Trilogía de los Fundadores
We publish the following lines with an apology to our readers for the delay in publication. For various reasons it has not been possible to write about the Trilogía de los fundadores (Founders' Trilogy) before now, but zarzuela.net could not let an event of such cultural and artistic significance pass without notice. So here, a few weeks before the 14/15 season begins, we review on one of the major milestones of last season.
The Founders' Trilogy project conducted by Teatro de la Zarzuela during June showed an artistic ambition unprecedented in Jovellanos Street. After the pallid stage revival of Falla's Amores de la Inés and the colossal one of Chapí's Curro Vargas, it was the turn of the Isabelline zarzuelas, which though originally announced as 'in concert' were finally given a semi-staging which gave the occasion an indisputably enhanced importance. It is a pity that the theatre did not move speedily to reframe the marketing with which these three works were sold to the public. So while the metro posters announced the trilogy with its - rather unevocative - title Trilogía de los fundadores, the theatre's own billboards continued to reference 'zarzuelas in concert', which had been the original intent. Since the stagings took place on consecutive days, for three weeks, did it not occur to anyone to improvise an authentic Isabelline Zarzuela Festival, or something like that? The result was a very bare auditorium for all the performances, with just over 40% capacity: which leads us to ask "where are the zarzuela aficionados?"
What a pity to see a half-empty hall for the first airing in so many years for delights by Gaztambide, Arrieta and Barbieri. It's not for me to say "this zarzuela is better than that one", for each composer showed how distinguished and personal their inspiration was. Where they are alike, is in sharing a phenomenal talent for music theatre - something which in the case of Arrieta, and his intelligent and beautiful Dominó azul, I found singularly persuasive. Of course Barbieri didn't come off badly either - his score for El diablo en el poder is as inspired as it is acerbic, with a real accumulation of powerful numbers including a Quartet in the last act that is perhaps one of the best in the genre. Gaztambide's extensive score for Catalina glued me to my seat with its contrasts and fiery inspiration, especially in the second act, with its militaristic, warlike mood.
But none of this would have made the same impact without Álvaro del Amo's staging. To some extent this was improvised on the fly, but it was discreet and well planned, making these unknown works accessible to today's audiences. Undoubtedly El dominó azul was given most complete, retaining a good helping of Camprodón's original verse-libretto. In any case, I left the theatre feeling as if I had assimilated the three works dramatically, not just as mere scores. Well done for the initiative! For this subtle semi-staging two of del Amo's colleagues were crucial to the result - Pepe Corzo, whose acclaimed costumes were as simple as they were showy, imitating the style of antique, fairy-tale woodcuts; and Nicolás Fischtel, whose lighting combined taste and theatricality.
The triumph would have been muted without the very detailed and vigorous musical direction of José María Moreno, a young conductor who has perfectly assimilated the Isabelline style, and who gave exceptional personality to the discreet accompaniments and highlighted the personal colours in each score. Located at the back of the stage, the Coro del Teatro de la Zarzuela directed by Antonio Fauró could not shine this time, sounding slightly muted and without the usual involvement they usually radiate on stage. Without giving detailed details of each of the three scores, I am sure that all three were well balanced. Altogether we must congratulate Teatro de la Zarzuela on the policy it has followed these last few years, banking on young Spanish artists who convey enthusiasm and whose good work is far removed from the old, interpretive bad habits.
We hope we can soon enjoy these three - and many other zarzuelas of their time! - with the panoply of a full staging. This semi-staged format seems ideal for 'tasters' of unknown works with more or less bulky or trivial libretti. Arrieta, Barbieri and Gaztambide have certainly passed with flying colours. I think that works such as La tempestad, El anillo de hierro and El salto del pasiego clamour for a modern hearing. Will this be the format for the upcoming Dogaresa and Marchenera? I hope so, but for now I see they are advertised as 'in concert' --- again! Will Teatro de la Zarzuela fall twice at the same hurdle?
© Miccone, zarzuela.net 2014