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

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Antonio Gades (1936–2004), famed Spanish dancer and choreographer, reinvigorated and reinvented flamenco dance and was hugely successful on his many tours. He also created three memorable flamenco dramas.

First there was Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding) in 1974 and then there was Carmen in 1983. In 1994 he staged Fuenteovejuna, which is based on the play written by Lope de Vega in 1614. The excellent production online is by Teatro Real de Madrid and dates from 2006.

In 1476, the citizens of Fuenteovejuna, a village in the province of Cordoba, rose up against the tyranny of their feudal commander and killed him. 300 villagers, men, women and children, some as young as ten, under interrogation and torture, famously refused to say who had actually been responsible for his murder and with one voice replied that Fuenteovejuna had killed him.

Lope de Vega, the greatest dramatist of Spain’s Golden Age, told the story in simple melodramatic terms, which allowed him to develop two of his favourite themes. Firstly, that love, honour and revenge are not the prerogative of the nobility and secondly, that the morality of the peasant classes is often superior to that of the aristocrats who rule them.

The uprising was triggered when the commander (Joaquín Mulero) imprisoned a groom (Ángel Gil) on his wedding day and raped his bride (Christina Carnero).

Gades concentrates on the community rather than individuals, though individuals get their chance to show their paces when they present flowers to the bride. The footwork is amazing. The most interesting formation is the deployment of two separate and tightly knit phalanxes. The familiar Flamenco stamping and handclapping serve the confrontations between Mayor (Alberto Ferrero) and commander and groom versus commander well.

The actual storyline is often held up by Gades who introduces a wide variety of national folk dances, which show the peasants just dancing for the sheer joy of dancing and giving his audience what they have come to see.

The curtain calls reprise tableaux from key moments in the drama and the most striking tableau vivant is the whole company, arms raised, declaring they all murdered the commander. Monumental.

You can watch Fuenteovejuna, Bodas de Sangre and Carmen online free on the Euro Arts Channel.

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch

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