The Teatro de la Zarzuela, in Madrid, has scheduled this month La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The house of Bernarda Alba), composed by the Spanish conductor and composer Miquel Ortega, after the famous masterpiece of the same name written by Federico García Lorca.
Lorca's last play is one of the most important works in Spanish theatre. The powerful text, adapted by the libretist Julio Ramos, reflects the horrifying reality of the rigid moral code of the Spanish towns in the first decades of 20th Century. This is the tragedy of a group of women which are opressed, confined by this morality. Bernarda Alba tyrannises her daughters in the name of honor and mourning. As the story is being developped, we cannot breathe at seeing how this toxic atmosphere spreads hate, envy and despair among the sisters. Adela, the youngest member of the family, is the only one who tries to look for her freedom and her arising sexuality.
This is a work played only by women. However, an invisible man is one of the most important agents of the tragedy: Pepe el Romano, fiancé to Angustias and lover of Adela. He is the defying factor of Bernarda's stifling order.
Ortega's score is composed in a traditional way, a music quite nice to listen. The first act is dark, the second act conveys the tension and its Finale is quite intense. Act three begins with a prelude with a remarkable wind passage and contains beautiful interludes, reaching its peak with the grandmother's scene carrying a sheep. In this act are perceptibles some influences of major Spanish musicians.
Bárbara Lluch's staging is an omnipresent white, spacious typical Andalusian courtyard, with its declining upper floor, a big door in the middle leading to the entrance and some barn seen in the left at the door of the farmyard. Lighting is however static, but a beautiful moment is the transition is the dusk, represented by yellow and blue lights mixed. The direction is supported by the singers, who proved to be skilled actresses. The ending is impressive: as the lighting is fading out as well as the curtain falling, we can see the body of Adela hanged after her suicide, as if the intention was to remark her destiny and death as her only passport to freedom.
An accomplished female cast performed the opera.
Nancy Fabiola Herrera is one of the leading mezzo-sopranos in Spain: her skilled acting and excellent characterization built an opressive and evil Bernarda. Her voice has beautiful and powerful low and middle registers.
Carmen Romeu was an excellent Adela, with amazing high notes and seductive acting as the rebel young woman trying to leave that oppresive house. The baritone Luis Cansino is the only male member of the cast, in an old tradition to have a man performing Poncia, the housekeeper. His voice is big and his acting has traces of authority. The veteran actress Julieta Serrano plays María Josefa, the seniled Bernarda's mother and grandmother of the girls. Hers is the only spoken role in the work, and she recited her two parts in a moving and sometimes amusing (in Act 3) way.
The rest of the cast were at a good level, with good performances by Carol García as Martirio and Berna Perles as Angustias, and the veteran Milagros Martín made a great cameo as a servant.
The audience seemed to have a pleasant opera evening. It's expected, hoped this work could tour Spain and some countries, since the plot and nice music could interest many audiences to spend two hours of pure theatre and lyricism.
This performance has been seen worldwide thanks to the live streaming via Facebook, and it could be seen by clicking this video.
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