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Los elementos

Opera armonica al estilo italiano 
Antonio Literes (1673-1747)
 
 

Air, Water, Fire, Earth, Dawn, Time…. classic elements take human form to create an opera of breathtaking expressive power.
 
Literes composed this opera as a commission for the aristocracy – an audience that was ready for musical innovation. And innovation they received, as Literes planned his opera for a cast of six sopranos and chamber orchestra. Rhythmic diversities and daring chromaticism create a brilliant musical language with a distinctly Spanish flavor.
 
In an act of irony, or perhaps to make it sound more impressive, Literes described his new opera as an opera in the “estilo italiano” – Italian style, responding to the monarch´s preference for all this Italian. Yet his “innovations” were clearly Spanish as he casted women in “men´s” roles, a tradition that was popular in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia at the time.
 

In this new production by ensemble Le Tendre Amour, a cast of five sopranos will perform these mythological roles. Nine musicians and actor Adrián Schvarzstein will join the action.

 
The original opera Los Elementos has a typical libretto from the time: numerous characters, pompous, florid language, and a loose plot full of allegories that worked wonders with a distracted aristocratic audience. Next year´s production with Le Tendre Amour will use the music and libretto in its original entirety, complete with original instruments, but in a subtly comic - and ultimately very baroque - way.
 
In the early 17th century, a novel by Quevedo that chronicles the adventures of Don Pablos became popular. Pablos, a buscon (swindler), sets out in life with two goals: to learn virtue and to become a gentleman. He fails miserably at both. In this novel, Quevedo satirizes Spanish society. It is from this book that was so popular in Literes´ time that we have taken the inspiration for our production of Los Elementos.
 
The setting is simple, but effective: imagine a long table on the stage, full of glasses, bottles, piles of food. Musicians are wandering around, performing the lively music by Literes. The stage is set for a marvelous banquet. The guests arrive, each represented by an “element.” But the “elements” – five sopranos – turn out to be frivolous and naughty. Though they wholeheartedly try to fit into high society at this banquet, their true characters are revealed. Each one of the invited guests is deplorable in their behavior for various reasons, and it turns out that deep down these five sopranos are jealous and egoistic. All the while, virtuosic arias and exciting instrumental music create a frenzy of action.   The mute actor, playing the part of a waiter, tries to keep order and serve the next dish. But he is clumsy, and creates more disasters than he is able to avoid. Each situation is more ridiculous than the last, until finally the banquet comes to a merciful end.
 
In short, the exaggerated and the deformed characters are the epitome of “baroque” (aka exaggerated to the extreme), but this time the show is meant for everyone to enjoy!


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