Giorgio Busato and Augusto Ferri: backcloth for El molinero de Subiza (1870), Museo Nacional del Teatro, Almagro
Two revivals, two ways

El día de Reyes (Manuel Moncayo / Manuel Penella)
3-4 January 2008
Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Madrid

El molinero de Subiza (Luis de Eguilaz / Cristóbal Oudrid)
12 January 2008
Teatro Francisco Rabal, Pinto (Madrid)

review by   Enrique Mejías García

In the space of two weeks Madrid saw two very different revivals of forgotten zarzuelas. Despite differences in their starting points and the zarzuelas’ very nature, it makes sense to write about both together when the performers and producers involved in the two projects were practically the same – that is, the Marco-Font-Moncloa family.

Two revivals, with what different results…!

El día de Reyes, produced by Ópera Nova Producciones, is a new find from the género ínfimo, with all that implies … machicha, pasodoble, chotis, mazurca… general delirium! The work of the very young Manuel Penella shows profligate grace and inspiration on all sides. Manuel Moncayo’s text offers juicy stage possibilities, but it must be admitted that these were not El dia de Reyes (Penella)entirely taken by pretending to offer a version of the work for children and underplaying the more thorny aspects. However, there was compliance with the Politically Incorrect spirit of the work and its kind; and neither King Juan Carlos, nor Zapatero, nor the mayor of Madrid (Gallardón), nor Mariano Rajoy (leader of the rightwing opposition) got away unmolested from Don Nicanor’s pointed cuplés políticos.

The charm of this delicious work was not diminished by performances perhaps somewhat homely on the acting front but magnificently sung. This efficient ensemble are all worth a mention: lovers Mario Villoria and Aurora Frías, the succulent female terceto of Hevila Cardeña, Amanda Serna and Gleisy Lovillo, and those three incredible coves Carlos Crooke, Lorenzo Moncloa – and Carlos Pardo, who also directed. Conductor Montserrat Font Marco joyfully inspired a mini-orchestra of about fifteen musicians, not to mention the children and adults who flooded back out into a Madrid once again recharged with the magical gaiety of that género ínfimo we’re so hungry to devour again.

El molinero de Subiza provided quite different food for thought. It’s a heroic zarzuela romántica about noble knights and delicate ladies in 12th century Navarre, evoking the grandeur and beauty of the canvasses of Moreno Carbonero accompanied by the elevated melodies of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots and the “aristocratic” marches of Verdi’s Nabucco and I Lombardi. For all its French and Italian seasonings, in the highest tradition of romantic zarzuela it’s in search of authentically nationalist musical drama. In all honesty I’d best say straight away that the court grandeurs and technical difficulties of such a piece proved a great mountain for the Compañía Lírica Dolores Marco to climb.

In their innovative Calipso-El joven Telémaco (Pedro Víllora’s version directed by Ángel Roger) the same company managed to re-invent the género bufo for a 21st century audience. For this production of El molinero de Subiza stage director Mariano Feria attempted to present just the opposite – 19th century zarzuela for an audience of 19th century mentality. What is so tricky about the classics? El molinero dates from 1870 and Telémaco from 1866, both classics, both unknown. It is not the romantic genre, nor the libretto of El molinero that’s outdated – anything but, showing a poetic finesse and dramatic subtlety worthy to compare with a Duke of Rivas. It’s the perspective that failed, the approach that was wrong.

Few rehearsals, ropey design, poor delivery of the verse. To be fair, this was the first night and it’s likely that when the staging settles it may prove more polished and effective. There’s nothing much to be said either against the historical accuracy and beauty of Cornejo’s romanesque apparel, or the more or less interesting narrative background projections, but these few husks on the threshing floor weren’t enough to save El molinero.

Cristobal Oudrid What eventually sunk a balloon that took off well and deflated as you watched was the music. It should be a crime to attempt works of this scale with an orchestra of twelve and only four strings, all of them violins. Audibly bad tuning, poor pit-stage coordination, outrageous cuts in the score, a starved chorus of eight … it is sad to go on about stuff like this, but when Oudrid and the memory of his Molinero de Subiza come out worse for wear, it has to be said.

In conclusion I must point to the work of Enrique Ruiz del Portal, always good but on this occasion his art was not harnessed securely; of Carlos Crooke, sympathetic as the chronicler Langustino; and amongst the nobles Mario Villoria’s Pelegrín Castellezuelo, Mario Rodrigo’s Melendo and Ricardo Muñiz ’s Rotrón. As for the two protagonists, I’ll highlight Hevila Cardeña’s efficiency and pass lightly over Carlos Pardo, decidedly out of place as Gonzalo.

Harsh words on El molinero de Subiza, sure – but maybe they’ll prove a spur to encourage Compañía Lírica Dolores Marco to improve what’s wrong, and mend the good work they started in summer of 2006 with their unforgettable Calipso. They know how to do it: that’s why we expect a lot from them.

© Enrique Mejías García 2008
translation © Christopher Webber

El día de Reyes , skit in one act. Text: Manuel Moncayo. Music: Manuel Penella. Cast: Rosita – Aurora Frías; Juanito – Mario Villoria; Bartolo – Carlos Pardo; Luisa – Hevila Cardeña; Pepe – Lorenzo Moncloa; Toribio – Carlos Crooke; Carmen – Amanda Serna; Concha – Gleisy Lovillo. Orquesta de Cámara Ópera Nova; Montserrat Font Marco (c.); Carlos Pardo (d.); Isabel García ( design and lighting); Amelia Font ( costume); Aurora Frías, Montserrat Font, Carlos Pardo ( choreography); new production by Ópera Nova.

El molinero de Subiza , zarzuela histórico-romanesca in three acts. Text: Luis de Eguilaz. Music: Cristóbal Oudrid. Cast: Gonzalo – Carlos Pardo; Guillén Rotrón – Ricardo Muñiz; Blanca – Hevila Cardeña; Don Gil – Enrique Ruiz del Portal; Melendo – Mario Rodrigo; Maese Langustino – Carlos Crooke; Vasco – Enrique del Portal; Pelegrín Castellezuelo – Mario Villoria; Pedro Tizón – Raúl de Tomás; Abad – Gerardo Bullón; Hermano Galindo – Narciso Tenorio. Orquesta de Cámara; Montserrat Font Marco (c.); Mariano Feria (d.);   Iván Olivares ( tailoring); Isabel García/ Operastudio ( projections); Cornejo, S.A. ( costumes); new production by Ópera Nova.

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24 January 2008