BIENAL DE FLAMENCO DE SEVILLA
Inaugural Gala– Tribute to Manolo Sanlúcar
Concert guitarist and composer: Manolo Sanlúcar. Dance: Cristina Hoyos, Israel Galván, Juan de Juan. Cante: Arcángel, José Valencia, Luís el Zambo, Fernando de la Morena. Guitar: Moraíto, David Carmona, Miguel Ángel Cortés, Daniel Méndez. Percussion: Agustín Diassera. Palmas: Chícharo, Carlos Grilo, Bo, Lúa, Bobote. “El misterio de las voces búlgaras”: Coro Femenino de la RTV de Bulgaria. Orquesta Joven de Andalucía directed by Michael Thomas. Author and artistic director: Isidro Muñoz.
Text: Estela Zatania
We humans love to take note of anniversaries. Last night, in the San Francisco plaza in the heart of Seville, capital of Andalusia, the first night of the fifteenth Bienal de Flamenco was celebrated, thirty years from the time it was created, and in commemoration of the fifty-year career of one of the most important guitarists of the genre, The inaugural gala of the marathon event, the mother of all flamenco festivals, took the form of an extravagant open-air show, with free entrance, to pay tribute to Manolo Sanlúcar.
Many important anniversaries of major flamenco artists have gone unnoticed by the organization over the years; Paco de Lucía himself received no similar treatment the year he received the prestigious Príncipe de Asturias prize two Bienals ago. But let’s not start the month, with its 55 scheduled shows, on a negative note; here’s a look at what the inauguration was like…
A festival of grandiose dimensions requires a grandiose opening. And as tends to occur with grandiosity, at first you’re impressed, but the overall impression when it’s all over is of more wrapping than content. The huge plaza was packed, more than two thousand five-hundred people were lucky enough to commandeer one of the folding chairs, and with a quick visual count I’d say another two thousand were able to enjoy the show from the surrounding streets. For 80 tightly-controlled minutes, about a hundred performers were on the spacious stage erected in front of the plateresque façade of city hall; the Young Andalusia Orchestra and the 22 women of the Bulgarian Chorus, in addition to the main performers.
At one end of the stage, Jerez. Moraíto, Luis Zambo, Fernando de la Morena and compas-keepers to match. At the other end, the Bulgarians, twenty-two ladies in folkloric attire. Manolo Sanlúcar makes his appearance and the numerous audience stands up. And thus began the well-constructed, but somewhat stiff production. A lyrical piece from Sanlúcar’s recording “Tauromagia” is followed by the Bulgarian chorus whose hypnotic drone is suddenly interrupted by guitar, voices and palmas, complete with wooden table and knuckled compás to invoke all the aroma of a fiesta flamenca in Jerez. Moraíto’s little dance, about as far from spontaneous on this occasion as anything can get, leads to a beautiful extract from Sanlúcar’s “Medea” with the dancing of Cristina Hoyos.
Once again, the oneiric parallel harmony of the Bulgarian voices serves as a sort of Greek chorus that musically appears to narrate the flamenco goings-on. Manolo Sanlúcar interprets a composition of soleá with David Carmona on second guitar, and Juan de Juan and José Valencia, respectively,0 decorate the music with dancing and singing.
Singer José Valencia’s brave martinete, a one-man tour-de-force intended to end the show, doesn’t quite tie up this pre-eminently institutional instrumental show, but the rigid format makes no allowance for an encore, much less the fiesta finale the audience was hoping for.