The Teatro de la Zarzuela celebrates the 90th anniversary of “Don Gil de Alcalá”, by Manuel Penella
The comic opera Don Gil de Alcalá debuts at the Teatro de la Zarzuela with musical direction by Lucas Macías. The cast that will assume the different roles will be made up of Celso Albelo, José Luis Sola, Sabina Puértolas, Irene Palazón, Carlos Cosías, Facundo Muñoz, Carol García, Lidia Vinyes-Curtis, Manel Esteve, Eleomar Cuello, Pablo López, Simón Orfila, María José Suárez, David Sánchez, Ricardo Muñiz and Miguel Sola. The set design is signed by Daniel Bianco –director of the Theatre–, the costumes by Pepa Ojanguren, the lighting is by Eduardo Bravo and the choreography by Nuria Castejón.
Stage director Emilio Sagi lives one of the sweetest moments of his career. Just celebrated his 40 years on stage, he has just received the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts and his extraordinary career has been recognized with the Opera XXI Award. And it is that the Sagi Theater, unmistakable, is pure magic. Intelligent and always bright. Elegant. Sublime.
Now, his theatrical science has returned for the umpteenth time to the Teatro de la Zarzuela where, from May 5 to 22, tribute will be paid to maestro Manuel Penella with 14 performances of his comic opera Don Gil de Alcalá in an elegant and enormously amusing stage version by the director Asturian, which will serve to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the work.
From the pit, maestro Lucas Macías – luxury debutant at the Plazuela de Jovellanos theater – will conduct the Orchestra of the Community of Madrid, owner of the Theatre, with his intense poetic stamp, which, despite the fact that it is already freed from restrictions that for months have been reduced due to the pandemic, this time it is presented as a string orchestra and harp, as required by Penella’s original score.
The Don Gil de Alcalá that the public will be able to enjoy these days is the beautiful production of the Oviedo Spanish Lyric Theater Festival and the Zarzuela Theater that Sagi premiered in 2017 at the Campoamor Theater.
Penella’s is a work very close to the luminosity and vividness of Italian opera, but with a Hispanic treatment. The stage director highlights her “extreme beauty”, tenderness and high doses of nostalgia. On this occasion, it has the splendid works of some of his closest collaborators such as Daniel Bianco in the set design, the well-remembered costume designer Pepa Ojanguren in the costumes, Eduardo Bravo in the lighting and Nuria Castejón in the choreography.
And as is usual in the Theatre, there will be two splendid and balanced casts that, together with the Choir of the Teatro de la Zarzuela, directed by maestro Antonio Fauró, unfold this plot on stage in which, in the words of Emilio Sagi, a romantic love story is mixed, “cheesy and almost like a soap opera”, with the “hilarious humorous mess that ends up becoming in the style of Rossini’s comic operas”.
The plot is freed from historical ties to clearly narrate the charming adventures, in the lands of New Spain, of Don Gil, a Spanish captain, and Niña Estrella, a mestizo orphan.
The main role, that of Don Gil de Alcalá, is performed by the tenors Celso Albelo –who happily returns several decades later to a production at the Teatro de la Zarzuela– and José Luis Sola; his girlfriend, Niña Estrella, will be played by the sopranos Sabina Puértolas and Irene Palazón.
And there are numerous roles that stand out for their comedy, such as those of Sergeant Carrasquilla, who will be played by Simón Orfila; the Indian servant Chamaco, whose role will be assumed by the tenors Carlos Cosías and Facundo Muñoz; the Indian servant Maya, who will be performed by mezzo-sopranos Carol García and Lidia Vinyes-Curtis; the role of the Governor of the State of Veracruz, whose peculiar personality will be unraveled by the bass-baritone Miguel Sola; or that of the Viceroy of New Spain by the baritone Pablo López. The also baritones Manel Esteve and Eleomar Cuello will put themselves in the shoes of the third vertex of the love triangle: the Spanish aristocrat Don Diego.
The mezzo-soprano María José Suárez as mother abbess, the baritone David Sánchez as the masterful father or the tenor Ricardo Muñiz as master of ceremonies, all of them accompanied by 8 extras-dancers, also have an important presence and voice in the story.
Luis Sagi-Vela and “the gold”
Emilio Sagi recognizes that he had always wanted to do “Don Gil”, and “not only because it is a wonderful work, with highly inspired music and a fresh and very funny story –as if he were a little Mozart–“; he also wanted to get into that fantastic world because a few years after its premiere in Barcelona it arrived in Buenos Aires and Mexico with his uncle, Luis Sagi-Vela (who made it and recorded it many times), in the cast. Those functions contributed to the decisive success of the work.
And in this production that is now being presented, everything happens, of course, with the omnipresent Mexican “el dorado”. Almost all of the scenery is the color of gold and the characters wear boots stained with mud, but very well dressed, embellished with gold embroidery and decorations.
A different work
Don Gil de Alcalá is a “different” work by Manuel Penella. Certainly beautiful, like the rest of his production, and in which the Valencian composer bets once again on Spanish poetry, although this time from a perspective more in line with European trends. With this work, Penella not only recognizes and honors the long lyrical tradition that he and other creators had inherited and brought to the American world, but also demonstrates once again that he knows how to create a classic work that would stand the test of time, even in a country where the formula of opera in the Spanish language never convinced.
When Penella wanted to courageously undertake a tribute to America with a work as unusual as it is classic, as precious as it is modern, he wrote Don Gil de Alcalá, which he premiered at the Teatro Novedades in Barcelona, and two years later at La Zarzuela .
Once again he went out with his company to represent it in the New World, in what would be his last great company, although before that he would reach the stages of several countries and would soon take it to the cinema in a Mexican production: ‘The adventurous captain’ . Like a good part of the projects that he undertook throughout his life, his lyrical works are unrepeatable.
On many different occasions ‘Don Gil de Alcalá’ has been seen again at the Teatro de la Zarzuela. And now it returns, already in the XXI century, as the great creation of musical theater that it is.