El público, the opera

There was an opera production of El público in 2006. These are notes on an article that is actually about the opera, but that is very lucid on the play itself.

The article is “Lorca Unchained. Mauricio Sotelo’s El Público and the (New) Spanish Contemporary Opera.” By: Ordóñez Eslava, Pedro, Contemporary music review, 07494467, Vol. 38, Issue 1-2. It is available in full text through our library website.

Key quotations:

The success of Romancero gitano has turned pale the great corpus of Poeta en Nueva York [1929-1930], and the apotheosis of the great dramas and tragedies—from Bodas de sangre to La casa de Bernarda Alba—has relegated El Público (1930) and Así que pasen cinco años (1931) to second place. (García-Posada [1998] 2003, 5).

But these now neglected works are really interesting.

Creative freedom, the reaffirmation—or reconstitution—of the self . . . and subversion, particular to the surrealism and experimentalism of the avant-garde which flooded the most daring theatrical scenes of the time, effectively determine the work of García Lorca at the end of the 1920s. . . .

[Lorca’s] literary intervention comes to describe poetic figures and images unknown up to this point . . . consider the aforementioned plays, in which ‘the people become the agent of truth, capable of breaking the epistemological impasse and giving the conflict a revolutionary outcome’ (Monegal [2000] 2009, 34) . . .  

What are the conceptual and artistic foundations of the play?

  • In Madrid at the time you could make fun of homosexuals in the theatre but not take the topic seriously
  • The play has deep political, social, and gender awareness; it was not staged in Spain until the 1980s
  • Lorca had not thought it would be comprehensible for a hundred years (i.e., 2030), and did not think it could be staged
  • In PENY (1st poem) he says he has “a different face each day”
  • The play, written in NY, centers on the conflict arising from the possibility of staging a category as complex as the truth of which we are made and also the author’s internal struggle, that he must overcome to pose the possible public manifestation of his own sexuality or orientation
  • It denounces the resistance toward representing homosexual love
  • It questions the possibility of determining the truth of desire in general
  • It is also a critique of stale contemporary theatre
  • To do these things, it proposes a complex framework of metamorphosis (Melis 1989), character changes, multiple personalities, role changes and diverse personifications, through a fragmented narrative, located in different scenes (possibly all parts of the Director’s mind)
  • It reivindicates artistic freedom
  • The dramatic narration begins when the Director is obliged to confront the public and a character, Gonzalo, identified as the poet himself (Jerez Farrán 2004, 57; Gibson 2009, 240), a confrontation that demands of him an express manifestation of his artistic—and romantic—condition
  • With this aim the Director, as well as other characters, attempt to go “under the sand” and assume various personalities—through the use of masks and a number of costume changes, almost always after passing behind a folding screen, a gesture that is crucial for understanding the play.
  • The only way out that exists for resolving this description of the internal battle the Director faces is a kind of tragic worldview in which García Lorca resorts to the crucifixion myth, in an ‘identification of the dramatic action with a ritual sacrifice’ (Domenech 2008, 198)
  • Finally, the Director returns to the initial scene, in the open air, where the cold—the unfortunate, real reality—is now unbearable, and dies.
  • So the play is about homosexuality, and theatre, politics, and the self.

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