¡Ay, amor!

Lola Casariego as Salud (Teatro de la Zarzuela)

El amor brujo
Music: Manuel de Falla
Text: the Martínez Sierras
La vida breve
Music: Manuel de Falla
Text: Carlos Fernández Shaw

Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid
21 September 2012

¡Ay, amor… ay, Pinamonti!
Una crítica de Miccone

The starting gun has been fired for a new era at  Teatro de la Zarzuela: the Pinamonti era. The artistic director has finished rending his garments to appease some of the more obtuse subscribers (“an Italian in Jovellanos!”), and has instead rendered his heart to “All Madrid” with one of his most personal and dearly loved projects: ¡Ay, amor! directed by the late Herbert Wernicke, first seen in dim and distant 1995. After its progress through auditoriums such as La Monnaie in Brussels and Lisbon’s San Carlos, this double bill of El amor brujo and La vida breve comes to La Zarzuela to inaugurate the 2012-13 season – without zarzuela, to be sure, and I can only regret that the dramaturge did not opt to risk a more genuine or original choice of repertoire. Falla, Turina, Granados... not bad composers, but the fact is that these days you’ll search in vain for more evocative names such as Oudrid, Breton or Vives.

El amor brujo (Teatro de la Zarzuela 2012)Despite that it’s hard not to admit the impeccable aesthetic charms of Ay, amor!, to which the passage of time has been kind. Its poetic symbolist concept, closely linked with the iconology of Julio Romero de Torres, is very much of the Nineties in style and mood. The inclined plane of the schematized set, although too cumbersome to allow proper room for Natalia Ferrándiz’s choreography in El amor brujo, helps to accentuate the compositional peaks and plains of La vida breve. So I’ve no doubt that in ¡Ay, amor! the opera beats the ballet by a country mile. The split casting of the character of Candelas as a dancer (Ferrándiz herself) and a singer (Esperanza Fernández) goes against the narrative intensity of the Martínez Sierras’ scenario; nor does the PA system help with its harsh and unnatural amplified sound.

La vida breve (Teatro de la Zarzuela 2012)After the alien hallucination of Wernicke’s El amor brujo, something very different happens in his Vida breve. Perhaps the key lies in the scrupulous artistic integrity of the entire team led by Lola Casariego. From start to finish her Salud is flawless: starting from “Vivan los que ríen” she grows to a giant treading the boards, feeling the character as her own in every fiber (and semi-quaver) of her being. Milagros Martín’s Grandmother confirms the new targets she set herself in El Gato Montés, a characterful future as the mother or aunty all zaruela baritones will want to have. Alongside her Enrique Baquerizo as Uncle Sarvaor also assumes the mantle of maturity. His interpretation, though not especially lustrous vocally, was amply sustained by highly emotive acting. Finally the Paco of José Ferrero was excellently sweet (notably bright in the melodic lines of the duet), but regrettably – like so many Tenors – he is unable to convey his emotions plausibly.

A line should be reserved for  the Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, conducted this time by the renowned Juanjo Mena [ed. Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester]. It’s been said many times, but when this Orchestra wants to do it, it can. I must particularly point out the intensity and accuracy of La vida breve, since El amor brujo used the 1915 chamber version, as a “gypsy entertainment” with frankly mixed results. Another clear winner in ¡Ay, amor! is the Coro del Teatro de la Zarzuela directed by Antonio Fauró. We always seem to give them special mention; but this time, what’s notable is their theatrical restraint and discipline in following the instructions of the staging’s director Wendelin Lang.

I must finish by highlighting two juicy bits of news about this new era at La Zarzuela. First, the good news that the sale of libretti with articles and full texts of the works has resumed. The last was Hangman, hangman! / The town of greed in 2007, five years ago. In addition, each performance will – as in so many prestigious lyric theatres – feature an informal 15-minute pre-talk to audience members wishing to learn about different aspects of the works or the productions. No bad, eh? ¡Ay, Pinamonti... keep up this good work!

© “Miccone” and zarzuela.net 2012
Translation © Christopher Webber

Ay Amor¡AY, AMOR! El amor brujo, La vida breve (de Falla) Cast: CANDELAS (cantaora) Esperanza Fernández, CANDELAS (bailaora) Natalia Ferrándiz, SALUD Lola Casariego (21, 23, 28, 30 September, 5, 7, 10, 17 y 19 October), María Rodríguez (22, 27, 29 September, 3, 6, 12, 14 y 20 October), LA ABUELA Milagros Martín, CARMELA Ruth Iniesta, VENDEDORA PRIMERA Milagros Poblador, VENDEDORA SEGUNDA Mª Elena García, VENDEDORA TERCERA Julia Arellano, PACO José Ferrero (21, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30 September, 3, 6, 7, 10 October) Andrés Veramendi (22 September, 5, 12, 14, 17, 19 y 20 October), EL TÍO SARVAOR Enrique Baquerizo, EL CANTAOR José Ángel Carmona, MANUEL Josep-Miquel Ramón, UNA VOZ EN LA FRAGUA Gustavo Peña, LA VOZ DE UN VENDEDOR Ignacio del Castillo, UNA VOZ LEJANA Javier Ferrer. Director, design and costumes - Herbert Wernicke, realised by Wendelin Lang, Lighting - Hermann Münzer, Choreography - Natalia Ferrándiz. Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid Titular del Teatro de la Zarzuela, Coro del Teatro de la Zarzuela (d. Antonio Fauró), c. Juanjo Mena (21, 22, 23 September, 3, 5, 6, 7 October), Guillermo García Calvo (27, 28, 29, 30 September, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19 y 20 October)

en español
Lola Casariego (zarzuela.net)
Milagros Martín (zarzuela.net)