To outside observers Teatro de la Zarzuela’s current season has looked like a slow motion car crash. With the exception of the upcoming production of Boccherini's La clementina there has been just one full-length zarzuela staging – a revival of the excellent Los diamantes de la corona from 2010, which was nominated this time round for an International Opera Award. Just as well, because the only awards likely to be picked up by the other stagings of this ill-starred season would be wooden spoons. The filleting of Alonso’s, full-length Luna de miel en el Cairo, shorn of its original dialogue and patronised by its director as a concert in costume (especially when the other half of this badly conceived double-bill, Gershwin’s Lady be Good, was at least treated with integrity) added insult to injury; whilst the earlier cancellation for financial reasons of the promised concert performance of Vives’s Maruxa, which was to have opened the season – though the later 'semi-staged' concerts of La dogaresa and La Marchenera will take place as planned – put a preliminary nail in the coffin of a season which, frankly, is best laid to rest.
We all make mistakes. Judging from his announced plans for 2015-16, Teatro de la Zarzuela’s director Paolo Pinamonti seems to tacitly acknowledge that he dropped an almighty clanger last time around. The new season represents an astonishing volte-face, and offers a great feast in prospect of ... well … zarzuela! There are also strong, Spanish and international operatic and dance components, as well as the now-traditional Christmas Concert and an evening of Charlie Chaplin films with orchestral accompaniment.
The season begins (October 2015) intriguingly with Barbieri’s Galanteos en Venecia in its first revival since 1853. Not one of the full-length Barbieri works which one might have expected, and all the better for that, it is in admirably safe hands, with Cristóbal Soler and Paco Mir in charge of the music and staging. Then in November-December comes a revival of Amelia Ochandiano’s 2010 production of La del soto del parral (generally welcomed by the late Richard Traubner on zarzuela.net) and in February 2016 – surely the most exciting prospect of all – the long-overdue stage premiere of Pablo Sorozábal’s magnificent late opera Juan José. Conducted (six years after its concert premiere triumphs in Donostia and Madrid) by Miguel Ángel Gómez Martínez and directed by José Carlos Plaza (previously responsible for this season’s good deed in a naughty world, Los diamantes de la corona) the title-role is entrusted to the Tarragona baritone Àngel Òdena.
Supporters of baroque opera will be much cheered by the mouth-watering inclusion (March) of a double bill of stage works by Sebastián Durón, the one-act opera La guerra de los gigantes and the two-act zarzuela El imposible mayor en amor, le vence amor, with casts including the leading French soprano Vivica Genaux and the Cappella Mediterranea under Leonardo García Alarcón. Then in April comes the world premiere of an opera in traditional style (with music by the record-producer and songwriter Antoni Parera Fons) based on the life of the librarian and lexicographer María Moliner. Although “just” a two-hander for singers María José Montiel and Gabriel Bermúdez, it still features full orchestra and chorus under the baton of Víctor Pablo Pérez. Paco Azorín will direct. The season (May-June) finishes with a double bill of género chico revistas, the inevitable La gran vía and El año pasado por agua, in new productions by Miguel del Arco.
Aside from the inevitable incursions of the two, national ballet companies (one of which – the Ballet Nacional – hasn’t even bothered to say what it will be performing in June-July 2016!) and the 22nd Song Recital cycle (a tired-looking selection of fading has-beens, with a few genuine current stars thrown in), the most interesting supporting events are taking place outside Teatro de la Zarzuela itself. Three tonadillas by Blas de Laserna (January), and an April double-bill with piano of two short operas – Stravinsky’s Mavra and Julio Gómez’s El pelele – promise happy times at the Fundación Juan March. The Singing School hosts an intriguing dance-pantomime double-bill (Feburary), of Manuel de Falla’s El corregidor y la molinera (later transmuted into the London ballet The Three-cornered Hat) preceded by a total rarity – Pablo Luna’s El sapo enamorado. But why not in the Teatro itself? A week after the run of Juan José, surely this would have been technically possible? Then in March at Universidad Carlos III comes the last of the operas: Pinocchio by the contemporary Italian composer Pierangelo Valtinoni (in a Spanish version Pinocho by Pablo Valdés Sánchez). Written around 2000, this opera – one for all the family – has enjoyed solid success at Berlin’s Komische Opera and elsewhere, and it looks another good choice. With 53 roles director Guillermo Amaya will have his work cut out, though the University’s smallish stage will be perfect for the opera’s chamber scoring.
Altogether, then, this is a varied and imaginative programme which covers most of the bases. Given the – entirely justified – restoration of another forgotten work from the 1850’s, we might feel that once again Teatro de la Zarzuela is not doing its duty by género chico: a revival of two very popular works in one double-bill seems to be selling zarzuela’s most distinctive repertoire decidedly short. Yet there has to be space for the classics of the repertoire, as well as the novelties. We might regret the holes in the schedule caused by the national ballet companies (can’t they go somewhere else?) and the total loss of the Zarzuelas in Concert initiative which started so promisingly in 2013-14, but was the first thing to be truncated in 2014-15. Yet it would be churlish to deny the appeal of the operatic elements – pre-eminently Juan José – as a token of Teatro de la Zarzuela’s commitment to Spanish music theatre, and world music theatre in Spanish.
We might guess that the aficionados will be well pleased by the new season plans. They certainly should be. Pinamonti has, against the odds, managed to increase his budget for the season, despite the pressures of the economic crisis. Perhaps the City Fathers realised that another season like the skimpy, current one simply would not wash with their Madrid constituents. Our only fear, is that more budgetary cuts might result in the curtailment of what seems a rounded and far-sighted 2015-16 programme. Let us cross everything that it goes ahead as planned, and wish Teatro de la Zarzuela a deserved change of fortune. After the famine comes the feast. (CW)
© Editorial zarzuela.net 2015