Saturday, April 13, 2013

EL MUNDO. ¡Ay,Carmela!. Musical. Epics & esthetics of a great staging


For many fans of Ay, Carmela! and its author, Sanchis Sinisterra, the text, an actor and an actress suffices. Using that as a starting point, much can be done; even this brilliant musical version of the play with cabaret airs and an invented narrator, Marta Ribera - a sort of minor Liza Minnelli, though a magnificent performer with a wonderful voice. Marta Ribera, in harmony with "Cabaret" and "Chicago," infuses the first part of the show with that aroma. This super-production by Andrés Vicente Gómez redeems him from the fateful pan-Arabism of "The Last Horseman."

There is grandeur and a dazzling sensory and political perspective in this show, assisted by García Sánchez's version of the play and the scenography of Beatriz San Juan. The screening of documentary images of the bombardments while the Posodoble "Suspiros de España" (Sighs of Spain) plays provides ample stimulus and conviction. Here we find similarities with the work of theater theorist and director Vsevolod Meyerhold who, as an artist and friend of painters, searched in the theater for harmony and, as a politician, a proletariat biomechanical set-up.

The female narrator announces that she is going to tell the story of a woman who is different from all others; that marks the development of the first part of the show. The powerful voice and presence of Marta Ribera overshadows the simplicity that characterizes Carmela (Inma Cuesta) and Paulino (Javier Gutiérrez). On the other hand, the narrative-dramatic rhythm of the show reveals a Europe in flames, divided between fascism and communism; the armed bourgeoisie and the armed proletariat. It could be said that the first part is an epic play while the second part is more intimate and tragic and more in line with Sanchis's text. The epic element is recovered during the last sequence of confrontation between the Phalangists and those who have been sentenced to death, led by a member of the international brigade who is in love with Carmela.

That kind of mercy shown by Carmela - Michelangelo dramatized - as she comforts the wounded member of the international brigade is memorable and noteworthy. In the face of her compassion, Paulino's fear excels and expresses itself in its most pathetic form; he is a poor soul and actor Javier Gutiérrez (in that role) resorts to everything at his disposal: fear, the scatological humor, alternating anguish of declaring himself to be a communist at times and a fascist at others to save his life; he is brilliant in the parody of Millán Astray (the Spanish officer who founded the Spanish Legion), which justifies the presence of Celia Gámez, the protégée of the legion's general, in "Las Corsarias" (Spanish army marching tune) and in thechotis(traditional dance of Madrid) "No pasarán" (the leftist slogan: They Will not Pass).  

The heroine is Carmela, the beautiful woman who preserves her virtue in the face of advances made by a passionate Italian and her Republican ideology from all the others. Superb and in a state of grace, is Javier Navares in his role as Ripamonte. As to Inma Cuesta, her performance is better in the popular songs than in the rhythms composed by Victor Manuel, Guerra and Vanesa Martín. 

There are peak moments of good theater, emotional intensity and political confrontation. For example, in the sequence between the internationalist communists and Italian fascists, the hymn of the international brigades and the Jovineza del fascio (the Italian fascist hymn) reach a crescendo that creates a clear, increasingly violent and esthetically irreproachable atmosphere. Having noted the brilliant role played by an afflicted and comical Javier Gutiérrez one must highlight the superb direction of Lima and an overall performance that is not only credible but thrilling.