Monday, May 13, 2013

OPEN, SÉSAME. "¡Ay, Carmela!" A musical about history, bravery and war.

ÁBRETE, SÉSAMO. "¡Ay, Carmela!", un musical de historia, valor, y guerra 1

History is full of songs that narrate what its protagonists experience so that it can be transmitted from generation to generation to somehow remember the events that occurred at some point in time. "Ay, Carmela!," also known as "El paso del Ebro" (The crossing of the River Ebro), was born from the voices of several Spaniards who sang in 1808 against the French invasion of Spain, during the War of Independence. Over a century later, the anarchists brought it back to life and sang it during one of the worst possible armed conflicts, one which forces people to kill their own brothers, cousins and friends - the Spanish Civil War.

A few days ago, on a hot evening, we were walking among the crowds in Madrid. We were heading for the Reina Victoria Theater to take a seat and relive an episode of Spanish history narrated in the form of songs. And we most certainly did.

Andrés Lima directs a cast of actors led by Inma Cuesta, Javier Gutiérrez and Marta Ribera, in the musical adaptation of the theater piece and subsequent movie: "Ay, Carmela!." The actors shined but what most impressed us -nearly making us shiver in delight- was the scenography, backed by an illumination, that seemed to spit out bombs and fire (not emanating from the spotlights). Thus, my most sincere congratulations and praise to Beatriz San Juan and Valentín Álvarez for managing to make my hair stand on end.

Traditional women with a daring spirit, dressed in mourning and naked, accompanied and alone, with faces that cry and mouths that laugh. A succession of Spanish women in black & white and red & grey, take up the first minutes of the show, talking about the past, about how they lived and the things that afflicted them.

ÁBRETE, SÉSAMO. "¡Ay, Carmela!", un musical de historia, valor y guerra 2

Marta Ribera guided us through the story with her sensual and enlightening voice. Her words, sometimes shouted and at others whispered, alternated with the sound of bomber planes, forests that crackled ablaze at dusk- times of fire and death. And the words kept flowing as the wagon of Carmela and Paulino with its slogan: "variedades a lo fino" (fine varieties) plowed ahead towards its destiny.

Although I kept waiting for Inma Cuesta's performance as Carmela with her Andalusian magical charm, I cannot ignore the excellent job of her cover artist, Sagra Mielgo, in her role as a brave woman of solid ideas, who led us to remember the story sung to Carmela, as the story's protagonist.

Paulino's role was played by a brilliant Javier Gutiérrez. I also enjoyed hearing, in Italian, Mussolini's envoy, played by a surprisingly amusing Javier Navares. Álvaro Morte, Pablo Raya, and Javier Enguix, complete the cast, as innocent members of the International Brigades, and murderers - with and without a cassock.

ÁBRETE, SÉSAMO. "¡Ay, Carmela!", un musical de historia, valor y guerra 3Javier Guitérrez, Inma Cuesta and Marta Ribera

Víctor Manuel, Pedro Guerra and Vanesa Martín composed the original songs for the musical, which together with the own songs from original show and the period, such as "Suspiros de España", "Ay, Carmela", "Giovinezza" and "Jarama Valley" make up the music notes and lyrics of the show.

"Ay, Carmela!" first premiered in 1987 under the direction of José Luis Gómez, after having been written by José Sanchis Sinisterra the previous year. It was subsequently taken to Buenos Aires, where in 1989 great Argentine actors such as Virginia Lago and Jorge Rivera López and the director Dervy Vilas revived this story set a the time of the Spanish Civil War.

ÁBRETE, SÉSAMO. "¡Ay, Carmela!", un musical de historia, valor y guerra 4

In 1990, Carlos Saura decided to make a movie of "Ay, Carmela!" It went on to wind 13 Goya prizes, including for best film, actor and actress, with Carmen Maura, Andrés Pajares and Gabino Diego as leading characters.

Andrés Vicente Gómez, producer of the movie, assigned José Luis García Sánchez the task of adapting the story of Carmela to musical theater to be directed by Andrés Lima. At present and until June 30, the musical is playing at the Reina Victoria Theater. If you want to be moved one of these spring evenings in Madrid go and see this musical where the public shows up in all manner of attire; ties and suits, shorts, sandals and boots. Buy yourself a ticket and enjoy this great show loaded with laughter, tears and memories from the past.

We don't know if the events in "Ay Carmela" are real, but they could well have been. Many women like Carmela were shot to death by men who were nobodies in uniforms that made them feel powerful. Our generation has not experienced anything as painful as what is being shown on stage at the Reina Victoria Theater. Although revenge and rancor are of no use at all, it is positive that these events are being recovered and made public by artists, directors, academics and historians who are reviving these old songs that are part of our history and should never be forgotten.