paraíso de los niños
Carlos Crooke and Lorenzo Moncloa
Lorenzo Moncloa and Carlos Crooke
(Madrid, April 25 2014)
A few days ago, in the company
of my four year old granddaughter, I enjoyed an amazing staging of the zarzuela
El paraíso de los niños [The Children’s Paradise],
with music by Joaquín Valverde Sanjuan to a text by Carlos Arniches and
Sinesio Delgado. We watched hundreds of children enjoying the piece, which two
young enthusiasts for lyric theatre had adapted to attract those young people
who hopefully will soon turn into the audience regularly applauding zarzuela in
the near future.
It’s 18:30 and I am in my
beloved Café Comercial with Lorenzo Moncloa and Carlos Crooke,
so that they can tell me about the adventures behind the scenes, for this show
in which nearly a hundred people take part.
What made you want to stage the show in the spectacular
way you have?
We are people who love lyric theatre and think there
are many forgotten works that would capture the imagination of children and
young people, who may become future fans of zarzuela. We are 21st century
artists who love this genre as much as it was loved in the nineteenth century
and so we have produced our “honeymoon show” working on the
scenario in Teatro de la Zarzuela’s hands.
How did you contract with Teatro de la Zarzuela to carry
out this project?
We did a presentation to Paolo Pinamonti,
director of the Teatro de la Zarzuela, and his teaching team, about the project
which had already been shown to other well-known, major national and
international private and public bodies. Paolo and his team studied and
evaluated it, and finally approved it as part of their plans to bring lyric
theatre to children.
What was your goal?
We wanted to create a new
audience for zarzuela so that the fan base doesn’t disappear with the
changing generations. This is something which cannot be left in institutional
hands alone, and as private initiatives were missing we felt our personal ideas
might lead it to reality.
How did you choose El paraíso
de los niños?
We knew a Georgian soprano who was in
Spain writing a thesis on children’s zarzuela. She alerted us to the work
and we began to research and work on it. It’s important to add that
we’re researching other zarzuelas for children, which could be revived
for this same purpose.
How did the
creative process go?
First (Lorenzo) assessed the work and
provided some ideas, and then we agreed on which (Carlos) would introduce into
the text and sung numbers. Conceptually, changes consisted in globally adapting
the text to avoid “current problems” in the original text, such as
certain political or “macho” cultural concepts a long way from our
own world, and totally inappropriate for today’s young audiences. Of
course we updated the vocabulary to make it understandable by children. We also
smoothed out some difficult verses, to help our young viewers understand. We
actually modified the text by about 50 %. Sr. Pinamonti asked us to keep the
original idea and story and that was done, even if we’ve changed the way
of telling it. Last, we changed the words of the final number to add strength
to the end of the work.
As for the staging, he asked us to be faithful to the comic
conventions of the time and the original characters, and we did – though
lighting the show and using costumes, makeup, set design and movement from the
children’s current world. The play was designed for parents and children
early in the last century, but had to attract those of the present day. The
music followed the original, with orchestration realised by Maestro Ortega.
Pinamonti asked for a classic staging and we had to work within strict limits
to produce the show you have been enjoying. He followed the development of the
production step by step.
Why was the orchestral part the least outstanding part of
That is not our responsibility, we believe that
you must ask those responsible for producing the music about that.
Do you think this show can attract children to
We wanted to create interest, but that is not enough,
you need to keep working continuously on it. This will leave a positive
impression, helping them to remember that a piece they’d enjoyed was
called “a zarzuela”. We have started a process in which parents,
educators and cultural and educational administrations should continue to be
involved. We put ourselves at the disposal of all of them to help out. You have
to give the right “product” to every age.... Maybe you have to work
harder to get the “product” right for young people, than for those
who have ceased to be children. So for them, we prepared this specific
Is this the future of La Zarzuela?
possible, but to make it so you have to go for it, and we’ve done that.
We might hit or miss in the attempt, but we must try. It is a path we believed
in, and on which we had the support of the Teatro de la Zarzuela. El
paraíso de los niños is not our only staging in this line,
we also have another show called El zoo de la lírica which
we’ve done in various places throughout Spain, in which various zarzuela
numbers are sung and acted that relate to animals – and this also has
great appeal for children.
What do you think Carlos Arniches Carlos and Sinesio
Delgado, the authors of the script, would think of the revised text of their
They were modern in their time, and they would not want
their work to become outdated. Many librettists updated their works according
to audience reaction. Depending on the success or failure of successive
representations, they modified texts with updates and new ideas. I think they
would approve of what we have done.
Lorenzo, what do you think the authors of
El paraíso de los niños would say if you’d
suggested this staging to them?
They would be envious that they
did not have the technical and economic means of the great professionals who
enabled us to do this show.
How many people have seen your show?
2600 in person, to which we must add the fifty eight schools throughout Spain
who saw the web streaming.
But your daring does not stop there – you also have
written and produced Las leyendas de Bécquer
[The Stories of Bécquer].
Yes – we think there is a
debt owed by Spanish theatre to the poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, as has
been paid in similar cases by other countries. We wanted to pay that debt. This
is a continuation of El paraíso de los niños but for a
slightly larger public, those young people (and adults) who are interested in
those works of mystery and magic, where life and death merge, in themes that
appeal to teens.
How would you define your Leyendas de
A Spanish musical spectacular of the 21st
century, that in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries would have been called
What do you need, so that your productions can be
performed in theatres in other Spanish cities?
support. We are making “products” based on culture, and compete
with other commercial “products” at a disadvantage.
rewarding to listen to others’ ideas, especially when they are young
actors and artists who have the initiative, courage and boldness to risk all
for an idea! Zarzuela needs many people like these two. Good luck with their
initiatives, which have all our support. Lorenzo must hurry because he is
attending a play, and Carlos must pick up some sheet music from the Teatro
Real. Thanks to both for enriching our time together.
© Pedro Gomez Manzanares