This niche is very much alive | Culture


Who follows it, gets it, and the Juan March Foundation has been proposing since 2014 to exploit a reef whose veins were systematically disdained by other institutions: what she herself calls “chamber music theater”, which we can translate, to understand each other, by operas of Small format, or miniature operas. Few instruments, a handful of voices, meager plot, moderate duration, but a proposal that, like a good story or short story, if well thought out and executed, can hide much greatness inside. Fire opened in 2014 with Cendrillon, a simple amusement of Pauline Viardot, and a year later they won many integers with the recovery of Fantochines, a jewel unknown to almost everyone, signed by Conrado del Campo and Tomás Borrás, which made it clear that the chosen course was correct. Then came other works, ancient and modern, comic and tragic, Spanish and foreign, but none has left in memory a long lasting land like those superlatives Fantochines: rarely was a diminutive so misleading.

The bird of two colors

Music of Conrado del Campo and libretto by Tomás Borrás. Sonia de Munck, Borja Quiza and Gerardo Bullón. JONDE Chamber Group. Scene Director: Rita Cosentino. Musical director: Miquel Ortega. Juan March Foundation, January 8. Until january13.

That is why it is appreciated that the new installment will recover the same couple of creators and even two of the protagonists of that time (the soprano Sonia de Munck and the baritone Borja Quiza). The musical and stage directors have changed, but mentally we attended, five years later, almost a kind of "We said yesterday ...". The bird of two colors I had the added difficulty that, unlike Fantochines, premiered at the Comedy Theater in 1923, never came to see the light after an unsuccessful attempt to take it on stage in 1935. Conrado del Campo continued to retouch the score, which would remain unfinished after his death in 1953 and therefore needed , of redeeming hands that will shape a representable work. The musical director, Miquel Ortega, has been in charge of completing it and, as he writes, "clarify" the sometimes incongruous materials that have been preserved. That Ortega began the performance by performing a small magic trick with a red and a green scarf was related, of course, with the title of the work, but also had some abracadabrante: a nonata work that, many decades after its gestation , appears and sounds suddenly before us.

Like in Fantochines, the first thing that attracts attention is the enormous quality of the score of Conrado del Campo. Tanned in Madrid's theaters (he became a soloist in the Viola of the Madrid Symphony at the Teatro Real), a quarteter of race, he knew the music from the inside, because he had grown up in the pit culture, the practical school par excellence, while his theoretical knowledge made him a renowned professor of harmony, counterpoint and composition. In spite of using a small orchestra that is characteristic of a coffee or a “American bar", As we read on the cover of the edition of the text of Borrás in 1931, the eleven instruments (a string quintet, a wind quartet, piano and the occasional presence of a alto saxophone in a waltz that precedes the first intervention of the Mono) are entrusted with a dense, thorough, rhythmic and harmoniously complex writing, in addition to being very demanding for everyone from the technical point of view. Only the piano part would be enough to give an idea of ​​the musical substance of Don Conrado and there are instrumental passages, such as the one prior to the initial intervention of Don Tigre, which transcend with much what one would expect to find in a small theatrical entertainment: large music , well thought out and superbly orchestrated.

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Borja Quiza (Don Tigre), Gerardo Bullón (El Mono) and Sonia de Munck (Ella).



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Borja Quiza (Don Tigre), Gerardo Bullón (El Mono) and Sonia de Munck (Ella).

At various times, such as when Don Tigre sings towards the end “Delicious woman, sensual spell: I find pleasure in you when I was looking for the ideal!”, The imprint of Wagner and Strauss is perceptible, the two main references of the Madrid musician and two composers that he knew very well in his double status as a scholar and performer, although there is no lack of danceable passages or very remarkable samples of the great harmonist and contrapuncturist that was Del Campo, like those two rope and metal corals dotted with short flowers of the piccolo, immediately before the first encounter of the Bird and Don Tigre, or the extraordinary escape that precedes the final monologue of the Monkey while holding a Schopenhauer book. Perhaps it is a small self-tribute that Don Conrado entrusts the initial exposition of the sinuous subject to the viola, his instrument, a duality that he shared with other great violist composers, from Mozart and Beethoven to Britten and Hindemith or, closer to us, the Australian Brett Dean and the recently deceased Pablo Rivière, who would have enjoyed watching this work so much.

The book of Tomás Borrás places the work in the Rubenian "country of allegories", an ideal territory to display its modernist text, strongly symbolic, and rich in phrases: "Dance is the initiation of sin; heart with heart, hug, breath: a kiss in curdled flower ”, she sings at the end of the play. Rita Cosentino has preferred to prioritize the surface over the background, proposing a colorful, colorful and perhaps excessively flat show in its development: both the text and the music admit a visual and dramaturgical approach with a wider path. The stage on stage also reminded Fantochines and the recent reforms made in the auditorium of the Juan March Foundation have allowed visual subtleties that were previously simply unenforceable. The presence of the actor and dancer Aaron Martin is probably unnecessary as a sort of correveidile that accentuates the comic, like silent films, that Cosentino decides to print to the work. Excellent, as usual in her, the figurines designed by the always reliable Gabriela Salaverri.

The instrumental group is located on both sides of the central stage (also in this the meters gained after the reform have been essential), covering the singers at all times. Miquel Ortega must know the score as if he had composed it himself: in fact, the orchestration of several passages is his creation. His agreement is enormously effective, although he misses in several moments - not only in the dance - a greater degree of flexibility: there are many notes to play and sing, never too many, but there are reasons to think that, with the running of the representations, It will be gained in freshness and ease. The young instrumentalists of the JONDE make a very meritorious contribution to the final result, since, as has been pointed out, Del Campo's writing is any less easy case. It is obligatory to highlight the safety and quality in their solos of the flutist Marta Femenia and the trumpeter Joel Fons. As in Fantochines, Borja Mariño's piano was a constant rosary of details of enormous musical quality.

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The instrumentalists of the JONDE, Borja Quiza and Sonia de Munck at a time of the performance.



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The instrumentalists of the JONDE, Borja Quiza and Sonia de Munck at a time of the performance.

As regards the singers, the most comfortable one seemed to feel was the baritone Gerardo Bullón (in his double role as El Mono and El Augusto), who always knew how to adapt the volume of his voice, of great quality, to the instrumental context and sang with the perfect balance between self-confidence and good sense. Borja Perhaps, like El Clon and Don Tigre, he tended, however, to sing too loudly and emphatically, something unnecessary in a small room and with the voices enveloped by the great harmonic density imagined by Conrado del Campo. Sonia de Munck raffled off the many agility he must display like The Bird, at the same time becoming the sensual woman who requires the book of Borrás. He climbed easily to the most acute Do and Re entrusted to him by the score, and it is precisely at the highest threshold of his record where his voice seems to feel more comfortable and where his color gains in attractiveness. In what the three deserve an outstanding one is in the clear diction with which they knew how to pour the text.

The hand program, as it is the house brand, acts as a perfect complement to what happens on the stage and is a must read, from beginning to end, to place in context what we see and hear, born in such distant times and even so poorly known. The Juan March Foundation (and the Teatro de la Zarzuela: it would be unfair not to mention it, since it acts as co-producer of this series right from Fantochines) has returned to rescue from oblivion, and in this case even from the limbo of not being, a work that completes and fills gaps in our musical theater, which cannot precisely afford to ignore or turn its back on works as attractive and ingenious as this magnificent Modernist experiment of Conrado del Campo and Tomás Borrás. Perhaps that republican bicolor bird is ourselves, as composer Jorge Fernández Guerra states in his hand-held program article. What seems beyond doubt is that chamber music theater, that niche product (to put it the modern way) that the March seems determined to dig up, is alive and well. At least in Castelló street in Madrid.

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