2016

Sung literature - 400 years of Miguel de Cervantes

Teatro Real

Miguel de Cervantes has had (and continues to have) an enormous influence in literature, art, and music. The Teatro Real pays tribute to this legacy in the 400th anniversary of the death of Cervantes.

En 2016 se conmemora el IV Centenario de la muerte de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Alcalá de Henares, 29 de septiembre de 1547 - Madrid, 22 de abril de 1616), máxima figura de la literatura hispánica y creador de la primera novela moderna, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha.

De todos los mitos españoles -Don Juan, la Celestina, Fígaro-, ninguno ha tenido el impacto sobre las artes de Don Quijote.

La complejidad de sus personajes y la riqueza de sus episodios ha permitido que Don Quijote haya sido transladado al universo de la ópera, del ballet o de la música sinfónica, con ejemplos que se remontan a su publicación. La primera parte aparece en 1605, y antes de publicarse la segunda en 1615, se representa en París en 1614 Le ballet de Don Quichot, dansé par Mrs. Sautenir. Desde entonces, y a lo largo de cuatro siglos, la obra de Cervantes ha inspirado creaciones musicales de todo tipo.

Desde su reapertura como teatro de ópera en 1997, el Teatro Real ha acogido varios estos títulos, incluyendo los estrenos mundiales de dos nuevas óperas cervantinas.

Jules Massenet, (1842-1912) was a French composer. He is best known for his operas, of which he wrote more than thirty, and was immensely popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among these is Don Quichotte (1910), performed at the Teatro Real in its 2011-2012 season.

“His harmonies are like arms that embrace us, his melodies the neck we kiss: we look into the eyes of women to discover what hiddes behind them”. This is how Claude Debussy described Massenet’s music.

Don Quichotte’s libretto is loosely based on Cervantes’ novel, and is closer to later versions, transforming Don Quijote into a Christian martyr, whom Dulcinea and Scancho consider a sublime madman.

Don Quichotte is one of the few operas by Massenet that have not been completely forgotten, and though scarcely staged, it was performed in concert version at the Real in 2011, with Marc Piollet conducting Anna Caterina Antonacci (Dulcinea), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Don Quijote) and Eduardo Chama (Sancho Panza).

Don Quijote remains a great source of inspiraction of contemporary creation, as recent operas like 'Don Quijote' by Cristóbal Halffter (world premiered at the Teatro Real in 2000), and 'El caballero de la triste figura' by Tomás Marco, staged in the 2015/2016 season, prove.

El caballero de la triste figura (2003) by Tomás Marco, faces the challenge of turning the epic novel by Cervantes into seven theatrical acts, further expanded by adding a prologue and an epilogue. With a fast-paced action that highlights the sad fate of the knight, the opera is based around the chivalresque, mysterious and humorous episodes, with the longest scene of the opera (“The Cave of Montesinos”) at its centre, where one of the most complex, subtle and versatile passages of Don Quijote rightfully belongs.

Don Quijote (2000), by Cristóbal Halffter, is a reflection on the need of utopia at the start of the new century, portrayed through the encounter of Cervantes with Don Quijote, the two main characters of the opera.

Instead of following a single dramatic line that leads to action, the opera is centered around the doubts, uncertainties and mistakes of the characters, that take over the voices of various Spanish poets, from Juan del Encina, Jorge Manrique and San Juan de la Cruz, to Salinas or Machado.

Don Quijote has also inspired children’s works, like El retablo de maese Pedro, by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946). The Spanish composer used this passage as the basis for the chamber opera commissioned by the Princesse de Polignac in 1918.

El retablo de maese Pedro, a chamber opera for puppets, is proof of the importance that Don Quijote had for the Spanish modernist movement, also known as the Silver Age of Spanish culture. Dialogue with tradition, both literary and musical, is the “solid base upon which I have built this composition”, as Falla himself describes.

El retablo is the product of four years of research on melodies and the sonority of period instruments, which turned into an instrumentation that called for an authentic harpsichord – a requierement that putt he composer in serious trouble when trying to perform it.

Dulcinea is “a children’s opera based upon Cervantes’ Quijote”, with music by Mauricio Sotelo and libretto by Andrés Ibáñez. The Teatro Real hosted its world premiere in its 2005-2006 season.

At the start of the opera Dulcinea, the Child is trying to read Don Quijote de la Mancha, which is boring, tiresome and incomprehensible. Don Quijote and Sancho emerge from the book, approach the Little boy, and chat with him.

As librettist Andrés Ibáñez points out, this work could very well be an opera on reading. On the power of reading and imagination, both core themes of Don Quijote and that produced one of the most original characters of Western literatura: Dulcinea.

Dulcinea does not exist: she is a creation by Don Quijote. Therefore, she is not only a symbol of the ideal, the impossible, or the ideal love, but also a symbol of imagination.

Even today, 400 years after the death of Miguel de Cervantes, his universal work still inspires creators of all types, that see in Don Quijote a never-ending source of great stories.

Teatro Real
Credits: Story

Photography:

Javier del Real

Biblioteca Nacional de España - Biblioteca Digital Hispánica

Teatro Real

Credits: All media
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