El giravolt de Maig - costume designs for the world premiere (1928)
El giravolt de Maig
costume designs for
world premiere

El giravolt de maig

Comedy opera in one act
Music: Eduard Toldrà
Libreto: Josep Carner

Produced by Associació de Amics de l’Òpera de Sabadell

Teatre Municipal La Faràndula, Sabadell
30th November 2003, 18:00

José María Busqué Doménech

It isn't common, even in Spain's own theatres, to find performances of operas originally written in the native languages of what are called today comunidades autónomas ("autonomous communities") of the State. The operatic repertoire continues to be centred on the familiar Italian and German works, and to a lesser extent on the French, Russian, and the rest. In the case of Catalunya an important theatre music tradition existed throughout the first third of the 20th century, in parallel with the cultural renaissance of the country. In Catalunya a movement called the noucentista emerged, deriving from the romantic movement and its modernist extensions, which establishing an intellectual tradition and influenced the cultural activity, mainly in the literary sphere.

This background needs explaining, inasmuch as El giravolt de maig is the fruit of a collaboration between the most authentic representative of noucentista poetry (Josep Carner) and of a musician identified totally with the mainstream European tradition, whilst simultaneously drawn towards Catalan folk music (Eduard Toldrà).

El giravolt de maig (in English "The May Somersault") (1) was composed during 1927 as a result of an agreement between poet and musician to write a comedic opera. The story tells of the encounter between a ex-ballerina and an ex-seminary student one magical summer night at a traveller's inn, in 18th century Catalunya. The magical atmosphere, akin to the spirit of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream or of the second act of Wagner's Die Meistersinger, is reflected in the lyricism of the text and Toldra's luminescent music.

The work's musical structure is the classic one of Italian opera: a quartet of singers (tenor, soprano, mezzo and bass) plus two comprimarios (tenor and baritone.) Toldra's music is articulated through recitatives, arias, duets and concertante numbers, constantly animated by the spirit of life and joy.

El giravolt ... is only rarely staged in Catalunya and practically ignored outside. We may recall an excellent interpretation in 1972 in Barcelona's Palau de la Música directed by Maestro Ros-Marbà in which the protagonist's role was taken by the young José Carreras. The recent interpretation was mounted by los Amics de l'òpera de Sabadell in the Teatro La Farándula in that city, on 28th and 30th November 2003.The Orquestra Simfònica de Sant Cugat was conducted by Josep Ferré with singers Assumpta Mateu, Rosa Nonell, Josep Ruiz and Boni Carrillo in the main roles. Its excellent was mainly down to the remarkable performance of Josep Ruiz in the tenor role, magnificently sung and interpreted. The stage design was modest but adaptable, evocative of the spirit of the epoch. The costumes recreated the designs made for the world premiere of the work (2) by the painter Xavier Nogués.

(1) In Catalan "giravolt" means turn, somersault or change, but it also admits the sense of an inner impulse to awakening or animation.
(2) In the Palau de la Música (Barcelona), 27th October 1928

© José María Busqué Doménech, 2004

Cast: Assumpta Mateu (Rosaura); Rosa Nonell (Jovita); Josep Ruiz (Golferic); Boni Carrillo (Perot de l’Armentera); Albert Deprius (Marcó); Joan Caules (Corvetó); Carles Ortiz (Director); Jordi Galobart (Designer); Orquestra Simfònica de Sant Cugat; Josep Ferré (Conductor)

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