Text: Sara Arguijo
Photos: Oscar Romero / La Bienal
De Sevilla a Cádiz (1969-2016) Author: Juan Peña El Lebrijano. Director: Pedro María Peña. Voice: José Valencia. Guitar: Manuel Parrilla, Juan Requena. Rhythm: Manuel Valencia, Juan Diego Valencia. Chorus: Sergio Aguilera, Inma la Carbonera, Amparo Lagares. Guest artists: Pastora Galván (dance) Faiçal Kourrich (violin) – Teatro Lope de Vega. Sunday, September 18th, 2016.
JOSÉ VALENCIA IS CROWNED IN SEVILLE AS ‘THE SECOND ONE’
I wonder how often José Valencia listened to Juan Peña “Lebrijano” over the last two months in order to have captured that sound, without imitating. How many times he must have gone over the sparse written notes left for the show the elder singer was to have directed in the Bienal, one which ended up being an unexpected posthumous tribute, and a quest to find answers to the basic question: what do you want me to do, maestro? How many conversations he must have gone over to remember and understand him. You just need to know this singer a little, and have listened to him yesterday at the Lope de Vega, in order to know he gave every bit of himself on this project.
Without a doubt, it was a tremendous challenge, not only due to the circumstances and the emotional charge involved, but because the person he was to evoke was Juan El Grande, “the first one”, as Valencia himself proclaimed in his most recent performances after the death of the former in a shout of insurrection. And via a recording that probably no other singer would have been able to take on at this point in time.
Needless to say, José's powerful voice, his privileged timbre, his infinite sound, his sense of rhythm and his strong stage presence were nothing new in this show. It was more like a coronation in capital letters. Perhaps it was as El Lebrijano had planned everything since the beginning when he chose him for the task.
Because if they share anything beyond that light of Lebrija that shines in video projected during the moving interpretation of violinist Faiçal Kourrich, it is a concept of singing which is free, brave, creative, solid and with no frontier other than that of common sense.
Which is just how Valencia took on the evening. Digesting the notes and opening his heart in order not to hold anything back for the maestro. In the tientos-tangos he reached us intravenously with the rhythm of the son of la Perrata and of Pastora Pavón, and all that flamenco of lower Andalusia that he was honoring. We were even taken to Cádiz by Pastora Galván who, with only the beginning of her alegrias, managed to splash us with the waves of the Caleta beach. And José continued through to a moving interpretation of tonás that served as a final prayer with which we could feel the blue eyes of the blond gypsy gazing down from on high.
It's true Valencia began somewhat insecurely, and this was certainly not the best show of his career. Now and again his enthusiasm got the better of him, and at times it was hard to understand him due to the extreme techniques he was using. And in all fairness, despite the applause, the audience was colder than in his recent performances. But in the end, José constructed something that might be the best synthesis of Lebrijano's legacy, that flamenco which reaches out without any need to make concessions. And few are able to achieve that. Which is why, if Lebrijano was the first one, José Valencia is now the second.