Saturday and Sunday in Jerez
Saturday and Sunday were filled with music, but not with picture-taking opportunities. It has been pretty cool in the mornings, but it has warmed up nicely during the day. It has been mostly overcast, and we had some rain on both Saturday and Sunday. The rain, however, has not inconvenienced us at all. This morning, Monday, it is clear and sunny and the temperature may reach nearly 70. There is rain in the forecast for the rest of the week and that would be too bad because Jerez doesn’t seem nearly so nice or photogenic when it is cloudy and rainy.
We went to 3 performances on both Saturday and Sunday. We went to 2 peña performances. Peñas are more properly called peña flamencas and are sort of clubs dedicated to preserving the tradition of flamenco. On Saturday we went to Los Cernícolas (which sounds a lot like “St. Nicholas” when you hear a local say it). Last year we stayed literally across the street from the peña, but this time we had a little walk to get there. We thought it was crowded last year, but there were many more people this time. There is no charge for the peña performances that are associated with the festival and the performers are always good, so a lot of people show up. The performance we saw was good, but it was so crowded and so noisy that it was difficult to enjoy fully.
Saturday evening (I’d say “night” at home, but things only get going around here after 9:00), we saw two festival performances. At Teatro Villamarta, which holds about 1,200 people, we saw a work by Manuel Liñan. It was spectacular and innovative. Liñan is a favorite of ours and he and his company did not disappoint. The baile (dance), cante (song), toca (playing, because there was more than guitar) were all excellent, as would be expected. The imaginative staging was a plus. I cannot imagine the endurance it takes perform so strenuously and accurately (?) for well over an hour.
From Viallamarta we walked over to Bodegas Gonzalez Byass (which used to produce Tio Pepe sherry, but is now mostly a tourist attraction—at least the part where they put on shows—and waited for the doors to open for Vicente Soto. There are no reserved seats at Gonzalez Byass and I noticed something I didn’t care for on both nights we were there: people apparently have no compunction about cutting into the lines and they are really rude and pushy when they head for the seats. I don’t remember that from last year. The performance of “A La Mujer, Coplas del Deagravio,” which I can’t translate well, but think it is along the lines of “to the women, songs of reparation,” was nonstop. The performers rotated in and out and there were many different palo styles. I was even able to recognize some of the palos and felt that I could understand (and accompany) the cómpas. Once again, the musical ability to translate sound into emotion was outstanding.
We got a late start on Sunday, but it worked out. We had a nice lunch near Plaza Arenal, although the prawns were not quite what Patricia expected, and then found the peña Beau Gente. We were there about an hour before the performance and grabbed half of a table to wait. Patricia sampled the carne y tomate (meat and tomato) guisado (stew) which helped make up for the prawns. We were joined by a couple from Extremadura, which is a western part of Spain that borders Portugal. A lot of the best jamon iberico (Iberian ham) comes from there. With my Spanish and a little bit of English, we were able to have a little conversation about the festival—they were there for the first time—and where we were from, and how long we would be in Spain and where we would visit and so on. I discovered that she was a bialaora (dancer) and he was a cantador. The room we were in got more and more crowded and we could not figure out where the performance would take place. [Have I mentioned that announced times for peña performances are merely guidelines?] All of a sudden, people started gravitating towards a door that led upstairs to the venue. And, when the doors opened, pushing and shoving to move to the front of the line ensued. By the time we were able to get upstairs, the view of the piso de flamenco (flamenco floor) was almost completely blocked. Even so, people tried to elbow their way into the crowd. We watched for a while, but it was hard to enjoy. One of the singers from Cernícolas on Saturday, Jouquín Marin Flores, was there and injected a lot of life into the performance. We saw what I thought was a good farruca, danced by a woman in a man’s clothes. Traditionally, the dance is done by men, but part of the theme of the festival is Women from Frontera, so it made sense.
We took a quick break at the apartment and walked back to Gonzalez Byass, which is about 25 minutes away, to see Rosario La Tremendita in her show called “Delirium Tremens.” Patricia liked the show, but I did not, not at all. There was flamenco cante buried in there someplace under the electric guitar, sound effects, and loud drums, but the essence escaped me. Individually, the performers were very skilled, but the piece as a whole was too loud and disconnected for me.
The performance of La Lupi and her company later in the evening will be a highlight of all flamenco performances in all locations at all times for me. They told complicated story, which I think was open to interpretation, in an elegant and emotional way. Every performer was outstanding. As far as I could tell, the audience at Villamarta was spellbound. The setting, and particularly the management of light, was an important piece of the production. We saw a couple of performers we had seen in Albuquerque. At a certain point, a new singer came on stage and there was an audible gasp from the audience and a short burst of applause before he could get started. It was Miguel Poveda, a name unknown to us, but clearly well-known to many in the theater. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to truly describe how good this performance was. If I can find clips from it, I will post links. Patricia and I talked about the show all the way home, including the [tiny] detour caused by my taking the wrong turn out of the theater.
I’ll try for more pictures later, but here are two: one shows the only blue sky we saw all day on Sunday, and the other shows the crowd at the Beau Gente peña.