discovered in the score two very different styles of Breton through which he reconstructs the era of the protagonist, “with 18th-century music”, and a more Wagnerian music when talking about emotions. “He was a great observer of human psychology, like Galdós and Cela, but described with music,” the director closes.

The largest theater in the capital

If the “Farinelli” of Breton sounds like something from another time, nonexistent, the same goes for the place where it was premiered, the huge Lyric Theater of Madrid (located in the street of Márqués de la Ensenada). The moment that music lived at the end of the 19th century forced the authorities to build a unique colosseum in dimensions so far in the capital with 2,900 seats (almost all with almost perfect visibility). The project was promoted by businessman Luciano Berritúa and opened in 1902 as part of the fight against the Royal Theater.

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