Poema del Cante Jondo

Most lovers of Spain and Spanish culture will know Federico García Lorca’s Poema del Cante Jondo, or Poem of Deep Song. Lorca wrote this when he was only twenty three and it was his first major work. He drew on some of the basic palos of deep song — the seguiriya, the saeta, the soleá, the petenera –to create poetry that reflected the colours, the landscape, the despair and the passions of his native Andalucía. Most importantly, his poetry revealed the many submerged cultural strains that come together in this part of the world and defy the politics of uniformity imposed so rigidly by the Catholic Church since the time of the Reconquest: the Moorish, the Jewish, the folk, the gitano… And it was this attention to heterogeneity and to the force of forbidden passion that would ultimately trigger Lorca’s untimely death in the hands of the Nationalists.

So the current show at the Teatro del Alhambra in Granada, the Poema del Cante Jondo en el Café de Chinitas, comes as the closing of a circle, as it attempts to translate Lorca’s work back into flamenco. Performed by the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía, it is a mega-show, full of swirling colours, intense scenarios and striking contrasts. I suppose that is in keeping with the dramatic force of Lorca’s poetry, which is certainly not the easiest to translate into another language, leave alone into another medium or genre. Cristina Hoyos directs the choreography and makes several appearances on stage. Her amazing hands — famously immortalized in Saura’s trilogy — still move like doves in the air.

Does it work? Much of it does. Maybe not all. Despite the links, it is hugely ambitious to attempt to render Lorca’s work into flamenco, for what he did was to distil poetry from popular culture and performance. But certainly, there are moments of duende in this show and I would go again if I could, if only to listen once again to Vicente Gelo’s unforgettable saeta rise up against the Andalusian night sky.

For those who can read Spanish, here is Lorca’s Baladilla de los tres ríos that the show opens with:

Federico García Lorca

A Salvador Quintero.

El río Guadalquivir
va entre naranjos y olivos.
Los dos ríos de Granada
bajan de la nieve al trigo.

¡Ay, amor
que se fue y no vino!

El río Guadalquivir
tiene las barbas granates.
Los dos ríos de Granada,
uno llanto y otro sangre.

¡Ay, amor
que se fue por el aire!

Para los barcos de vela
Sevilla tiene un camino;
por el agua de Granada
sólo reman los suspiros.

August 12, 2010 Post Under General - Read More

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