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XVI Bienal de Flamenco. Casablanca - Lebrijano / Tranquilo Alboroto - Rubén Olmo / David Carmona

September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Text: Estela Zatania
Photos: Luis Castilla / Bienal de Flamenco


"Casablanca" - El Lebrijano - Teatro Lope de Vega - 9.00pm

Voice: Juan Peña “El Lebrijano”; Keyboard and voice : Redouane Kourrich; Guitar: Pedro María Peña; Violin : Faiçal Kourrich; Kanun: Abdesslam Naiti; Chorus: Juan Rincón, Juan Reina, Morenito de Coria; D’arbuka: Josef Boud.

Text: Gonzalo Montaño Peña

Last night Lebrijano offered a musical journey from Andalusia to North Africa, recalling some of the most memorable moments of his recent recordings; what Hercules did, separating Europe from Africa with his bare hands, was undone and the continents were reunited to the sound of bulerías.

The singer started out a bit distant, perhaps a concerned about the cold he was going through, and his voice wasn’t quite on in “En el Soto” where he was unable to pull up that great voice of his which still exists at the age of 70.  But Juan Peña kept trying, searching, enjoying the musical accompaniment, dancing seated in his chair and letting the music filter into him. 

Lebrijano - Casablanca
Lebrijano - Casablanca

The temperature was rising, the compás was flowing through the musicians and Juan began to feel more sure of his voice,  In “El Profeta Isaías” he began to really give his all, and that’s when we were able to enjoy that unmistakable sound, that quality that doesn’t come from brute strength but from dishing up only that which is moving and makes people vibrate.

The music continued to flow, and Tanger rings out in the broken voice of Redouane, Egypt in the D’arbouke of Marrakesh with the Sahara at its doors in Faiçal’s violin, and the marshes of the Guadalquivir in the strings of Pedro Peña’s guitar.  Like the maestro said: “Music in its purest state”.

From the magnificent Casablanca came “Calle de San Francisco”, and with festive airs we mentally meandered down the Calle Nueva of Jerez and the medina of Fez.

But Lebri was feeling better and better, he knew how to hurt good with his voice, and put his hand on his stomach to feel how each note came from his diaphragm, giving us chills with “Sueños en el Aire”, then he stood hairs on end with “Lágrimas de Cera”.

He ended with “Dame la Libertad”, getting the audience to their feet, with his face revealing the emotion he felt at being able to give us that wonderful present.  Lebrijano sat down again, and accompanied by his nephew Pedro Peña, sang siguiriyas.  If he was a pioneer in the preceeding cantes, he’s an old hand at these others.  He took off his jacket and went about finding the wisdom gathered over the years, but with such intensity, as if it were the last time he was going to sing.  At this point he recalled Enrique el Mellizo and Francisco La Perla with “Por los Siete Dolores”, Joaquín Lacherna and ended with the Miguel ending “el de Pepa” leaving everyone present with the firm belief that this singer is still everything he ever was and more.  This man is an endless source, one of the few left who tells it like it is so we not only listen to him, but feel the pain of a real gypsy siguiriya.

Once again the audience was on their feet to thank the maestro for this amazing tour from India, through the Mediterranean and North Africa, to finally arrive at the gates of Cádiz and the banks of the Guadalquivir.


"Tranquilo alboroto" Cía Rubén Olmo - Teatro Central - 9.00pm

Text: Estela Zatania

Director, choreography and dance: Rubén Olmo. Dancers: Ana Morales, Patricia Guerrero, Rosana Romero, Sara Vázquez, Alejandro Rodríguez, Ángel Sánchez Farina, Eduardo Leal.  Cante: Rubio de Pruna, Inma la Carbonera. Flute: Juan Parrilla. Cello: Batio. Guitar: Óscar Lagos, Andrés Martínez.  Percussion: Agustín Diassera. Bagpipes: Rubén Diez. Banda de cornetas y tambores Agrupación Virgen de los Reyes.

Second day of the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla, first one after the opening, and we’re beginning to get into the swing of it.  All the taxi-drivers in the city know it’s the Bienal, and when you ask to be taken to any of the venues, they ask who’s on tonight and if it’s any good.

At the Teatro Central, the stage normally reserved for contemporary work, I was able to see dancer Rubén Olmo and his company.  In Seville he’s well-known, but having spent many years in Madrid, which is a nearly self-sufficient flamenco microcosm, it was the first time I’d been able to appreciate this interesting performer.


Rubén Olmo - Tranquilo Alboroto
Rubén Olmo - Tranquilo Alboroto

When the curtain goes up, Olmo has already made his first statement leaving no doubt about his perspective.  In a piece titled “Boceto”, or “sketch”, he does just that, a synthesis of his vision and background firmly anchored in Spanish and classical dance, as seen through a flamenco prism.  Naked legs and dramatic lighting reveal a complete catalogue of well-trained muscles working in a sort of harmony that has taken a lifetime to achieve. 

The dancer then allows himself the conceit of recreating the ambience of a rehearsal studio; the repeated steps, Olmo correcting and encouraging his people, making small talk…  It’s here you begin to be annoyed by the darkness that is present throughout the entire show: a rehearsal without light?  When the Holy Week band comes on to accompany a fanciful dance by Olmo as Jesús, we only know they’re on stage because we hear them, the darkness is that dense.

The four female dancers, among whom are two first prize-winners from La Unión, prologue Olmo’s transformation.  Just when you’ve flipped the switch in your brain to accept the avant-garde, the dancer has changed costume, and now the outsized puffy sleeves loaded with ruffles, the austere coiffure, the bata de cola and the svelte figure are unmistakeable…Manuela, our long-lost Manuela Vargas, elegance and mystery of the Seville school of dance.  Suddenly we all recognize the spontaneous voice of Matilde Coral who is seated in the audience and can no longer contain herself: “oh my god, I never saw anything so beautiful!”  And it’s true.  Now the skimpy lighting helps us believe the mesmerizing late dancer is actually with us on stage, and Olmo’s interpretation is so extraordinary it sends ripples of emotion through everyone who ever saw this great dancer, one of the best of the last half-century.

A series of dances follows…the “False Farruca” with bagpipes, created by Israel Galván which doesn’t come off well in my opinion, and a “Suite Flamenca” which keeps Olmo off the stage for a long period while the company goes through a series of group choreographies, including a beautiful guajira by the four women in white batas de cola and large shawls that was the most noteworthy moment (“what magnificent dresses, how beautiful!” exclaims the irrepressible Matilde).  The lack of coherence between the extreme classicism and the extreme avant-garde is hard to take, but I’d gladly have gone home fine and happy with just that magical dance of “Manuela Vargas” backed up by the rich flamenco voice of Rubio de Pruna who can be gut-wrenching even in cantiñas.


David Carmona en concierto - Teatro Alameda - 11 pm

Text: Estela Zatania

Guitar: David Carmona. Cante: Carmen Molina. Percussion: Agustín Diassera. Guest dancer: Patricia Guerrero. Second guitarist not mentioned on program.

Racing across town, I was able to reach the Teatro Alameda just in time for the recital of young Granada guitarist David Carmona.  For five years we’ve been watching him alongside the maestro Manolo Sanlúcar of whom he is a disciple.  With a touch that was sweeter than you’d normally expect from someone from Granada, the timid young man interpreted a series of interesting compositions.

David Carmona
David Carmona

In the opening taranta, there was an almost frenetic tremolo that dissolved into exotic harmonies.  Like his illustrious mentor, he offer mini lectures between pieces, and had some interesting things to say.  He explained that Sanlúcar doesn’t believe in the format of “one falseta after another”, but rather that there must be a coherence from beginning to end in each piece.

Most of the compositions were fairly short, such as the lovely soleá in which you missed precisely the musical development the young man had described.  A discreet female singer, palmas and cajón arrive for bulerías, followed by “Alegrías en Mí”, the true tone of E making use of a variety of positions.  David then explains his experiments with the mixolydian mode, under the guidance of his maestro, pointing out that it opens new doors in flamenco.  This musical system, often heard in blues, is interesting when applied to bulerías, the form which best withstands experimentation.

In tangos, he continues to lay out the mixolydian (each musical mode is like a specific emotional backdrop that sets the stage for ear and mind), a flamenco sound with brief flashes that insinuate major mode.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to sample these subtly exotic sounds, although I began to wish for something less ethereal, more….Granada-like?  In fandango de Huelva, Carmona brought us back to earth with traditional flavors and harmonies.

Everything returned to the most powerful flamenco source with the magnificent bulería por soleá dance of Patricia Guerrero, also from Granada, who did a double-header with her appearance at the first theater in Rubén Olmo’s company.