‘BENAMOR’ by Pablo Luna, return to the Teatro de la Zarzuela 98 years later


‘Benamor’ by Pablo Luna premiered at the Teatro de la Zarzuela Saturday 12 May 1923. The next month, so, they will become true 98 years since that event (that it really was, and big) with the joy of having seen her return it, almost a century later, and in the same setting where she was born and to which she had never returned until now. If we stick to the chronicles of the time, The success at that Madrid premiere was such that none of those present at these memorable performances could foreshadow the unfortunate future that awaited this composition. with which the teacher from Alhama de Aragón completed the ‘Trilogy of the East’ after ‘The amazement of Damascus’ and The Jewish boy '; a set of titles this, that now, with the 10 representations that between 14 and the 25 of April will rehabilitate ‘Benamor’ in the Teatro de la Zarzuela, catches up for today's audience.

Enrique Viana, that in addition to assuming the stage direction and the adaptation of the delirious libretto by Antonio Paso and Ricardo González del Toro, He has kept for himself three papers full of surprise and sarcasm - much in the way of his intelligent and intelligible way of elaborating humor., remember that the newspapers of the time describe ‘Benamor’ - "unknown title with the precedent of great triumph" - as the greatest success of master Luna. So, suggests, you have to listen to it and feel it "like in a happy dream", thus resembling it to the most valuable of therapies by stating that "a happy dream is the best medicine for the times of nightmare that we are living and that this, "our music", heals like the best of remedies. "

And the teacher is no less expressive José Miguel Pérez-Sierra, seasoned director, exciting, personal and solid international career, when referring to a work that places “between the more complex and inspired by the prolific production of Pablo Luna”. His incomprehensible disappearance from the repertoire leads him to consider “almost like a world premiere”These new performances of the Teatro de la Zarzuela.

Crazy misunderstandings

Pérez-Sierra will be in charge of the Titular Orchestra of the Teatro de la Zarzuela –Orchestra of the Community of Madrid–, of the Titular Choir of the Teatro de La Zarzuela and two magnificent casts who will stage a play with a surprising starting point that will cause absurd and hilarious misunderstandings: The story is set in the 16th century in Isfahan, ancient capital of Persia - today Iran -, in a luck of "One Thousand and One Nights". The law determines that the first child of the betrothed must be male and the second female. If it doesn't happen this way, newborns must die in sacrifice. As well, this is exactly what happens to the sultan's wife, who, in order not to have to sacrifice his two little ones, makes his daughter pass as a boy - giving him the name of Darío -, and for a girl to her son - calling her Benamor -. Deception persists over the years, but the day comes when the so-called "princess" (the boy that) must marry. Y that's when the cards of the mock house of cards fly everywhere.

The two casts they combine irresistible musicality and precision with that difficult talent that tragicomedy inevitably demands. The singers that make them up are the sopranos Vanessa Goikoetxea Y Miren Urbieta-Vega (Benamor), the mezzosopranos Carol Garcia Y Cristina Faus (Darío), soprano Irene Palazón (the odalisca Nitetis), the comic soprano Amelia Font (Pantea, mother of the princess and the sultan), baritones Damian del Castillo Y César San Martín (the Spanish gentleman Juan de León), the baritone also Gerardo Bullón (Rajah-Tabla, prince of kabul), the tenor Gerardo López (Prince of Florelia / Servant / Priest), the tenor-actor Francisco J. Sánchez (guard), the tenor Emilio Sánchez (the drug dealer Babilón) and the actress-dancer Esther ruiz (Kashmir the odalisque), in addition to Enrique Viana who plays the roles of the grand vizier Birch, the confectioner and his wife the pastry chef. Rounding out the cast 4 actors-extras Y 9 dancers.

Regarding the artistic team, it's made of Daniel Bianco, responsible for the scenography, costume designer Gabriela Salaverri, the illuminator Albert Faura and the choreographer Nuria Castejón.

A desire: our crazy years 20

Teacher Pérez-Sierra defines the music of ‘Benamor’ as “extraordinarily theatrical”, in whose score reigns "that melodic vein so characteristic of the author”, who, to set us in the plot, it mixes with refined orientalizing exotic elements with fox-trots and other typical rhythms of the years 20. “All this has its culmination in the ‘Dance of fire’, the best known number of the work, with a marked Spanish flavor but reminiscent of some European composers that Pablo Luna admired, as Edvard Grieg”. So speaks the director, that does not hesitate to air a wish: "After all the bad we are experiencing, I wish this ‘Benamor’ was the starting gun for our crazy years 20. It's a breath of fresh air."

Recovering Pablo Luna

In a single month (ridden between March and April) the Teatro de la Zarzuela has done justice to Pablo Luna, one of our greatest and most prolific composers who history has not treated precisely in the way that his talent and genius deserve.

This long-awaited ‘Benamor’ was preceded by concerts that the days 12 Y 14 March served to rehabilitate ‘Las Calatravas’, last zarzuela of the composer who, after a resounding success with the public and, obtained in its premieres in Madrid and Barcelona, fell almost immediately into a intolerable and from every point incomprehensible oblivion. Not a trace of the prodigy remained. Nor was it re-enacted, nor was it recorded. Next September will be fulfilled already 80 years since that premiere of ‘Las Calatravas’ at the Alcázar Theater in Madrid, and it is now that part of this has been amended unheard, unforgivable and, Regrettably, abandonment.

‘Benamor’ online

As it is usual, one of the functions of ‘Benamor’ will be broadcast live by streaming through from YouTube channel, the Facebook profile and the Theater's website. The date chosen this time is Thursday 22 April at 20h00 (Spanish CET).

Also in the next few days you will be able to enjoy YouTube y Facebook of the conference taught by the musicologist Ignacio Jassa Haro and a new chapter of the series ‘Trip through the zarzuela’, with the teacher Pérez-Sierra and Enrique Viana as protagonists abstracted in a conversation and some interpretations that have no waste.