Photos: F. Cajasol
“¡Qué suenen con alegría!” Voice: Ainhoa Arteta and Estrella Morente. Teatro de la Maestranza of Seville – December 21st, 2017
¡Qué suenen con alegría! Voice: Ainhoa Arteta and Estrella Morente. Piano: Lucía Moreno. Guitar: Santiago Lara. Woodwinds: Diego Villegas. Bass: Antonio Corrales. Percussion: Eduardo Aguirre de Cárcer. Flamenco musicians. Guitar: Montoyita. Percussion, rhythm and chorus: Antonio Carbonell and Pedro Gabarre.
Seeming them both on-stage, I remembered they starred in the famous champagne announcement in which only the biggest stars appear, announcing that kind of Christmas beyond the possibilities of mere mortals. Fiestas of luxury, magic and elegance that have little to do with the gatherings diligently organized in neighborhood homes, no matter how elaborately we decorate the Christmas tree. Perhaps that’s why we become trapped on the other side of the television screen. Because dreams are made out of fantasy.
I make this observation, because the show brought to the Maestranza theater by Ainhoa Arteta and Estrella Morente, “the two current grande dames of lyrical song and flamenco” as it said on the program, had a lot of this. Not only because it was the first time they appeared together in the same show, two interpreters who are divas in their respective specialties, but because the show itself – “much more than a Christmas recital” – promised to be an extraordinary and unique event that no one would want to miss.
The cream of Seville’s upper class was in attendance (politicians, impresarios, artists…), and others who wanted to share the experience, at least for one day. And of course the performers were received with the same enthusiasm that each year corresponds to this event. “I can assure you this doesn’t happen in the north” said a soprano when the audience began clapping in rhythm, singing some popular verses. “Yes, but the north has given us Ainhoa Arteta” added quickly the Granada singer, once again showing the admiration and complicity that shone throughout the entire recital.
In duets and solos the two singers went through a wide repertoire of traditional villancicos, of all musical colors, from the “Coplas de la Navidad” (green), to “Paz y Alegría” (red), and childhood memories (white).
On this path, Arteta was noteworthy, and earned the first shouts of “brava” with the Balada de Jesús, an impressive a capella Ave María that we didn’t want to end ever and most of all, in her interpretation of Hator Hator, a villancico from her hometown that she movingly dedicated to her daughter, and with which she aimed to defend her pride in a country in which “all cities and towns are a part of the whole”. Estrella resorted to versions of songs we already knew, the Tangos del Chavico, los Peregrinos, Caracol o la Canción de los Pastores, although with different arrangements and with a vocal placement that aimed for a more lyrical sound than her flamenco register, more tonal perfection than lament.
As a matter of fact, despite her charisma and strength, Estrella Morente seemed more concerned with her stage presence and singing without risk, than letting herself go as she has on other occasions. This is something we missed, especially because naturalness and passion are the arms flamenco has to answer the unreachable sound register of the Basque singer, who, by the way, had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand thanks to her personable style. “What a hoot you’ve got going with the Virgin doing the wash, and so on and so forth…we leave them all in the manger” she joked until being worthy of a shout “what art this Basque lady has!” from someone in the audience.
More than an hour and a half full of glamour and enthralling music, where the wind instruments of Diego Villegas were outstanding, and in which both singers were the bubbles of a toast that was as sparkling as it was ephemeral.