Dear Mr. Webber,
I have abandoned my beloved Venice for a few days, and am writing you this letter today (Monday) from Madrid, resting from a surfeit of zarzuela. Of real zarzuela – the kind that is in short supply these days. Last Saturday I went to the theatre in Calle Jovellanos to enjoy the new production of Los gavilanes, directed by Mario Gas, and still feel emotional about it! You will agree with me, that when reading the librettos of Ramos Martín (son of the great Ramos Carrión) we usually conclude that they are bad theatre: cardboard characters, poorly-developed dramaturgy and impoverished scenes, strung together with the sole excuse of providing the composer with musical situations. But how this perception can change, when an intelligent (I repeat: intelligent) stage director has the skill to read between the lines of texts such as those of La alsaciana, La montería, or the work we are dealing with here.
For ‘his’ Gavilanes, Mario Gas has staged … Los gavilanes! Which, in this day and age, is quite an audacity. One senses not only an interest in text and music, but a real taste for 1920s zarzuela with all its ways. Gas invites us to take an uncomplicated journey through time, by directing the performers in a way that manages to bring out the best in this work: its emotion. In every musical number we see a classical scenic-choreographic unity that, conventional as it is, seems avant-garde today. The dialogue, impeccably rehearsed, freed from ad-libs and repetitions, made us understand that these librettos (supposedly ‘bad’ to fools like me) are almost Pirandellian theatre.
In reality, Gas doesn’t take Los gavilanes too ‘seriously’. For him – quite logically – it’s a puppet show, an almost childish fable which a hundred years later continues to bombard the audience’s heart, supported by a score in which Guerrero also plays the ‘old zarzuela’ card a la Marina (the libretto indicates a setting in 1845), crossed with certain touches of modern operetta. Ezio Frigerio’s set design evokes Feininger’s paintings in projected canvases that make me think of Joaquín Benavente’s ‘shed for the old farce’. Franca Squarziapino’s super-colourful costumes, in Roaring Twenties flavour, invited me not to forget that this was ‘once upon a time’.
I can’t go on too long, so I’ll just say a few lines about the performers: What great comedians! Lander Iglesias and Esteve Ferrer made a cartoon Clariván and Triquet. Trinidad Iglesias is luxury casting who should be seen much more (much, much more!!!) at Teatro de la Zarzuela. Enrique Baquerizo found his metier as a character actor years ago – terrific! As for the leads in this second cast, Alejandro del Cerro adorned as always his emotive role, Leonor Bonilla was a delightful Rosaura, Sandra Ferrández a convincing Adriana (no mean feat!), and Javier Franco was a more than adequate ‘indiano’, particularly in the tango and dialogue.
Lest we forget: maestro Jordi Bernacer conducted with real gusto, although there were certain mismatches between pit and stage, which I hope will be straightened out in future performances. We don’t know if it’s his responsibility, but due to the current mania for staging zarzuelas without intervals, the chorus at the start of the third act has been cut – what a pity! Besides, a break between the first and second acts is psychologically very necessary, for the audience to come to terms with the passage of time, and to better understand Juan’s change of heart towards Rosaura.
I hope you get to Madrid very soon, Mr. Webber. Me, I’m off back to Venice!
P.S.: Have you seen the pre-show talk by our colleague Mario Lerena on La Zarzuela’s YouTube channel? Don’t miss it, it’s exceptional.
© Miccone and zarzuela.net, 2021