With this curious project that I have cooked up of La nuit espagnole: Flamenco and the Spanish Vanguard, I can finally bring out of the closet a couple of songs by classical Spanish composers that have influences of Flamenco music. Since my collaboration is with Spanish classical dancer Anna de la Paz and flamenco dancer Rebeca Tomás, we all put in the mix the various ingredients that would make up this “experimental” evening of Spanish classical dance and flamenco dance and song, that premieres on July 24th at the DROM Theater, as part of Between the Seas Festival in NYC:
Córdoba by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Baile by Julián Bautista (1901-1961)
Polo Gitano by Tomas Bretón (1850-1923)
Excerpts from El amor brujo by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
Anda Jaleo by Federico García Lorca (1898-1936)
Romance de Solita from the ballet La romería de los cornudos by Gustavo Pittaluga (1906-1975)
La corrida by “Quinito” Valverde (1875-1918) castanet solo
Traditional flamenco arrangements of Farruca and Alegrías
Our idea was to do an homage to the great flamenco dancers of the first part of the 20th century and highlight their relationship with the artists and intellectuals of the Spanish Vanguard of the time. Anna de la Paz programmed items that were part of the repertoire of the great Spanish dancer Antonia Mercé “La Argentina”. Anna chose “La corrida” by “Quinito” Valverde, which will be done as a castanet solo with piano, “Polo Gitano” (taken from the piano suite Escenas andaluzas) by zarzuela composer Tomas Bretón and “Córdoba” by Isaac Albéniz, all pieces that were part of Antonia Mercé’s repertoire. I added to the mix a song from a somewhat forgotten ballet composed and dedicated to Antonia Mercé called “La romería de los cornudos”. I first heard this song, oddly enough, in a recording with American mezzo soprano Nan Merriman and pianist Gerard Moore in a song recital album (re issued by Testament) from the 50’s of Spanish and French songs. I promptly ordered the score from Musicroom and have had it for YEARS. There is also a recording that I have not heard as of yet by Conchita Supervia with Gustavo Pittaluga himself conducting her in the orchestral version, dated 1933 (Conchita Supervia, Complete Recordings, Volume 4, Odeon).
During a chance meeting at a photo copy place in Madrid this past May with Granada-born flamenco poet Juan de Loxa, founder and past director of the Federico García Lorca House Museum in Fuentevaqueros, he clarified for me that although this ballet was composed for Antonia Mercé, who danced fragments of it in her presentations, the whole ballet was actually premiered by Encarnación López “La Argentinita“.
Mr. de Loxa made available to me other supporting materials, including a lovely book that he edited that documented the close friendship between “Argentinita” and the poet Federico García Lorca. The composer of the ballet is Gustavo Pittaluga, a figure from the so called Generation of ’27; known in Spanish music history books as part of the first wave of Spanish vanguard composers, his works are hardly done in Spain ( thought there is a recording of Romeria de los cornudos by Anton Ros Marbá with the Real Orquesta de Sevilla, 1996). A highly original composer, I listened to his curious orchestral piece Habanera in youtube. Like most figures from the Spanish vanguard, he was interested in flamenco culture. The libretto of “Romería de los Cornudos” was done by the very much admired and respected writer and intellectual C. Rivas Cherif.
“Romance de Solita” is the one solo song in “Romería”, scored for mezzo soprano and orchestra. It starts with a standard flamenco “llamada”, with extensive ornate flourishes. Solita is the town street singer, and tells the legend of the the miracles granted by the local church painting in a small village in the Sierras of Granada, the Christ of Moclín with its legend of granting children to sterile women. The dance rhythms soon becomes evident, and it is interposed with free sections for the singer to sing the ornate flamenco like flourishes; I will sing this piece with Maria de los Angeles Rubio at the piano; both Anna de la Paz and Rebeca Tomás will present an original choreography to this piece.