Opera Scotland

Chulapona 1989Teatro la Zarzuela, Madrid

Read more about the opera Chulapona

Director Frank Dunlop's Spanish-themed Edinburgh Festival of 1989 had opened with concert performances of two rareties by Manuel de Falla, the opera La vida breve, preceded by fragments from his unfinished cantata Atlántida. Both works had received British premieres at earlier Festivals. The only musical work from Spain to be fully staged in 1989 was the long-overdue British premiere of an example of that form of entertainment known as zarzuela. One of the last successful works of its kind, La chulapona turned out to have many attractive features. Perhaps not entirely typical - it is a three-act piece, substantially longer than most - it has a fairly traditional plot combined with lots of instantly attractive music.

The setting is an urban Madrid community at the end of the nineteenth century. The leading characters are the owner of a laundry business and her assistant, and the plot deals with their attachments to a middle-aged café owner and a younger man, manager of the local slaughter-house. However the verismo style that might have been expected is not evident. The ending may be downbeat, with two marriages that seem doomed from the outset, but it is not treated as in any way tragic.

This excellent, if traditional, production had opened in Madrid the previous year, so was still delightfully fresh, even if there had been some cast changes since that opening. It was a solid company performance, with no weak links and many attractive details. The only real drawback came from the Festival venue selected - the Playhouse is a vast barn of an auditorium, with little atmosphere. While the acoustic is perfectly adequate, the building is simply too large to allow such a piece to make its maximum impact. Fortunately, when the Festival imported a second zarzuela, Bretón's La verbena de la paloma, in 1997, better sense prevailed, and it provided a delightful entertainment in the more intimate King's.

While the internet was still some years in the future, representative extracts from this staging have since been made available on Youtube. This gives a fair idea of both the piece and the production.

Performance DatesChulapona 1989

Map List

Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

17 Aug, 19.30 18 Aug, 19.30 19 Aug, 19.30

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