24 horas mintiendo
Living and working in England, opportunities to visit Madrid are relatively limited. 24 horas mintiendo was high on the wish list, but my diary dictated I couldn’t go over to catch the show live. So how thoughtful of Teatro de la Zarzuela to kindly stream the last night of the 2017-18 season on Facebook Live in high definition video. Personal convenience aside, this was a wonderful invitation to offer the wider world, to show off Madrid’s most congenial theatre and Alonso’s miraculous revue. Over 42,000 connections were made, so the total audience must have been considerably larger than that.
As the live feed began a few minutes before curtain up and continued through the interval – which featured genial, smiling interviews with audience and cast members, as well as with Daniel Bianco, the theatre’s director during this politically momentous year – the sense of ‘being there’ was tangible. Quite aside from the celebratory, ‘last night’ atmosphere, I suppose the air of relaxation reflected relief that the theatre will after all not be subject to the threatened ‘hostile takeover’ from Teatro Real. It was remarkably easy to slide into feeling physically involved, not least as London temperatures on Saturday night were quite as stifling as in Madrid!
As to the production, I found Antonio Díaz-Casanova’s full review pretty much on the money. Perhaps the younger performers had settled better into the style by the end of the run, or perhaps microphones levelled the field, because I didn’t feel a huge gulf between their skills and the honed vaudeville talents of more senior cast members. Both daughters (Estibaliz Martyn and Nuria Pérez) came across with strong personality, as did the be-quiffed and neatly characterised Ricardo of Joselu López.
On the down side, video close-ups exposed Enrique Viana, whose Amo Lolo came across as a dead-behind-the-eyes refugee from 1980s Almodóvar, out of style and only feebly engaged with the rest of the company. He perked up briefly during an extended solo spot towards the end of Act 1 (half way through Alonso’s catchy Cuban-style pregón), with some teasing references to the internet and Facebook Live plus panto-style badinage with conductor Carlos Aragón. Having cast a drag queen in a female role, it seemed perverse to have Viana play most of it in semi-male attire, but presumably this boosted box-office, and the fans were audibly enjoying his performance more than I did.
Jesús Castejon’s occasionally untidy production made up in generous spirit what it lacked in precision, though those impressive singing-farceurs Ángel Ruiz and Gurutze Beitia provided plenty of precision too. Caveats aside, the show gave great pleasure, and crucially succeeded in making sure that Alonso’s score communicated across the footlights as it must. Despite the lack of saxophones, the links with pre-war Gershwin revue registered strongly; though where the American would have banked on maybe a couple of show-stopping tunes, the Spaniard comes up with at least four. But no surprise there, as Alonso is much the superior composer.
Technically the streaming went fairly smoothly, for this watcher at least. The Spanish subtitles didn’t arrive for a while, and I briefly lost the feed early in Act 2, but who’s complaining? Video direction was unobtrusive, catching just about everything important and only needing to resort to long shots in the bigger choreographic set pieces. Sound was full, rich and clear. Most of the time I forgot I was watching the computer screen, which is exactly how things should be (but rarely are.) All in all, this was a tremendously effective initiative, which I hope – given customary contractual complications – Teatro de la Zarzuela will be able to repeat. ¡Muchas gracias!
© Christopher Webber and zarzuela.net, 2018