Juan Carlos Marset (INAEM) Teatro de la Zarzuela

2008 / 2009

(25 June 2008)

Enrique Mejías García

A sweet and sour menu is on offer from Calle Jovellanos next season. Few zarzuelas, although they are hanging on – by a hair’s breadth – to the idea of four productions a year. The highlight of the season it must be said is an opera, La Celestina by Joaquín Nin-Culmell (1908-2004), which thanks to institutional support from Caja Duero and the resolute commitment of the Fundación Ana María Iriarte will finally be premiered after many years at the bottom of a drawer. We are confident that the Maestro will rejoice, from wherever he is in the Great Beyond, to find “his lady” (as he called the work) seeing the light.

The house Director Luis Olmos, alongside Juan Carlos Marset (ditto of INAEM), set out an eclectic season about which we might raise some doubts. Should Teatro de la Zarzuela, for example, be hosting two of the Óperadhoy festival operas when the Teatros del Canal will exist for that purpose? As in the case of La Celestina they pointed out that La Zarzuela only offers the infrastructure and is not the producing house for these shows. They insisted on the primary idea of the theatre’s versatility and heterogeneity, a living theatre in which repertoire from the next hundred years may be revived …

… Well one composer out of luck is Chapí, who doesn’t get a new production for his centenary year! Farewell to hopes for Curro Vargas or La tempestad. Christmas is celebrated though by Olmos’s acclaimed staging of El rey que rabió, and Marset sidestepped questions by saying that would it not make sense to convert Teatro de la Zarzuela to “the only atlas of Spanish lyric theatre”, meaning the theatre is not the Vestal Virgin guarding the genre, but should open up its box office for a thousand wonders. This current zarzuela season has seen an increase of 1000 in the number of subscribers, 90% houses, has featured 53 tours of other mainland theatres and packed 7000 children into school matinees. What else is needed to confirm that this is the only road to follow, along which they should be encouraged to travel further?

Teatro de la Zarzuela (auditorium) Photo: Andreas PraefckeThe season continues in February with La Gran Vía… esquina a Chueca, a new version of Felipe Pérez y González’s popular revue, devised by Paco Mir, returning once again to the scene of his former triumph Los sobrinos del Capitán Grant, since which he’s also done La Generala for El Tricicle in Catalunya. Taking advantage of the commercial pull of such a juicy title, why not do a double bill with La caza del oso, Los arrastraos or De la noche a la mañana?? Imagination, dear boys, imagination. The same as you’ve shown in getting Luis Olmos and Bernardo Sánchez to devise a spectacular show  ¡Una noche en la Zarzuela…! A sueño lírico en dos actos that will show us the vicissitudes of a zarzuela company in the post-Civil war era who want to stage an anthology of zarzuela. A varied score, from Lleó and Barbieri through to Sorozábal and Luna to enliven the happy month of May, for which we would have preferred a stronger investment in the latter’s oft-cited but never sighted Benamor.

And finally, this time yes! – a new Calesera. Not since 1980 have we been able to sing “Everyone says ‘I love you, calesera’” at the Theatre which was midwife to the birth of Francisco Alonso’s favourite daughter back in 1925. A new production, entrusted to Carles Alfaro closes the season, from July 3 to …. August 2nd! Let’s hope the air conditioning system isn’t wanting an early holiday.

And what's new? Ah, here’s a well-kept secret: Música clásica, by Estremera and Chapí, which is to be presented for several Sundays in the thick of the season climbing onto the stage as part of something called “Family Zarzuela Sundays”, featuring young performers and director (Natalia Menéndez), with sets by Mingote for this piquant and graceful piece by the Alicante Maestro, staged thanks to funding from Fundación Caja Madrid.

For the rest, All’s Quiet on the Western Front: The 15th Lieder season with impressive roster of divos and divas (Ian Bostridge, Olga Borodina, Mathias Goerne, Barbara Hendricks…); the film concert of Murnau’s fine, silent Faust with new music by Jesús Torres; the 7th season of young pianists; space for dance with visits from Ballet Nacional de España, Compañía Nacional de Danza, and Ballet Flamenco de Fuensanta La Moneta; and – yes – the Second season of Zarzuela Concerts sponsored by Madrid’s City Arts Council, featuring names such as Carlos Álvarez, Mariola Cantarero, Ismael Jordi, Isabel Rey and Rocío Ignacio amongst others.

Luis OlmosLa Zarzuela is a catch-all (we don’t say cat-astrophe!) where you can see almost everything. There was a time in which it presented minor bullfights and boxing… so we’re still missing many things that they could be doing. Marset assures us that he is reviewing the collective agreement with the Theatre staff to allow TVE broadcasts of productions. INAEM’s strong commitment to Spain’s musical heritage has two main goals: first, contemporary creativity works and second, revivals of the same – which, however, we only just glimpse in the case of Teatro de la Zarzuela.

In conclusion, Olmos assured us that the elimination of the sale of librettos reflects a belief that everyone should, without charge, have access to a “decent” programme. Now the same money is invested in a showy handbill containing one simply informative text and a cast list, so a purely economic nicety is thwarting those who want to buy “decent” librettos in the older format, with the complete text and three high-quality articles. Olé for the Ministry of Culture!

© Enrique Mejías García 2008
tr. Christopher Webber

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27 June 2008