Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Poetry Set to Flamenco Song Forms

Flamenco Singer José Menese Interprets Classic Poems – Article by Manuel Ríos Ruíz – Translated by Brook Zern

Manuel Rios Ruiz (one of my favorite flamenco experts) wrote of the art for a leading Spanish paper, ABC.  Here’s a 2001 article — a sort of new/old twist on flamenco.

Jose Menese and Ginesa Ortega Will Interpret the Classics in the Teatro Real

Madrid – Jose Menese and Ginesa Ortega will sing the poems of Gongora, Lope, Calderon, San Juan de la Cruz, Quevedo and Cervantes on the 8th in the Teatro Real.  For Jose Maria Velasquez, the musical and literary adapter [and the key man in creating the great documentary series "Rito y Geografia del Flamenco"], “classical poetry is blended with classical flamenco in a set of correlations whereby I’ve tried to let each element retain their original structure.”

Flamenco artists today are drawing inspiration from the most revered authors, and the legends of the past.  As examples of this much-discussed tendency, there are the Lorca versions and the avatars of “Dona Juana la Loca”.  Now we will see “De Mis Soledades Vengo (Classics and Flamenco)”.

For this production, the poet José María Velásquez has compiled a selection of poems and songs from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.  “To do this properly, I have respected above all the integrity of the selected verses, which I consider sacred and untouchable.  I have adapted them to some flamenco values, according to the particular character of each verse, remembering that these are not the same things as the deep natural verses  of the martinetes or the soleares,” he explains.  He says that the adaptation involved an exercise in forms, compases [rhythms], accents and metric resolutions, seeking points of conjunction between  the poetry of that era and flamenco as it is today.  The key is to let both elements retain their original structure, so that we add a new dimension of music to the the language of poetry.”

The artistic director Luis Torres Rubio worked with Jose Menese, a maestro of cante flamenco, and with Ginesa Ortega, a singer with a firm grasp of theatrical values in presenting flamenco.  With them will be Enrique de Melchor and Jeronimo with their guitars, the profound dancer Carmen Ledesma, and the palmeros-dancers Chicharito and Gregorio Parilla.  In addition, Joan Albert Amargos will direct a chamber orchestra in this first flamenco production in the Teatro Real.  Great expectation surrounds this event, where verses of Gongora, Ruiz de Alarcón, Lope de vega, San Juan de la Cruz, Fray Luís de Leon, Calderón de la Barca, Santa Teresa, Quevedo, Rojas, Tirso de Molina, Guillén de Castro and others will become martinetes, soleareslivianas, rondenas, malaguenas, peteneras, tangos, nanas, tangos, sevillanas and bulerías.

In his illustrious career, Menese has interpreted flamenco in such prestigious venues as the Olimpia in Paris and the United Nations Auditorium in New York.  But for this artist from La Puebla de Cazalla, it is of great importance to sing flamenco in the Teatro Real of Madrid, above all while interpreting the great classical Spanish poets.  “It is a beautiful challenge, and a great responsibility.  But it is also a great honor.  I never hesitated to accept this chance to be part of a flamenco event that has such difficulty and such interest,” says the singer.

The die is cast.  Flamenco never ceases to find new expressive modes.  And on this occasion, through the rigor of orthodoxy, it will try to add to its inheritance the great lyric values of Spain’s classical poetry.

End of translation.

Ginesa Ortega is a fine singer, and probably used to experimental stuff.  But José Menese is the most rigidly orthodox/traditionalist/purist singer alive — it’s interesting to see that he had no trouble with this increasingly popular notion of adapting poet’s verses to flamenco, even if it means breaking the rigid melodic/syllabic structure as it must.  Old dog learns new trick! – olé, José.

Brook Zern

January 10, 2014   No Comments