Granados’ Maja fetish

Granados’ Maja fetish

“I fell in love with Goya’s psychology, his palette, with himself and the Duchess of Alba, with his pretty wife, his models, his quarrels, loves and courtships. That pinkish white on the cheeks in contrast to me with the black lace and embroidered velour, those bodies of swaying waists, mother-of-pearl and jasmine hands resting on jet ornaments have dazzled me…”.

Thus wrote the composer Enrique (Enric) Granados (1867-1916); the two major achievements by this composer in vocal music are inspired by this world that Goya depicted of the “lower neighborhoods” of 18th century Madrid; its what I would call from my NYC point of view the “‘hood”, with his heroines, the brash and audacious young girls that during the day were perhaps fruit and hat sellers or bar maids at the botillerias of Madrid, and at night, were hanging out with their dangerous but dashing boyfriends, the Majos.   The 12 Tonadillas al estilo antiguo and his opera Goyescas, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera 1916 (and remains to this day, the only opera by a composer of Spain to have graced the stage of the MET). In the Goya painting detail of La maja y los embozados, you can see how the young maja, confident and smiling knows how to handle herself in the middle of the tough and dangerous guys of the neighborhood; they are charmed by her no doubt, as she dances impervious to whatever danger there is (thriving in it even) and with “gracia”.

On December 10th at 7 PM at the Hispanic Society of America, the first kick off concert for the Enrique Granados Centennial Celebration of his visit to the great city of New York , the first of a concert series of three events

From Barcelona with Passion: Vocal and Dance music by Enrique Granados

as well as of his untimely death that very same year in the English Channel.  The program will include a complete rendition of the the Tonadillas al Estilo Antiguo, with text by Fernando Periquet, complete with the baritone solo “El majo olvidado”, the duet for two female voices “La currutacas modestas” (the modest fashionable ladies), the English horn with the song “Maja dolorosa I”, and the often neglected recitation by Periquet, that precedes the song “La maja de Goya”, over the instrumental portion of that song, often played in silence, but when divinely played by pianist Alicia de Larrocha, as in her Decca London recording with Pilar Lorengar or the live LP with Victoria de los Angeles at Hunter College, NY, one could hardly miss it.  Since I was assigned to sing La maja de Goya by my intrepid friend and colleague, the pianist Borja Mariño, who accompanies the soprano Anna Belen Gomez and baritone Gustavo Ahualli as well as myself in this concert, I have the task of doing this recitation.  The recitation tells a fantasy tale of how, while with a lady in his studio, they are surprised by the her husband; the lady only has time to cover her face, as he bursts in. As the husband comes in to reclaim his wife, Goya challenges to recognize his wife by examining her naked body. The jealous husband, unable to identify the lady as his wife by her body alone, leaves with his apologies.  All done in the Spanish “caballero” way…

After the recitation, a short “ditty” song begins, and in my imagination its the lady in question, who was saved by Goya’s cunning, perhaps remembering after many years later with nostalgia, the adventures of the memorable afternoon, next to the Manzanares river.

Never in my life will I

forget the gallant and

cherished image of Goya.

There is not a woman, maid

or lady who does not think

well of Goya now.

If I might find someone

to love me

Like he loved me,

I would not envy nor yearn

for better luck or happiness.

It was related to me by the pianist and Granados specialist Douglas Riva that there seems to be evidence that the composer disagreed with the tone set by the recitation, in terms of the genre and the “cafe cantante” format that it gave to the cycle. The recitation to my knowledge has not been recorded and I have never witnessed a performance that includes it.

Goya’s image of “a mixture of a artist, majo, bullfighter, soldier” to quote Periquet’s recitation in La maja de Goya, seems to have captured the imagination of many in the 19th century. I’m half way thru a very colorful novel about his possible escapade with the Duchess of Alba called “This is the Hour”. It has excellent depictions of dress, court manners, decorative arts, of dance and music scenes…as well as rendezvous scenes with the famous and fabled Duchess.  Its proving to be excellent “light and fun” reading, for someone immersing herself in the world of Goya and the Las 12 tonadillas al estilo antiguo of Granados!

Vocal and Dance Music of Enrique Granados in December of 2015 in NYC

Tuesday December 8 at 7 PM a the Instituto Cervantes of NY

An Enrique Granados Celebration:

Wednesday December 9 at 6:30 PM at the Coffee House Club of NY:

Thursday December 10 at 7:00 PM at the Hispanic Society of America Museum & Library

From Barcelona with Passion:  Vocal and Dance Music of Enrique Granados





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