Pablo Sorozábal modestly described his seventeenth stage work as “a popular sainete, aimed at the general public, conventionally Andalusian in character”, yet compared against other zarzuelas being written Entre Sevilla y Triana (premiered at Madrid’s Teatro Circo Price on April 4th 1950) does not come across as conventionally as all that. True, in many ways its well-constructed text may be seen as a pale Sevillian reflection of La del manojo de rosas, the central love-triangle surrounded by a constellation of comic types and farcical situations, though pithily penned in Andalusian dialect; but the sainete’s main theme – the right of a woman to make her own choice whether or not to publicly acknowledge the father of her child – was a daring one to tackle in Franco’s Spain. Certainly Reyes is one of Sorozábal’s most remarkable central characters, steel-strong in her determination not to marry her errant, sailor-lover unless he can prove he wants her for herself. The theme of paternity is neatly reflected in the comic subplot, based around the teasing taradiddles of Reyes’ cousin Micaela – another highly attractive role which proved one of the composer’s wife Enriqueta Serrano’s greatest triumphs.
The music itself is of superb quality, soaked in the spirit of flamenco and with flecks of ‘conventional’ Andalusian colour from guitar and castanets – the score every bit as masterfully realised orchestrally as Sorozábal’s other late zarzuelas. There are two highly effective baritone romanzas for Fernando which reveal much of his conflicted character, as well as a show-stopper for his tenor rival, a signally unsympathetic, self-pitying nonentity whom the composer humanises with surprising depth in his last scene romanza “Tú qué sabes der cariño”, familiar from the famous recording by Alfredo Kraus. Altogether this is the work of a great musical dramatist. Add a poised and dignified romanza for Reyes and two barnstorming comedy dance-numbers for Micaela and Angeliyo – not to mention the magical choral habanera for the sailors returning with mixed feelings from Cuba – and it’s hard to see why Entre Sevilla… failed to catch on more strongly. True, it has intensive scenic and personnel demands; but as the recent Teatro Arriaga (Bilbao) production demonstrated, its impact and entertainment value can be fully on a par with the composer’s better-known, pre-war masterworks.
Act One, Scene 1 – 1950, Triana. A street corner near the San Jacinto Garden, with various ramshackle dwellings, trees and shrubs, as well as a small garden, convent and tavern. Above one of the front doors is a sign: “Stockings mended”. After a brief orchestral Preludio we see the owner of the little garden, Señor Mariano attending to his pet fighting cock, his wife Seña Patro, and their niece the young stocking mender Reyes sitting behind her window grille. (No.1: Introducción “Entre Sevija y Triana”). The three hear a voice from the tavern, singing a popular song: ‘Between Sevilla and Triana there is a boat that does not know on what shore to drop anchor.’ It is an unwelcome admirer of Reyes, José María, goading her because her lover, the merchant Captain Fernando, has abandoned her and gone to sea. Reyes has been left in the lurch – and “in the club”, because during his long absence on a trip to Havana she has given birth to a son, whom the neighbours have been told is the child of her aunt and uncle. Mariano is expecting Fernando’s boat to dock that evening: will he come straight to Reyes or not? José María and his young friend Angeliyo, a sharp-tongued aspiring bullfighter, appear from the tavern, only to be patently ignored by Reyes and her relations (No.2: Escena “¡Pues sí que están serios!”) José María tries to have a reasonably polite and private word with Reyes: he hints that he wants to warn her about some bad news, whilst Angeliyo distracts the others with some flamboyant matador’s gyrations. The men leave, and Reyes reveals that José María has told her that Fernando has been writing to another woman, the flamenco singer Esperanza Moreno. Obviously stung, she goes off with her aunt to look after the baby.
Mariano flirts with their cheerful next door neighbour Isidora, until her husband, the grumpy old tram-driver nicknamed Glosopeda (“foot and mouth”) because of his propensity to cause road accidents in front and behind, comes home and stops them. After an exchange of incivilities, during which Mariano implies that Angeliyo has been hanging around Isidora in her husband’s absence, Mariano retreats to his garden. In fact the real object of Angeliyo’s loitering is Mariano’s hyper-active young daughter Micaela, who comes home from running errands. She’s hounded by the amorous bullfighter, but proves his match at banter, teasing him by telling him she’s really the daughter of ‘an English millionaire’, and refusing to cut him any slack. She tells him that she is an old-fashioned girl who dislikes the behaviour of ‘modern’ young women (No.3 Farruca: “Las mositas de estos tiempos”).
Her father appears carrying his fishing tackle: he’s going down to the docks to see what’s going on, and warns his daughter to steer clear of Angeliyo. José María comes out of the tavern, and Micaela sarcastically pretends to flirt with him before a hubbub arrests their attention. Angeliyo bolts away, having been threatened by the jealous Glosopeda with a tram-rail, as the laughing Micaela goes into her house.
As José María goes back towards the tavern he sees Esperanza arriving. He warns her to be careful, but she calls up to Reyes who duly appears at her window. The women face up to one another, joined by the bellicose Seña Patro and Micaela, who tries to calm her mother down. Esperanza boasts to Reyes that Fernando is now her lover, and leaves laughing. José María triumphantly asks Reyes whether he was wrong to warn her, but retreats to the tavern under a verbal fusillade from Seña Patro. Isadora and the neighbours appear to enjoy the gossip, making it clear to Reyes that they know precisely what is going on. She once again dismisses José María, and though on the edge of tears reaffirms her faith in Fernando (No.3 Bis: “El barco de mis quereres”) as the scene changes to….
Act One, Scene 2 – A dock at the port of Sevilla, with views of the river, the Triana bridge and the Torre del Oro. A gangplank leads to the deck of a large steam yacht. Señor Mariano is fishing off the quay, and observing the sailors disembarking from the steamboat, glad to be home to their beloved city and girlfriends once again (No.4: Coro (Habanera) “De La Habana hemos venido”). Reyes, her aunt and cousin appear – Micaela still stalked by the persistent Angeliyo, who hides behind a pile of logs – and ask Mariano whether Fernando has been seen. Reyes warns her aunt not to mention a word about the child: she needs Fernando to want for herself, and not take her out of a cold sense of duty. Mariano sends the women off: he will let them know when Fernando turns up. Meanwhile he amuses himself by taunting Angeliyo who comes out of hiding, only to be frightened by the sudden arrival of a confused Glosopeda, who is in turn unsure which of the two men has really been canoodling with his wife. Mariano and Angeliyo leave smartly, with the aggrieved tram-driver in dogged pursuit.
Fernando comes down the gangplank with the yacht’s owner, the middle-aged Swedish millionaire Olden (who speaks perfectly correct Spanish with just a trace of an accent). Fernando greets his beloved city in an impassioned address (No.5: Entrada de Fernando “¡Dios te salve, Sevilla!”) which Olden, who visited the city twenty years ago, cannot really comprehend. Fernando greets the returning Mariano warmly, and tentatively asks after Reyes, whilst quietly admitting to Olden that he’s no longer sure how he feels about her. But when Esperanza appears he embraces her warmly, introducing her to the boat owner as his fiancée. ‘One of his fiancées, at least’, laughs the flamenco dancer – with a pointed glance towards Mariano as she leaves with her lover for a stroll through La Sierpe, Sevilla’s famous up-market shopping street. Olden laughs: “Sailors have one in every port”, as Reyes and the other women return, just in time to see the retreating couple. Reyes tells the sympathetic Swede the true state of affairs, swearing him also to secrecy. Left alone, she pours out her heart while expressing her strength of purpose: her love for her baby is more important than the father’s treachery (No.6: Romanza “Un hijo de mi arma”.)
Act Two – Scene 1. The Triana street corner at night, three days later. Mariano’s garden is festooned with Venetian lanterns and bunting to celebrate the Cruz de Mayo Fiesta. We hear the sound of guitars, castanets and voice singing from the tavern (No.7 Bis: “Y yo le digo, nene”.) José María needles Reyes for appearing alone at the Fiesta, but is once again put in his place by her – and mocked mercilessly by Micaela, who is in high spirits and offers to dance with him if he’ll go back into the tavern. Reyes goes into her house and shuts the door, just as Fernando appears with Olden. The Swede gives Micaela some money ‘for the Cruz’ and she calls out her relatives and all the neighbours to dance and play Sevillanas for the ‘rich Englishman’, soon joined by the ubiquitous Angeliyo in an exhilarating Zorongo (No.8: Sevillanas y Zorongo “La perdisión de mi casa”).
José María tries to stop Fernando approaching Reyes’ house, claiming that he is her protector. Reyes opens her door before a confrontation can occur, and Olden sweeps everyone back to the Fiesta so that Fernando can talk with her alone. She bitterly taunts him for neglecting her, and in an edgy duet (No.9: Dúo [Tiempo de panaderos] “Desde ayer estoy buscando”) he tries to soften her disdain for his behaviour, which he now regrets. He gently reminds her of how beautiful their love was, under the silver Sevillian moon, but she refuses to believe his remorseful protestations and goes back angrily into the house. Olden and Micaela discuss the situation, and when Angeliyo overhears him laughingly saying that he could be her father, she teases the gullible and confused bullfighter by once again playing up to the joke. Angeliyo convinces the jealous Glosopeda that the ‘Englishman’ may be too interested in Isadora, and questions the baffled and hurt Mariano: does he know that Olden is Micaela’s real father?
Esperanza has come to the Fiesta looking for Fernando, whom she sees coming out of the tavern with Olden, followed by Micaela and her mother. There is a spat between the women, but when Esperanza tries to sweep Fernando away, he pushes her away. She angrily blurts out the secret that he has a son: does he know that three months ago Reyes gave birth to a child? She flaunts away; and watched by all and sundry, Fernando bangs repeatedly and fruitlessly on the door, as Reyes sings her refrain to their baby son (No.9 Bis: “¿Qué importa que no yeve?”) and the curtain falls.
Act Two – Scene 2. Five o’clock the following afternoon. A shady, leafy esplanade near the Maestranza bullring, with a small drinks cabin. Angeliyo tells Fernando and Olden about the next day’s corrida, but admits that his bullfighting experience is… well, limited. He works as a waiter – and in fact he has no practical experience as a torero at all. He goes into the cabin to fetch drinks. Olden asks Fernando: does he really want marriage? Yes he does, despite the fact that for so long he’d thought Reyes was just ‘One more’ to add to his list of affairs, something has changed within him (No.11: Romanza “¡Una más!”)
Olden has invited all his new friends to meet here for a glass of manzanilla before the boat sets sail once again. Mariano appears, in mourning for his fighting cock Almanzor, ‘The General Montgomery of Roosters’ who’s been killed fighting over a hen. Women are a curse! Fernando offers his deepest sympathy, and goes off to look for Reyes whilst the others enter the cabin. Angeliyo bumps into Isidora and Glosopeda, who tells his wife to say nothing to this “Englishman”: when Olden invites them in for drinks, the tram-driver tells him in dignified manner that though he may be English, this is not a colony where he can treat women as he likes. Baffled by such weird Sevillian civilities, he asks Angeliyo to help him out, but the wannabe bullfighter compounds confusion by asking the boat owner whether he will take ‘his daughter’ and himself to America. Mariano pops up to ask Olden the same question about ‘his daughter’. Just as the penny drops with the Swede, Micaela herself appears and charmingly asks all three to forgive her – which of course they do. She meekly accepts poor Angeliyo as her fiancée, and Olden gives permission for them to sail with him, so that the bullfighter can at least realise his dream of being ‘married at sea’. All four celebrate, in a spirited pasodoble packed full of naval double-entendres (No.12: Pasodoble torero y náutico “Me caso en la mar salada”).
Esperanza appears with José María, both in deep gloom. He feels humiliated by what happened at the Fiesta, and is looking to settle matters with Fernando. Esperanza tries to understand why José María is feeling so bad, telling him that one woman is much like another, but in a passionate solo, he tells her that she cannot possibly understand the depth of his feeling (No.13 Romanza: “Tú qué sabes der cariño”.) Esperanza wheedles him into the tavern for a drink. Olden reappears with Reyes and her aunt, whom he has brought to the cabin in hope of effecting a reunion between the lovers; but Angeliyo stops them entering the cabin, telling them there’s danger brewing. Fernando arrives, but Reyes says she’s only come to say goodbye for good, and refuses to drink with him. At this moment Esperanza and José María – already the worse for wear – start eavesdropping at the cabin door. Reyes accuses Fernando of coming here to see Esperanza, and he in turn demands to know why Reyes did not tell him they had a son. Before she can answer José María launches himself at the hapless Captain, and they go off to fight. Reyes understands Esperanza’s part in all this, but runs after Fernando fearing for his life. A few moments later Angeliyo reappears with a black eye, having separated the rivals. Fernando, a little dishevelled but in one piece, comes back with Reyes. The shock has made her realise how much she needs Fernando, not just for herself, but as a father for her child. Although Fernando is set to sail away again, her ‘ship’ has indeed finally made it to port (No.14: Final “El barco de mis quereres”).