And long live London, which is very well!

Silvia Calado. London, March 16th, 2008
Photos (*): Daniel Muñoz

‘¡Viva Jerez!’. María del Mar Moreno & Mercedes Ruiz: guest artists. Angelita Gómez: special collaboration. Antonio Malena, Londro, Mateo Soleá, El Pescaílla: cante. Santiago Lara, Santiago Moreno, Pascual de Lorca: guitars. Pedro Navarro: percussion. José Zarzana: piano. Luisa Terremoto, La Bastiana, Juani Peña, Rosario: baile, choruses. Luis de la Tota: clapping. Francisco López: director. Javier Latorre: choreography coordinator. Paco Cepero: music coordinator. Flamenco Festival London 2008. Sadler’s Wells. London, March 16th, 2008. 7:30 p.m.

Antonio Malena (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

When the curtain opened at Sadler’s Wells and the London audience saw the majestic row of seventeen artists seated on rush-bottomed chairs, a unanimous ‘ooohhh!’ was heard. ‘¡Viva Jerez!’ left fifteen hundred Londoners gaping in the second performance of the show, which was its international premiere at the same time as the closing of Flamenco Festival London 2008. Now devoid of the pressure of its presentation in Jerez, the show was performed more condensed, with a reduced length and cast of artists - without Fernando Terremoto - and polished up in general, which has made it gain in effectiveness.

And the result of that work is a more dynamic show overall and more balanced in its two parts. Something fundamental before an unbiased audience more interested in factors such as the performers’ quality and the flow of the show than localist details relative to the family tree of cantes and cantaores. The questions don’t go beyond curiosities here. “Are the lyrics sometimes dramatic and other times joyful?”, a gentleman asks politely. “Yes, normally when the rhythm is livelier, they talk about everyday subjects, about love or even jokes. And when it’s slower, they talk about grief, suffering, death”, the Spanish journalist responds. There you go, keep on enjoying yourself.

Well, ‘¡Viva Jerez!’ was just that for the London audience; genuine enjoyment. The show sparkled greatly at the amazing English venue, a real temple of dance which offers pearls in the season’s program such as Pina Bausch, the Nederlands Dans Theater and Sara Baras’s summer season. And the thing is that flamenco is currently a part of this theater with over three hundred years of history. The most contemporary kind just as easily as the sort tightly grasping the roots. And although the main interest lies in dancing, the respect with which cante is listened to and applauded is overwhelming. Even the rawest kind, which is what stars in the first part of the show. Trillas, martinetes, tonás... whose feeling transcends words themselves. Now then, the prologue prepares spectators beforehand, with a colorful scene in which one is first born and then wakes up to life, in a space of tones tanned by the sun. Afterwards comes the seguiriya. And the black background. And the solitude of a room. It is sung by Antonio Malena, who becomes the star cantaor, displaying his spine-tingling echo throughout the gigantic theater. And it is danced by an overwhelming María del Mar Moreno, an accomplice to pain in every movement. The interior. The intense.

'¡Viva Jerez!' rehearsal (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

The suffering goes until there, as Luisa Terremoto announces. The episode of the stand, with its tables and its chairs, calls on the collective, comings and goings, jokes, tangos, tanguillo and wailing embellished by a milonga or a malagueña coddled by Londro. By then the personality and professionalism which over a century ago affected Jerez flamenco and every flamenco without fail have been highlighted. And the guitar of Santiago Lara does soleá, making way for the farruca by Mercedes Ruiz, donning a short jacket and trousers. The mirror reflects art, artist and audience. And she appears sober, clean, sharp in her accurate, sinewy dancing. But it was also that era of theatricalization and fury at the Teatro Villamarta by a picture-perfect couple. Lola Flores and Manolo Caracol. Zambra. María del Mar and Antonio Malena... and José Zarzana on piano. The girl is fire. And the theater gets excited.

An airport scene. An ice-colored background. The flamencos from Jerez travel around the world to Tokyo, to New York, to London. And wherever they go, they raise the temperature. Just like they did that very morning to be photographed before Big Ben by the special correspondents sent by ‘Diario de Jerez’; quickly ignited in that frosty waiting room is the spark, the wit, the clapping of hands forever ready to clash. What could be better than alegrías by Mercedes Ruiz to ease the wait... Now the bailaora seeks her feminine register, arms, hands and swirl of the dress. Ovation. But there’s still a lot of Jerez left. The distance grieves. And María del Mar Moreno comforts herself by singing a lullaby, she who is a complete, resolute artist here.


María del Mar Moreno
(Photo Daniel Muñoz)

The return to earth coincides with the festival of 1906, which announces bullfights and polo matches. The soleá por bulería provides the transition. And then the party breaks out. Each offers a short stint por bulerías, each with his own personality, from the most streetwise to the most stylized, from the courtyard to the stage. Miguel Téllez and Mercedes Ruiz balance technique, effect and art. María del Mar Moreno rips herself apart in a ‘Piensa en mí’ which is sung, danced and fought. El Pescaílla sparks laughter in the gag with the half square meter tile. Maestra Angelita Gómez pays tribute to the most timeless baile. And the women and clappers and pianists. In the bustling retreat, the scene freezes. Epilogue. Antonio Malena and a shivering fandango. Now came the final ovation, the curtain which was raised like three times, the crowd that applauded and shouted, the team of artists who came out to share the glory. As El Pescaílla sings on his tile, “and long live London, which is very well!”.

(*) The photographs correspond to the sound test and behind the scenes, since the theater prohibits the presence of photographers during the shows

More information:

Festival de Jerez 2008. Premiere of ‘¡Viva Jerez!’. Review, photos, video

Flamenco Festival London 2008. Full show schedule

The premiere of '¡Viva Jerez!', a show about Jerez flamenco, will inaugurate Festival de Jerez 2008

Visit the international flamenco festival agenda

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