Teatro de la Zarzuela revives Pablo Luna’s “Benamor” 98 years later
Teatro de la Zarzuela revives in April this three-act operetta with music by Pablo Luna, libretto by Antonio Paso and Ricardo González del Toro, a new production of Enrique Viana. The performance on Thursday, April 22 will be broadcast live on YouTube, Facebook and the theatre’s website.
Benamor by Pablo Luna premiered at Teatro de la Zarzuela on Saturday, May 12, 1923. Next month it will be 98 years since that event with the joy of having seen it restored, almost a century later, and on the same stage where it was born and to which it had never returned until now. If we follow the chronicles of the time, in that Madrid premiere the success was such that none of those present at those memorable performances could have foreseen the fateful future that awaited this composition with which the master of Alhama de Aragón completed the Trilogy of the East after The Amazement of Damascus and The Jewish Child; A set of titles that now, with the 10 performances that between April 14 and 25 will rehabilitate Benamor at the Teatro de la Zarzuela, is brought up to date for today’s audiences.
Enrique Viana, who in addition to assuming the stage direction and the adaptation of the delirious libretto by Antonio Paso and Ricardo González del Toro, has kept for himself three roles full of surprise and humor -very much in the manner of his intelligent and intelligible way of elaborating humor-, recalls that the newspapers of the time describe Benamor – “an unknown title with the precedent of great triumph”- as the greatest success of the master Luna. Therefore, he suggests, one must listen to it and feel it “as in a happy dream,” thus likening it to the most valuable of therapies by affirming that “a happy dream is the best medicine for the nightmarish times we are living in and that this, ‘our music,’ cures like the best of remedies.”
And no less expressive is maestro José Miguel Pérez-Sierra, a seasoned, exciting, personal director with a solid international career, when referring to a work that he places “among the most complex and inspired of Pablo Luna’s prolific production”. Its incomprehensible disappearance from the repertoire leads him to consider “almost like a world premiere” these new performances at Teatro de la Zarzuela.
Our crazy 20’s
Maestro Pérez-Sierra defines Benamor’s music as “extraordinarily theatrical”, in whose score reigns “that melodic vein so characteristic of the author”, who, to set us in the plot, mixes with refined success exotic orientalizing elements with fox-trots and other typical rhythms of the 1920s. “All this culminates in the ‘Fire Dance’, the best known number of the work, with a marked Spanish flavor but reminiscent of some European composers that Pablo Luna admired, such as Edvard Grieg”. Thus speaks the director, who does not hesitate to make a wish: “After all the bad things we are going through, I wish this Benamor was the starting signal for our crazy 20’s. It is a breath of fresh air”.
Recovering Pablo Luna
In a single month (March and April) Teatro de la Zarzuela has done justice to Pablo Luna, one of our greatest and most prolific composers whom history has not treated precisely the way his talent and genius deserve.
This long-awaited Benamor was preceded by concerts on March 12 and 14 to rehabilitate Las Calatravas, the composer’s last zarzuela, which after a resounding success with audiences and critics at its Madrid and Barcelona premieres, fell almost immediately into an intolerable and incomprehensible oblivion. Not even a trace of the prodigy remained. It was never performed again, nor was it ever recorded. Next September it will be 80 years since the premiere of Las Calatravas at the Teatro Alcázar in Madrid, and it is only now that part of this unprecedented, unforgivable and, unfortunately, abandonment has been rectified.
As usual, one of Benamor’s performances will be broadcast live via streaming on the Theater’s YouTube channel, Facebook profile and website. The date chosen on this occasion is Thursday, April 22 at 8 p.m. (Spanish peninsular time).
Also in the coming days you can enjoy on YouTube and Facebook the conference given by musicologist Ignacio Jassa Haro and a new chapter of the series Viaje por la zarzuela is already available, with maestro Pérez-Sierra and Enrique Viana as protagonists abstracted in a conversation and interpretations that are not to be missed.