A festival with flavor

Carlos Sánchez. Los Palacios (Seville), 18th to 23rd October 2004
Photos: Ayuntamiento de Los Palacios

The gamble taken by Festival de la Mistela four years ago is paying off. With its new format of six consecutive days, the event held in the town of Los Palacios y Villafranca is looking to establish itself as one of the dates on everybody's flamenco calendar. Over this period, this corner of Seville province played host to artists of the caliber of Miguel Poveda, Israel Galván, Lole Montoya, Calixto Sánchez, Mayte Martín and Daniel Méndez, among others. A wide-ranging bill, with a good balance between youngsters and veterans, between vocalists, dancers and guitarists.

Israel Galván

The frenetic activity of these six days of Festival de la Mistela 2004 began in the classrooms. The opening bell was rung on Monday 18th October with the start of the flamenco dance course run by Israel Galván. The following day saw the inauguration of a photographic exhibition by Colita and Julio Ubiña, a study of the one and only Carmen Amaya. The pictures take a journey through the bailaora's career, including photos from the set of the movie ‘Los Tarantos’. In the words of the photographer herself: “This exhibition bears witness to what a magnificent person she is.” Then in the evening, the first day's performances saw two local artists take the stage. The Teatro Municipal opened its doors to young bailaor Amador Rojas, showing the festival's determination to strengthen and promote local talent. Rojas was no disappointment, offering a highly interesting performance. At midnight, a smaller club - ‘Tertulia Flamenca El Pozo de las Penas’ - was the venue for cantaor José Sánchez Triguero, Itoly. A grieving voice, full of character, in touch with the roots of flamenco; a voice that's won him many a coveted award. The small venue feels like the perfect place for the artist to fulfill his true potential.

Pastora Galván

Pastora Galván's dance was the curtain-raiser at the theater on Wednesday. The bailaora from Seville opened with tarantos. A traditional flamenco framework, but with a cutting-edge approach. A clear reminder of the talent that runs in her family. Evidently she's influenced by her brother Israel Galván's dance: energy, intensity and flamenco. She rounded off 'por tangos'. José Anillo relieved the bailaora, with a malagueña borrowed from Enrique el Mellizo. In the dreadful lighting - that persisted throughout the festival - elegance was personified in the figure of the 'Sevillana' in her orange bata de cola flamenco dress. 'Por alegrías' now. She glides across the stage with confidence and agility. With verve, with naturalness. This is truly someone to watch.

The second part was Miguel Poveda's, a cantaor whose clarity, wide-ranging talents and polished performances are enviable. The vocalist from Badalona gave the finest recital of the festival. A granaína blends into a milonga... and one of the principal cantaores of the moment was in full swing. He draws out and tightens up the lines of his malagueña, with musicality, dominating the approach he represents. He completed his performance with cantiñas, tonás and bulerías.

The main course came on Thursday with the show ‘Arena’ by Israel Galván. An innovative, daring offering, with which the bailaor from Seville scored a triumph just days earlier at the Festival Bienal de Sevilla. Arena consists of six choreographed pieces revolving around the bullfight, featuring special guest artists such as Enrique Morente, Miguel Poveda, Diego Carrasco and Diego Amador. An excellent show overflowing with symbolism, in which the bailaor himself takes on the role of bull and bullfighter alternately, bringing his fresh approach to a tried and tested theme. Unfortunately there were problems showing the video introductions to each of the pieces. But nothing could eclipse the moments of magic, of reflection, of acting and, above all, of baile.

Sold out

Lole Montoya and Calixto Sánchez were the only artists to sell out their show. As the weekend arrived, the audiences packed out the theater. The sweet, honeyed, silky voice of the cantaora began the evening's proceedings. ‘Todo es de color’ was the opening number of this flamenco romantic. Melodies bathed in Arabian perfumes. The cantaora from Seville is still in the limelight after more than thirty years of activity. Solo now, though. “No somos distintos, somos semejantes” (We aren't different, we're alike), say the new lyrics she intersperses with other older lines. An arabesque feeling, blending with flamenco. Bulerías 'del pajarillo' - a tune that takes you back to a bygone era.


Daniel Méndez

It falls to Calixto Sánchez to round off the night's proceedings. A cantaor from the Mairena school, Boasting a superb technique. The artist from Los Alcores performs each of the cantes with split-second timing. Measured to the millimeter. Whether or not you like his voice, his ability as a performer is beyond question. Maybe you dismiss his work, but he has the qualities of a fully-rounded cantaor. He doesn't flinch at any style: tonás, malagueña... and he recites a poem by Machado to the tune of a milonga. “Ya me arrancaste señor lo que más quería” (lord you took away from me what I loved most). He speaks of the poet's sadness at the loss of his wife. He encroaches on the arid terrain of the soleá, then shifts gear with alegrías and bulerías. And for dessert, a fandango, in all its glory.

The festival was brought to a close with performances by Mayte Martín and Daniel Méndez. The cantaora from Catalonia came to make up for her absence at the Seville Biennial Festival. But she was less refined than on other occasions. She chose neglected palos, half-forgotten styles such as the vidalita and the garrotín. The cantaora from the Chacón school could have stretched herself a little more. The ‘Venencia Flamenca’ award for promising newcomers fell this year to young guitarist Daniel Méndez, coming from the distinguished school of players Morón de la Frontera has provided flamenco. He offered a broad recital, oozing good taste. He played around with time signatures, vacillating between soleá and seguiriya. With naturalness. A fine technique, and beautiful harmony, showing great promise. And the icing on the cake came around midnight at the smaller 'peña', where cantaora María José Carrasco rounded off another edition of this up-and-coming flamenco festival with something for everyone.


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