Teatro de la Zarzuela recovers opera Farinelli, 118 years after its premiere

Colossal opera Tomás Bretón’s, described by critics of the time as “the best and the most interesting of all” those of the author, is now presented in a version of concert and in a new adaptation of the renowned playwright María Velasco, and under the baton of the musical director of theater Guillermo García Calvo.


Teatro de la Zarzuela fulfills an essential task in the preservation, recovery, review and dissemination of our lyrical heritage, as required by its statutes and the coliseum scrupulously complies season by season. Hence, the programming of  Farinelli, opera by Tomás Breton in a prologue and three acts, is one of the titles of 2019/2020 expected with singular and nervous expectation. With a libretto by the precocious Sevillian writer, academic of the Language (also political and great speaker) Juan Antonio Cavestany, the score of who in the words of the illustrious professor Emilio Casares, “is probably the best opera composer in our history” is a “kind of fusion ”in which wagnerismo,“ verismo ”, French opera and historicism coexist. It premiered on May 14, 1902 in the new and gigantic Lyric Theater in Madrid (the largest the city has ever had), with a capacity for 2,900 spectators and “almost perfect” visibility, erected on Marqués de la Ensenada street and directed by Ruperto Chapí, in what was intended to be a major project in defense and impulse of the Spanish opera in a clear dispute with other theaters that showed their open rejection of the lyric composed of doors inside. For this reason,  Saturday 15 and Monday 17 February (both at 8:00 p.m.). The work, of which there is no recording whatsoever, hence the relevance of the record that Classical Radio will carry out for its broadcast on upcoming dates, will be heard again more than a century after its last audition. It will be in concert version and with free adaptation of the renowned playwright María Velasco. Totally new music, then, for our ears of the 21st century.


The two concerts that now do justice to Farinelli (one of the eight great operas composed by Bretón among the more than 140 works that make up his catalog, some as universal as La verbena de La Paloma or La Dolores) will be directed by Guillermo García Calvo, musical director of Teatro de la Zarzuela since January 1, as well as musical general director of the centennial German Opera of Chemnitz and his orchestra – the Robert-Schumann-Philharmonie- since 2017 and one of the most outstanding and requested Spanish masters in Europe.García Calvo, at the head of the Theater Orchestra, ORCAM, must undertake the melodic inspiration, the demanding vocal writing and the solvent orchestral and choral speech that build the majestic structure of ‘Farinelli, and it is not for less if one takes into account that, in addition to a portentous violinist, Bretón was a magnificent conductor. 


The numerous and intense choral passages constitute another of the peculiarities of this opera. “It is not excessive to point out that we are faced with a choral work”,warns Emilio Casares, who argues it with an incontestable fact: “Of the twenty-six scenes that consist, only the choir is missing in six.” It will be, therefore, a Good occasion for the showcase of the Head Choir of the Teatro de la Zarzuela under the direction of Antonio Fauró.


Also, in order to have all these difficulties, that orchestra and that choir must necessarily involve front-row voices. And that is what Teatro de la Zarzuela has gathered for this new and historic release of Farinelli.



The mezzo-soprano Maite Beaumont will play the role of Farinelli (Carlo Broschi) who falls in love until Beatriz’s despair (alter ego in the work of the mid-18th singer Elena Pieri), sung by the mezzo-soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera, who corresponds to her In this crush. Both have to separate. Farinelli travels to Spain while Beatriz remains in Italy. Both suffer, first the separation and then the difficult reunion, in whose outcome Jorge, father of Farinelli takes on special prominence, in whose skin the Spanish-Brazilian baritonegets Rodrigo Esteves. This reveals to Beatriz the true reason for the rejection that since she arrived in Spain suffers from the tormented Farinelli: She is also his daughter, and therefore, sister of Farinelli. And in the meantime dejection and entanglement, several of the friendliest moments of the plot are starred by the character of the doctor, who gives life to the baritone David Menéndez. 


At this point, we must refer to two of the surprises for the public, and highlights and strong commitment of Teatro de la Zarzuela in discovering and supporting young performers: On one hand, the Mexican tenor Leonardo Sanchez, the youngest artist of the Zurich Opera International Opernstudio and winner of three different awards (‘First place’, ‘Youth Revelation’ and ‘Special’) in the 34th edition of the Carlo Morelli Singing Contest, the most lyrical singing contest important in Mexico; Sánchez plays Alberto, Farinelli’s friend who brings Beatriz to Spain and ends up marrying her to the singer’s anguish. On the other hand, the surprise will come riding the deep voice of Manuel Fuentes, who recently was the three-time champion of the VII International Singing Contest Alfredo Kraus (first prize, public prize and prize for the best singer of Spanish nationality), in addition to being winner of two important awards in the first edition of the International Lyric Competition of Alicante. Fuentes will assume the role of conductor.


The story flows like a river in the literature of María Velasco, and it will be veteran actor Emilio Gutierrez Caba who among the musical numbers acts as a narrator of events; undoubtedly another incentive of this happy recovery.       


Farinelli was a victim of the same apathy as about 700 other operas composed in Spain and condemned to the deepest of forgetfulness. And it is curious, as Casares recalls, that dozens of them were “applauded by the demanding public of eight hundred.” The effervescence of opera as one of the favorite genres in Spain, culminates in the first two decades of the new century (the twentieth century) with the premiere, in that period, of more than 100 Spanish operas. Nothing less.

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