Gerónimo Giménez · Javier de
Polca by the Seashore
When we theatregoers sense that performers are having a ball and communicating their fun across the footlights, a triumph is guaranteed – in other words, “da gusto”. When the comedy is as concentrated and attractive as in the Luis Alonsos, there develops a deliciously exotic near-complete complicity between interpreters and audience, to the extent that we lose our sense of the barrier between stage and pit, between reality and illusion.
Director Santiago Sánchez has come up with an intelligent, authentic sainetero staging. Deploying minimum scenic elements he gives the sense of a spontaneous improvisation. The story unfolds in a gypsy singing-café where the Andalusians, after half an hour of variety display, are brought together in the course of the preludio of La boda. Thanks to Sue Plummer’s fabulous costumes and Rafael Mojas’ and Felix Garma’s keen lighting, little by little the spectacle gathers pace, to the point where what originally seemed ugly becomes beautiful, taking in many jests and jokes along the way.
The show pays homage to Cadiz in her songs, her carnivals - and La Tía Norica’s punch-and-judy show. The elegance of the staging concept comes precisely from having allowed that “City of Fried Fish” to become the protagonist. The libretto’s plots, more or less interesting, are of little concern what matters is Cadiz and her people – from Tinoco to María Jesús, Tarugo to Doña Manuela. For when it comes down to it, the characters are the be-all and end-all of sainete.
As for the performers, Luis Álvarez once again shows that he is one of the Grandees of Zarzuela. Perhaps his baritone is not the most vibrant for a role like this [Luis Alonso], but in spite of that he recreates faultlessly the popular Cadiz dance teacher. María Jesus is played by the young and beautiful María Macía, a promising tiple with beautiful timbre, limpid low register and compelling vocal focus. In the staging she gauged everything to a nicety, with a spice of mischief that turned the character into a much more audacious woman than the scatterbrained but faithful one drawn by Javier de Burgos. Tinoco, the cheeky guitarist, was played to perfection by Tony River. His rendition of the dúo with María Macía in El baile was, I think, the number that best raised the roof.
La boda and El baile de Luis Alonso are such ensemble works, such essential sainetes, that it’s unfair not to name the rest whether or not in secondary roles. Between them they gave life and new light to these two little-staged works, which have captivated everyone who’s dropped in over the last few days to the Calle Jovellanos theatre. Trinidad Iglesias as Doña Manuela shows once again she is the character actress par excellence. Alfonso Vallejo as Chano and Eva Diago as Picúa were María Jesús’s perfect apparent parents. José Carlos Gómez gave us a caricatured Gabrié that perhaps recalled to excess his Taburete in La mala sombra two seasons ago. Pilili was the lovely and graceful Silvia Martí. El tío Cachipuchi was played by the masterly José Luis Gago, the Marques by the comic actor and theatre director Pedro García de las Heras.
Santiago Sánchez ’s adaptation streamlines some characters to give coherence and cohesion to the two works in sequence. Whether these changes are necessary or not, the fact is that this version makes sense and works theatrically. Aside from that dúo of María Jesus and Tinoco there were other highlights that deserve to be called “memorable” - in La boda, the imaginative preludio, the gorgeous staging of the terceto and zapateado, the second scene’s impressive drop curtain painted as a Manila shawl, and the puppet representation of the bull-running scene. In El baile the lesson scene, Leticia Rodríguez’s canción de la gitana (the sensation of the evening... a magnificent singer and even better actress!) and, of course, the final with the polca by the Atlantic shore... a real coup de theatre.
Little needs to be said about the flamenco troop contracted by the Teatro de la Zarzuela which leads and gives life to Javier de Burgos’ puppets. Rosario “La Tremendita” and Johana Jiménez are two sexy cantaoras, who won applause from an audience, perhaps, better accustomed to a more lyric repertoire.
Miguel Roa ’s conducting was uneven. The results were sometimes slow, sometimes noisy, but commendably at least they did not drown out the singers at any point, which is something to be thankful for. The Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid played with unwonted ferocity. Any more of this and they’ll need to look to the health of their brass and percussionists. The Teatro de la Zarzuela Chorus showed up magnificently in its occasional appearances: the habanera, polca - and concertante of El baile, where they surpassed themselves and won a very generous ovation.
We madrileños, suffering in 35ºC of midday sun where the heat turns tar to liquid, should be thankful to the directors of the Zarzuela Theatre for ending their season with some género chico, and especially for choosing these under-valued Giménez gems which remove us, albeit over the course of three hours, via the cooling airs of Caleta, Arrecife, Barrio de la Viña... to dance a polca with Luis Alonso and his friends by the seashore. Happy summer all round!
© Enrique Mejías García 2006