Antonio Gades's relationship with Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo dates back to his years in Italy, where he was choreographer in the early sixties and first principal dancer at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. On that occasion he played the role of the Ghost. He would return to this classic by the Cadiz-born composer years later in Chicago with this choreography.
After the success of Los Tarantos, Antonio films El Amor Brujo in 1967, a movie directed by Rovira Beleta and La Polaca that connected him even further to Falla's work.
But it wasn't until 1985 that Carlos Saura proposes to shoot the third film in his flamenco trilogy, following Bodas de Sangre (1981) and Carmen (1983). El Amor Brujo, produced once again by Emiliano Piedra (producer on the other two movies in the trilogy), in 1986.
Antonio continues touring with his company, mainly with Carmen, and in 1989, commissioned by the Ópera de París, performs the theater version of the film. Under the title of Fuego, Antonio Gades finally premiered his Amor Brujo at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris in January 1989, a ballet destined to close out a chapter of his life.
Cristina Hoyos decided to pursue a solo career and Gades, with Stella Arauzo playing the role of Candela, in France and Italy, dissolving the company in 1990. He wouldn't return until 1994, when he stages Fuentovejuna.
With the curtain down, the first bars of El Amor Brujo, those that will serve as The Ghost’s theme, begin to play.
The frenetic sound of clapping and foot tapping gradually takes over.
The beat gets stronger and can be felt even more when, out of the darkness of the stage, illuminated by beams of light, a score of men fighting with knives and sticks can be seen, marking the beat with their gestures. Among the fighters are José, a gypsy who skillfully manages the knife. His adversary is equally skilled. They advance and retreat until José makes a mistake and is stabbed by his opponent. José, mortally wounded, staggers. His frightened adversary flees.
All the men stop fighting and leave the stage; José is alone. The light focuses on him, and with exaggerated slowness he crumples. He finally falls to the floor, dead. It is at that moment when you hear the aggressive beats of Falla's El Amor Brujo begin to play, the stage plunged into darkness for the entire song.
The stage lights up slowly. The stage is divided into two defined spaces. On the right there is a clothesline. On the left: a space reserved for the men. It is dawn in the village and the men begin to carry chairs, guitars, tambourines and other traditional instruments on stage. The guitarists tune their instruments. Some try to find the pitch of a song, others play a few chords. All with a relaxed, unrushed feeling. Little by little the beat takes shape and a song begins.
The women, mostly young, dressed in bright skirts and blouses and carrying baskets of freshly washed clothes, appear on stage, chanting the song. It is now clear, bright. Candela, an attractive young woman and main character of this story, is among the women. The women tease Candela, who is marrying Carmelo in a month with Carmelo, while they hang up the clothes. They sing and dance the tanguillo ¿Pa cuándo es la boda (When is the Wedding)?
The dance becomes more sensual and provocative. The women are having fun. Carmelo appears looking for Candela. The other girls joke around and eventually leave, laughing and joking as they go. The light changes as Carmelo marks a passionate pas de deux. Carmelo and Candela hug, and the first bars of The Ghost are heard.
Suddenly, as if lit up by lightning, José the Ghost appears, coming from the world of darkness to upset the lovers. Candela cannot help the attraction she feels towards him, as if an inner force pushes her to go to meet him, but Carmelo stops her. From now on, The Ghost will haunt the couple every time they try to get close to one another.
Everyone has gathered to celebrate Christmas. Forming family groups, with friends occasionally mingling, they sit in the bulrush chairs around the fires and merrily sing and dance to Christmas carols and songs using tambourines, friction drums and rhythm sticks. Candela and Carmelo are at the party, cheerfully singing and dancing.
When the party is at its peak The Ghost, violently lit, appears. Everyone freezes, and The Ghost disappears as quickly as he had appeared. Time seems to stop for everyone except for Candela who, as if in a trance, begins to dance the song by Falla: Yo no sé qué me pasa (I Don't Know What's Happening to Me). Everyone is paralyzed, faces frozen in surprise as if a snapshot, while Candela dances among them.
Life returns to the party when Candela finishes the dance and the same movement, rhythm, songs and festive atmosphere continues as if nothing had happened.
The party continues and everyone leaves the stage, except Candela, held in place by a mysterious force.
Again, the bars of The Ghost. He appears, lit up in a violent light. Candela, tormented, starts walking towards him. They dance La danza del terror (The Dance of Terror), a violent and ritualized dance.
4. EL ROCIO (DEW)
"Horses" played by the men appear on stage, with the women riding horseback. The women dismount and begin to dance sevillanas to the sound of the tambourine. Night falls. The bodies seek rest, and lay down on the ground. A song is heard in the distance while Candela and Carmelo dance a passionate pas de deux among the sleepers. In the end they lie down, intertwined.
The group gets up and sings Y tú mirar (And Your Look). Candela and Carmela appear on opposite sides of the stage. They walk towards each other slowly until they meet in the middle and, without touching, circle each other in a loving, slow and ceremonious dance. The bars that prelude The Ghost begin to play. José emerges from the darkness. Candela gets up, goes to meet him, dances with him. Carmelo gets up, sees them and joins the dance. Candela and Carmelo perform the dance.
5. THE SORCERESS
When the dance ends, Carmelo appears with the Sorceress. They approach a desolate Candela. Candela on the left, Carmelo on the right, remain motionless while the Sorceress begins her ritual.
The Sorceress performs her exorcisms. A beam of reddish light that symbolizes fire appears in the middle of the stage. The men and women of the village appear on stage to the sound of the beat, and the first bells that precede the Danza del Fuego (Fire Dance) are heard.
6. LA DANZA DEL FUEGO (FIRE DANCE)
Men and women start arranging themselves around the circle of fire. Everyone dances, except for Carmelo: Candela becomes increasingly more engrossed as she dances, infected by the intensity of the music. The rhythm accelerates to a fever pitch. Candela goes into a trance. They all surround her. Drained of all strength she faints, as if dead, into the circle of fire.
The fire slowly goes out. All move away, leaving Candela alone on the stage. Carmelo approaches the body of Candela just as the fire is about to go out. The bars of The Ghost are heard once again. Is it possible that the fire dance failed to break the curse?
Carmelo and Candela go on stage and begin to dance, closely together, El Fuego Fatuo (The Foolish Fire). The curse seems to be broken. But the bars of The Ghost's music are heard again. The Ghost appears. But this time Carmelo is ready to fight him and manages, with effort, to take Candela with him.
7. THE FINALE
The entire town accompanies Candela and Carmelo to conjure the Ghost. They leave the couple center stage and move away, waiting in the semi-darkness. Carmelo dances passionately with Candela in the center of the stage.
The Ghost appears with other ghosts, all in black. Images of evil, of hell, of death. The people –life itself– arrange themselves in front of them. All sing: Tú eres aquel mal gitano (You Are That Evil Gypsy).
The group of ghosts strike back with a wild rhythm, trying to dominate the sound space. The confrontation is brutal. Couples defend themselves in groups. The Ghost faces off against Carmelo. Finally the ghosts, defeated, disappear.
Day dawns and Ya está despuntando el día (The Day is Already Dawning) by Falla plays. Carmelo and Candela hug. Wedding preparations take place.
8. THE WEDDING
The men go to Carmelo and lift him up on their shoulders with the first bars of the alborea: Hermanita de mi alma (Little Sister of My Soul). The two groups arrange themselves around the couple and, as if were a procession during Holy Week, walk them around the stage to the beat of the song. The two groups separate. Someone shouts: Long live the bride and groom! Let the couple dance!
Candela and Carmelo dance tangos, cheered on by all.
Ballet inspired by El Amor Brujo by Manuel de Falla
- Choreography and Set Design:
- Antonio Gades and Carlos Saura
- Set and Costume Design:
- Gerardo Vera
- Lighting design:
- Gades, Saura, Dominique You
- Compositions and arrangements of Spanish folk songs: Gades, Solera, Freire
Recorded music: El Amor Brujo by Manuel de Falla, recording of the Spanish National Orchestra conducted by Jesús López Cobos and songs performed by Rocío Jurado
World premiere: Paris, Théatre du Chatelet, January 26, 1989
1 hour without intermission