Teatro de la Zarzuela recovers the opera ‘Circe’ by Ruperto Chapí more than a century after the public heard it for the last time

The musical direction will be in charge of Guillermo García Calvo, musical director of the Theater.

The highly demanding score will be performed by a cast specially chosen to address its exceptional characteristics, made up of Saioa Hernández, Alejandro Roy, Rubén Amoretti and Marina Pinchuk.

Despite the fact that at the premiere in 1902 many considered the opera as “the foundation and base of the Spanish opera”, it fell into oblivion. It was not scheduled again. It was not heard again.

The recording that Radio Clásica will make of one of the two sessions will be historical since there is no sound record of the work.


Next year will be the 120th anniversary of the premiere of ‘Circe’, the great opera by Ruperto Chapí that in 1902 inaugurated with more than twenty performances the now-defunct Lírico Theater, an absolute Titanic of the genre, the largest lyrical venue ever in Madrid. Ten years later, ‘Circe’ traveled to Buenos Aires to also conquer the audience at the Teatro Colón; immense luck –whose true scope everyone ignored– that of the spectators from both shores who had the opportunity to attend one of these performances.


And the thing is that from then on, the story was very different: ‘Circe‘, the work that many considered “the foundation and foundation of Spanish opera”, fell into total and inconceivable oblivion – it was never performed again, it was not re-enacted listen – from which the Teatro de la Zarzuela rescues it so that the public in 2021 can also feed on that composition that turned to where no one had dared (or known). To admire a Chapí to date (then and now) unknown. On September 10 and 12 (8:00 pm and 6:00 pm respectively) the Plazuela de Jovellanos Theater will present this absolutely “new” play in concert version.


In this way, the coliseum once again complies with the inalienable requirements contained in its statutes, such as the preservation, recovery, revision and dissemination of our lyrical heritage. These are the obligatory tasks that the Theater meticulously fulfills each season at least twice.


‘Circe’, with a libretto by Miguel Ramos Carrión, premiered at the Teatro Lirico in Madrid on May 7, 1902, and as the musicologist Emilio Casares indicates, one cannot approach it with the same spirit with which one goes to a hear ‘La traviata’ or ‘Doña Francisquita‘. “Rather you have to think of any of Wagner’s dramas or Debussy’s ‘Pelléas et Mélisande’”, says the expert, who explains that ‘Circe’ is not defined by the great arias, duets or concert numbers – it has no numbers—, “but as a continuous musical drama, where music, text, and visuality act together.” As an absolute whole.


The two concerts that now do justice to the work, will be directed by Guillermo García Calvo, musical director of the Teatro de la Zarzuela, who in front of its Titular Orchestra, the ORCAM, and its Titular Choir directed by Antonio Fauró, must face an extraordinarily demanding score, written with an unusual musical intelligence.


It will also be a unique occasion to be pleased with a cast very much in line with the needs requested by a work of these characteristics, made up of Saioa Hernández, Alejandro Roy, Rubén Amoretti and Marina Pinchuk in their leading roles.


The recording that Radio Clásica will make of one of the two sessions can be considered as historical, since it will be the first sound record of the work.


At the functions of the premiere of ‘Circe’ the acclaim was in crescendo until achieving unanimous enthusiasm, and that Chapí did not direct his work to attract the usual public, thinking in large numbers that have to end with the usual applause. As Emilio Casares reveals to us, “the beauties are obvious but in another way, with an orchestration that is always rich, with numerous transitional moments, with a masterful motivational work, or because of its colorism. There are no places for great cadenzas, or for moments of flourish ”.


In this regard, maestro García Calvo points out that ‘Circe’ is “a historical, European opera in the style of Strauss’s ‘Elektra’ or Enescu’s ‘Oedipus’. An opera that describes the mythical atmosphere of Homer’s Odyssey on a voyage of discovery for all ”. The director also shows his admiration for Chapí, alluding to the versatility of his creative capacity: “In every work he writes, he seems to be from a new composer. How different is his music ”. And according to this idea he concludes: “The one with‘ Circe ’is an absolutely unknown Chapí.”