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Fifty Year Anniversary of the Lyric Theatre / Miguel Iturria Savon

January 12, 2013 Leave a comment

After wrapping up its jubilee year with a program of operas, operettas and zarzuelas of enormous dramatic and musical impact, the National Lyric Theater of Cuba offered three festive events in the García Lorca Hall of the Gran Teatro de la Habana on the weekend of September 14 to 16 to honor the founders and artists who, since 1962, have promoted the lyrical arts, whose beginnings on the island date back to the early 19th century, and especially to 1838 and the Teatro Tacón, the current headquarters of the Gran Teatro of Havana (GTH).

Genre notables and representatives of institutions such as the Ballet Nacional and the Opera and Orquesta Sinfónica of GTH appeared each day on the stage to receive diplomas and flowers, awarded by Maestro Alberto Méndez, choreographer and artistic director, and Eduardo Díaz, musical director and the new company director, who was in charge of the gala event, which staged selected segments of Cuban and Universal works brought to  the stage during the fifty years of the Lyric Theatre.

Contrasting the cast of young talent there with the outstanding singers, actors, writers and assistants before them in works such as La Traviata, the Magic Flute, the Pharaoh’s Court, or Cecilia Valdés, Amalia Batista and María la O by Cuban artists Gonzalo Roig, Rodrigo Prat and Ernesto Lecuona, respectively; all of these works were reintroduced during the jubilee year.

In the final evening the public applauded classic works by G. Verdi such as Va, Pensiero performed by the Lyrical Chorus; followed by La Donna é Mobile, interpreted by the young tenors Saheed Mohamed, Bryan López and Ernesto Cabrera; the Gran Duo from Cecilia sung by Katia Selva and S. Mohamed; El Cabildo by Lecuona performed by the Lyric Chorus and JJ, the Traditional Dance company; Septimino, from the Merry Widow performed by Milagros de los Angeles, Lili Hernandez, Javier Ojanguren, Junier Estrada, Rey Reyes, Eleonor Cuello, Dayron Peralta and Ian Sánchez.

The program included the Sextet composed by G. Donizetti for Lucía de Lammermoor, P. Mascagni’s Cavallería Rusticana Intermezzo; The Gypsy and bullfighter choral arrangement from La Traviata performed by the Irene Rodríguez Company; also the quartet and the Vals de Musetta, both from Puccini’s La Boheme; the Mazurka of the Parasols, La Romanza from María la O, the duet from the first act of Madame Butterfly, and the triumphant March from Aida, interpreted by the Chorus and the soloists of the Lyric Theatre and choreographed by the Ballet de la Televisión and the other companies already mentioned.

The spectacle, sober and elegant, with minimal use of props, relied on the vocal virtuosity of various performers, the excellent music conducted by Eduardo Díaz and Giovanni Duarte, the choreography of Cristy Domínguez, Johannes García and Alberto Méndez; the effective light design by Carlos Hernández and the choral direction of Catalina Ayón and Denisse Falcón.

According to musicologist Vázquez Millares, the National Lyric Theatre of Cuba reestablshes Havana as the “Philharmonic Capital of the New World”, an operatic tradition of more than 250 years. Its first performance was the Spanish zarzuela Luisa Fernanda by Moreno Torralba, conducted by Maestro Felix Guerrero and Miguel de Grandy and performed by the founding artists of the company. Since its inception, it has staged more than 70 works, among them Italian, French, German, Polish, and Cuban operas, Spanish and Cuban operettas and zarzuelas, many performed in European and American cities and provincial theatres across the island.

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 Translated by: Marina Villa

September 20 2012

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End of Year Ballad / Miguel Iturria Savon

January 1, 2013 Leave a comment

After a month in Spain I hardly dare to offer an opinion about this nation of my father and my grandparents that I have shared, since November 20th, with my wife and her family, residents of La Vall d’Uixó, Castellón province, half an hour from Valencia, 180 miles from Barcelona and 240 from Madrid; cities I know from imagination and literature although their streets and monuments are still a visual and bookish reference for me.

I’ve only traveled the road from Madrid to La Vall and from there to Valencia, Castellón and its surrounding villages — Villa Real, Villa Vieja, Xilxes and Moncofa; as well as across the central Castellan plateau stopping in some medieval towns of Murcia, Toledo and the community of Madrid. Insufficient, right?

Yes, but I dare to express an opinion because every day I read El Pais, I watch the news, a couple of comedy programs — The Intermediate and The Comedy Club — and I talk with people from various social strata who speak from their experience and emotions about the political situation and the possible causes of the economic crisis and its consequences.

In my environment are predominantly people who cast the blame for the current disaster on the “housing boom promoted by Aznar,” as if Zapatero hadn’t been president for 8 years and the king, the courts, and other personalities and institutions didn’t have anything to do with it, along with the regional representatives and the provincial and local organizations.

In Spain they speak from the heart and ideological positioning. Generally I hear horrors about Esperanza Aguirre, a former president of the Community of Madrid, the former president Aznar and his wife Ana Botella, current mayor of Madrid, Rajoy and unpopular measures adopted by the Government.

The blame is extended with colorful shading to the banks, the European Union, the German Chancellor. It seems that almost nobody walks in someone else’s shoes, nor thinks it’s their own fault, as if those below were little angels forced to take on debt and now condemned to dismissal by the works and grace of those above.

I hear these and other points of view, some very sharp, but I try not to offer an opinion to avoid contradicting them. It’s outside my circumstances although the national situation affects me … In my case, the hardest part is avoiding questions about Cuba because my hosts perceive me as a fount of data, almost like a Odysseus about to drown in the wave of totalitarian injustice, rescued from the wreck by his Spanish Penelope.

About Cuba I don’t play dumb, I say what I think and sometimes I hurt the sensibilities of those who believe in the myth of Castro as a liberating process. They compare this half century dictatorship with Franco’s and I am even asked what positive legacy he leaves the Caribbean nation. As it is almost impossible to satisfy such curiosity I’ve been tempted to reverse the question: what achievements did Spain manage under the rule of Francisco Franco?

I do not follow that endless road because, up to now — and despite the crisis and the naive — I have received a lot of love and kindness from Spain and the Spanish. I perceive Spain as a  year-end ballad. Spain is tragicomic but it is neither a tango, nor is it an eschatological lament that rends the voice of flamenco singers, so peculiar in the Andalusian cities.

Apparently, the crisis has not yet hit bottom in the old Hispania. If we compare it to Cuba, this it is a paradise full of cars, clean streets without dogs, crowded markets, half-empty trains and people celebrating with family or among friends, with wines, meats, fruits and other delicacies, while making jokes and cursing politicians.

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December 31 2012