We are not talking about a painting or a sculpture, but about an opera. From a melodrama in Spanish, entitled Venus and Adonis, and premiered, at the end of 1729, in the public theaters of Madrid with music by José de Nebra and libretto by José de Cañizares. Also of a musical manuscript already known, although incomplete and full of misprints, that slept in the Musical File of the Jesuit Nemesio Otaño in the Sanctuary of Loyola. Even a libretto, with some attribution problems, preserved in the National Library of Madrid. But, above all, we talk about the enormous work involved in transferring old and dusty papers from the file file to the lectern of an auditorium to turn them into a magnificent evening of music. Luis Antonio González, principal investigator of the IMF-CSIC, has reconstructed this Spanish Baroque opera in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the death of its composer. And he has just directed his revival in the form of a concert at the head of his group, Los Músicos de Su Alteza, in the Auditorium of Zaragoza, which culminated holding up the score of this new restored Nebra.
Music by José de Nebra. With Olalla Alemán, Eugenia Boix, María Hinojosa, Aurora Pena, Marta Infante and José Pizarro. The Musicians of His Highness. Dir .: Luis Antonio González. XXIV Season of Great Autumn Concerts. Auditorium of Zaragoza, November 8.
The more music we hear from José de Nebra (Calatayud, 1702 – Madrid, 1768), the more he attracts to unravel the details of his life. The story of that fifteen-year-old boy who left Cuenca, where his father was an organist in the cathedral, to move to Madrid. There we found him, in 1719, working in the Monastery of the Descalzas Reales and, shortly after, as a musician of the House of Osuna or raised to the prestigious position of organist of the Royal Chapel. But, above all, fascinates the composer who, with little more than twenty years, and was among the musical highlights of his time. We can see it in the published reference, in 1726, in a booklet against the conservative ideas of Feijoo, where Nebra is among the main growers of the Italian style, along with Antonio Literes and José de Torres, but also at the level of composers such as Arcangelo Corelli, Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi. This prestige, together with his relationship with the House of Osuna, provided him with the opportunity to participate, in 1728, in the composition of his first opera, a courtly melodrama for the nuptial celebrations of the future Fernando VI with María Bárbara de Braganza entitled Love increases the value. It was written in collaboration with the Italians Felipe Falconi and Jaime Facco, although the only act preserved was that written by Nebra.
Venus and Adonis It is, therefore, his second opera. It consists of an act of about one hundred minutes and was intended, in this case, for the public sphere of the Teatro del Príncipe, where it was premiered, in November 1729, as the second day of a three-part show entitled The Melodramma. But he recovered the following month, now alone and with the title of Venus and Adonis, at the Teatro de la Cruz. "The work is a mixture of more modern elements, related to the zarzuelas of Nebra of the 1740s or its late religious music, along with other more traditional aspects," acknowledges Luis Antonio González, who directed, in 2010, the only recording of Love increases the value (Alpha)
The Aragonese musicologist explained to EL PAÍS the particularities of the work, like that primal fandango, "Any mozuela", that the graceful Celfa sings with a ritornello chromatic. But also the difficulties of its restoration. "Only the voices have been preserved with the continuous accompaniment and the notebook of the first violins", he points out. Its orchestral reconstruction includes parts of second violins, violas, clarion, oboes and horns, although it sounds perfectly credible. "To reconstruct the instrumentation and the corrections, it has helped me that an aria remains complete within the pastiche The Dorinda, but, above all, having extensive experience with the music of Nebra, "he says.
The opera reproduces the mythological plot of Venus and Adonis, a theme with great theatrical and iconographic roots in baroque Spain. But also operatic, because the influence of the libretto by Calderón de la Barca for The purple of the rose determines the inclusion of Celfa's character. The work has the usual alternation of recitatives and arias, sprinkled by a duo and framed with four at the beginning and end. The serious characters are combined with the usual funny couple that add the spicy and funny nuance in this drama of the death of Adonis in the arms of his beloved Venus. For its release in concert version it was decided to place a break in the middle, but the work would gain a lot with its continuous representation.
Nebra musically elevates his opera with the appearance of Adonis singing the aria "Ay, Venus bella", admirable in the voice of Eugenia Boix. From now on, all the arias of this character are among the best of the opera, such as "Speedy Whistle" turned into a duel with a bugle under the sound of the violins. And, especially, the dramatic and intimate climax of "Adios, Venus bella" accompanied by pizzicatos that was the best of the night with Boix as the protagonist. Olalla Alemán faced with admirable determination, like Venus, the most difficult arias of the opera. María Hinojosa was an incisive Mars and Marta Infante, like Cibeles, provided the ideal tempestuous tone for another of the best operatic arias: "Already from the cloud of the mountain". The couple of graciosos, Celfa and Clarín, completed a seamless distribution with the voices and dramatic skills of Aurora Peña, who stood out in his referred fandango, and José Pizarro with his sly "aria del conejo". The performance of the orchestra of period instruments of Los Músicos de Su Alteza, which was more in the second part, made the colorful and credible instrumentation of this Nebra restored by its director.
Venus and Adonis it will sound again, on November 18, at the National Auditorium in Madrid, within the Baroque Universe cycle of the CNDM.