great compositions/performances: Falla: Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor Brujo / Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit


Falla: Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor Brujo / Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit

“El amor brujo (Love, the Magician, rarely translated as Wedded by Witchcraft) is a piece of music originally composed by Manuel de Falla for a chamber group, then re-scored as a symphonic suite, and eventually as a ballet. The texts were by Gregorio Martínez Sierra.

The work is distinctively Andalusian in character with the songs in the Andalusian Spanish dialect of the Gypsies. The music contains moments of remarkable beauty and originality; it includes the celebrated Ritual Fire Dance, Cancion del Fuego Fatuo (Will-o’-the-Wisp) and the Dance of Terror.

El amor brujo was initially commissioned in 1914-15 as a gitanería (gypsy piece) by Pastora Imperio, a renowned flamenco gypsy dancer. It was scored for cantaora voice, actors, and chamber orchestra. It was performed at the Teatro Lara, Madrid on 15 April 1915 but was not successful.

The following year, Falla revised the work for symphonic orchestra, with three short songs for mezzo-soprano. This version was performed on 28 March 1916 with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra under Enrique Fernández Arbós.

In 1925, de Falla transformed it into a one-act ‘ballet pantomímico’. The work’s United States premiere was presented by the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company at Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Opera House on March 17, 1927 with mezzo-soprano Kathryn Noll and conductor Alexander Smallens.

El amor brujo is the story of a young Andalusian gypsy girl called Candela. Candela falls in love with a man called Carmelo, after her unfaithful husband, whom she had been forced to marry, had died. The dead husband’s ghost returns to haunt Candela and Carmelo. To rid them of the ghost, all the gypsies make a large circle around their campfire at midnight. In this circle Candela performs the Ritual Fire Dance. This causes the ghost to appear, with whom she dances. As they whirl around faster and faster, the magic of the fire dance causes the ghost to be drawn into the fire, making it vanish forever.”

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