They’ve waited more than seventy years, but at last they’re shining again. Indeed it may seem surprising that Madrid hasn’t seen Los diamantes de la corona (“The Crown Diamonds”) since the lost Teatro Fontalba de la Gran Vía staged the work in 1939. Here in the 21st century it’s to be seen at Teatro de la Zarzuela, but with the feeling that the audience has travelled back through time to attend a performance at the Teatro Circo in 1854. Close your eyes … and open them again to be transported into the magical, almost fairytale world that José Carlos Plaza has designed for these Diamantes, a staging that in its traditional, period charm has managed to break the mould and put the Teatro de la Zarzuela once again in the vanguard. No doubt his success has been to coordinate work of his collaborators, Pedro Moreno for the exquisite costumes, and Francisco Leal for the acclaimed settings inspired by classical models of Ferri, Soler Rovirosa, Busato, Ciceri and Percier.
Although opera has already been field testing this kind of resurrected nineteenth-century theatrical pomp (think of the celebrated Aida at the Liceu), Plaza’s delicious craft with Los diamantes de la corona is completely unprecedented in the world of zarzuela. Tired by quasi-affluent or half-hearted flirtations with contemporary stagings, perhaps the audience is eager to sit up and watch concepts which – though primarily classical – are impeccable in artistic and theatrical effectiveness. And you can’t pick holes in it: Los diamantes is a fairy tale with a happy ending, the story of an outlaw queen suspended between the charm of Auber’s opéra-comique and a new Hispanic model named, at Barbieri's own whim, “zarzuela”.
Perhaps these Teatro de la Zarzuela Diamantes will appeal more to operaphiles than traditional zarzueleros. That would be a pity, because probably the theatre’s advertising strategies have not been most appropriate for this sort of staging. Audiences at the Teatro Real (where they’ve not had a staging such as this for at least ten years) would enjoy this production and Barbieri’s sequence of ensembles, duets, arias and romanzas – which incidentally have been well put across by the first cast, divas Carmen González and Lola Casariego, tenor Carlos Cosías, bufo baritone Fernando Latorre and Antonio Ordóñez as a sensational Conde de Campomayor. Cristóbal Soler’s musical direction has proved well up to a staging of this resonance, although the cuts in the cabaletta repeats are to be regretted.
Our London Editor Christopher Webber will describe the production in detail when he visits Madrid later this month, evaluate the two casts and share his thoughts about this exceptional artistic presentation. Meanwhile this is a taster of how things are going in Calle Jovellanos. I stress: this is an invitation you cannot refuse.
© Enrique Mejías García 2010
Los diamantes de la
corona (Music: Francisco Asenjo Barbieri, text: Francisco
4th May 2010