The zarzuela chica we enjoyed so much in this fresh, new production is – according to its author’s description – a genuine “disparate… cómico-lírico” (“lyric-comedy absurdity”,) but this meant with the best construction. Chapí and Estremera tack together a zany story with graceful talent, and musical content no less zany, combining (in the dúo for Paca and her old-fashioned chorister-father Don Tadeo) popular “flamenco” with solemn sacred music, and parodying many works of the “Classical Masters”.
This singular musical mosaic can function also as an educational game; and that is what, in all likelihood, has prompted the Management in Calle Jovellanos to choose this piece – sponsored jointly with the Fundación Caja de Madrid – for its first production aimed specifically at children, through special daytime shows for schoolchildren and Sunday family matinees. A laudable initiative which has had good drawing power from the start, judging by the massive influx of children, parents and grandparents on this autumn Sunday morning.
Natalia Menéndez and her team have cunningly devised a great visual spectacle to get through to the young and not-so-young alike. Through projections and panels they create a setting at once virtual and real to serve the story; intelligent lighting and hilarious costumes add to the effect by providing an evocative sense of fantasy. The marvellous choreography from a cohort of animals stuffed into fracs, deeply in the spirit of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which Overture opened proceedings, and of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (likewise quoted by Chapí) plays a key role in getting matters on stage across. Good direction of the performers is another important element among the many retailed and co-ordinated by the attentive Menéndez.
The music is perhaps the least of it. Or at least Teatro de la Zarzuela has taken that line, limited by orchestral budgets to a small instrumental group. That is why composer/arranger Juan José Colomer has made a reduced score from the rich original. That loss apart, which limits one of Chapí’s most remarkable virtues, conductor Lorenzo Ramos failed to instil discipline amongst his fourteen players and they have not studied their lessons well – most noticeably in the solo passages, especially from the strings. The contribution of the three vocal soloists was marked by good acting and singing style, enhanced by excellent diction, which added to the sense of the staging. Alongside the Happy Ending with its union between popular music and high culture (crowned by the Wedding March!), comes the joyful triumph of good theatre with music, in a staging which is an education in itself.
© Ignacio Jassa Haro 2008
Música clásica (disparate
cómico-lírico en un acto). Cast: Augusto Val (Don
Tadeo); Cristina Faus (Paca); Francisco Sánchez (Cucufate); Orquesta de
la Comunidad de Madrid; Alfonso Barajas (design); Fernando Ayuste (lighting);
María Araujo (costumes); Mónica Runde (choreography); Mariona
Omedes (projections); Antonio Mingote (graphic design); Natalia Menéndez
(d.); Lorenzo Ramos (c.); Juan José Colomer (musical
27 October 2008