Thursday, May 24, 2012



La vida breve (1905) by Manuel de Falla (1876 - 1946)
This opera is brief (80 minutes). The title means “Brief life”.
The libretto is by Carlos Fernández-Shaw.
The language is Andalusian Spanish.
The story is set in Granada.
The performance we will watch is from Valencia (in an opera house that bears a resemblance to the Sydney counterpart on the Harbour by the Bridge).
The central person is portrayed by Cristina Gallardo-Domâs.
The synopsis provided here is based on the libretto, but we can expect some changes.
The condictor is Lorin Maazel.
Act 1 A house beside a forge in the Albaicín district, which is the Gypsy quarter of Granada
Tableau 1
[1] Salud, a gypsy-girl who loves a man of higher standing in society,  is shown at the start of this production, playing earnestly with a chair. What we should see is her grandmother  (la abuela, not named) feeding her pet birds in a cage. Anyway, she sings the words as written: This litle bird is going to die, like my little Salud (Salucilla), from love-sickness.
Voices of men working in the smithy  speak of labouring and loving.
Hawkers are heard in the street, selling carnations, figs, strawberries, and baskets.
A gaggle of girls giggles by. Grandmother reacts with: Laugh, but some day you will weep.
[2] Salud is supposed to enter at this point, but in any case she tells her Gran that he is not coming (to keep his 6 pm appointment with her). Grandmother chides her gently: He will come; your young man is kind, handsome, well-mannered, and rich; your eyes set him on fire; but you are always weeping. Salud asks her to go and watch for his arrival.
A haunting monologue ensues: Those who laugh live; those who weep die; the life of the poor is full of suffering. As her mother used to sing, the flower that is born with the dawn dies at the dying of the day; but the flowers are lucky, because they do not know how bad life is. A sad and lonely bird came into my garden to die; her mate had left her for another, and so she died of sorrow; there is no greater consolation than death.
From the forge comes this utterance: It is hard being born an anvil instead of a hammer.
[3] Paco arrives for a blissful tryst; he is on time, so why was she so distressed? She is glad to hold his hands and look deep into his eyes. He would never leave her, would he? Never, he loves only her; he is hers for ever. She can not live without him, for he gives her air to breathe. Grandmother looks on happily. Uncle Salvador (el tio Sarvaor) arrives, intending to kill Paco; he has learned that the deceiver is to marry a woman of his own class on Sunday. His sister restrains him, and they withdraw (maybe). A voice  from the forge: It is hard for a woman born poor and unlucky. Salud and Paco declare they will be joined always (siempre juntos).
Tableau 2 (Intermezzo) Sunset
Orchestral interlude, with voices of unseen singers expressing wordless melodies.
Act 2  A house in a wealthier part of Granada; it belongs to Manuel, brother of Carmela, who is Paco’s bride.
Tableau 1
[1] A singer honours Carmela and Paco, and their parents. The guests respond with Olé!
Dance (well-known Spanish dance, played by Fritz Kreisler)
[2] Salud enters: There he is, laughing, together with that woman, and parted from me for ever; I feel I am dying; what pain, what grief. He must die or kill me; we must both die.
[3] Her two elder relatives arrive unexpectedly; she seeks understanding and consolation from them
Tableau 2
[1] The marriage ceremony is over; Paco is uneasy,wishing he had trod more carefully with Salud. Manuel congratulates them profusely. Salud and Salvador intervene.
[2] What are those gypsies doing here? We will dance and sing for the wedding, he tells them; I sing like a nightingale, and the girl sings like a lark. No, she says, I have come to ask this man to slay me. Paco blurts out her name, then realizes he has betrayed himself, but he protests that he does not know her. She claims he deceived her, and his words of love are still echoing in her house. Throw her out, he shouts. She moves toward him, crying I am dying, and she falls dead from grief (in this production there is a dagger  and blood). Grandmother steps into the uproar; she calls Paco an infamous traitor, and she and her brother Salvador exclaim: Judas!
But not in the Valencia version: the last word is different. Is it a death word (root mrt)? Did the Jewish conductor object to a word that could be understood as "Jew"? This is shocking speculation on my part, and I would like someone to enlighten me.

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