Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding)

Antonio Gades
Teatro Real de Madrid
Teatro Real de Madrid, Spain
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Bodas de Sangra

Antonio Gades’s Bodas de Sangre, which is based on Federico García Lorca’s play, was a major occasion for Spanish dance in 1974 and it made him famous. His version went on to gain an international audience in 1981 when Carlos Saura filmed it without set or costumes in a rehearsal hall. The film was an excellent advertisement for flamenco.

Gades’s choreography is described by him as a homage to Lorca, who was murdered during the Spanish Civil War by the Fascists in 1936 because of his left-wing views and his homosexuality. His body has never been found.

Lorca’s Blood Wedding, written in prose and verse, set in rural Andalusia, and using music, song, dance and mime, premièred in 1933. It is based on a true incident, yet it has the potency of a timeless ballad.

On her wedding night, a reluctant bride (Christina Carnero) runs away with her macho lover (Ángel Gil), a married man with a child of his own, who has brutally rejected his wife (Maite Chico). The gentle groom (Joaquin Mulero), egged on by his mother (Vanesa Vento), who hands him a knife, pursues them on horseback. The two men fight to the death.

The story is told in 40 minutes. There is no Sun, no Beggar-Woman death-figure as in Lorca’s play. Gades’s version concentrates on the three main characters. The duende, the intensity of the emotion, is in Christina Carnero’s expressive face and body. The dancers are accompanied by guitar. The wedding festivities are realistic. There is no stamping, no flamboyant heel work. It is all understated, minimalist, and not any the less dramatic for it.

Darkness is a key feature of Gades’s lighting. The horse-riding posse mime, with the feet scraping the ground to produce a hoof sound effect, leads up to the high spot, the fight. Brilliantly choreographed within a small circle of light, in slow motion and in silence, every move clearly defined, it is brilliantly executed by Ángel Gil and Joaquín Mulero.

The tension, as you wait for the fatal plunges which will kill them both, is huge. The deafening silence is broken on the stabbing. The familiar flamenco sound of clapping accompanies the dancers as they slow fall to the ground and their death.

This performance of Bodas de Sangra, which can be viewed for free online on the EuroArts channel, was recorded by Teatro Real de Madrid in 2011 and is not to be missed.

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch