La Traviata: Love Trumps All

Spanish version available in Bicidue.

La Traviata, an opera in three acts, was premiered last Friday, 10/27/2017 at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in the AT&T Performing Arts Center, located in 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, Texas, 75201; returning to the Dallas Opera for a ninth time. The music was composed by Giuseppe Verdi and it’s based on a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. The plot follows two sources: a play entitled La Dame aux Camélias from 1852 and Alexandre Dumas Jr.’s most famous novel with the same name: Lady of the Camellias. The performance was sung in Italian with English subtitles.

Violetta Valéry, a courtesan, is really Marguerite Gautier in the novel; whereas Alfredo Germont, a young bourgeois, is Armand Duval. The female lead, a soprano, is sung by Georgia Jarman. The male lead, a tenor, is sung by René Barbera, who came in as a substitute for Zach Borichevsky. The opera was conducted by Carlo Montanaro.

The play contrasts a pleasurable, epicurean, libertine life versus a meaningful one tied to love, proving how love can be painful and not always pleasant. The opera, however, places love above everything else.

Even though God might forgive you for your sins, society will not. Simply renouncing to your past to build a better future is not always an option. Nineteenth century Italy, like England, embodied Victorian values. Censorship forced Verdi to adapt his plot to several generations in the past, separating it from Italian contemporary customs.

La Traviata, which means the “fallen” or “strayed” one, is a tale of love, an impossible love between a true romantic man and a more modern version of a reformed Thaïs. Violetta’s disease symbolizes, in a karmic sense, her atonement for her sins during his past, frivolous life. It is possible that Verdi composed this opera trying to redeem his lover, the operatic soprano Giuseppina Strepponi, a woman who had left her bastard children, whom she have had with different fathers.

Most people can recognize the Brindisi song, carried on early during the first act, which represents a true accomplishment in Verdi’s repertoire and a classic tune that still survives at opera’s pinnacle. A link to the song appears here: https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=UZvgmpiQCcI. The performance also has many praiseworthy arias and duets, none of them more heartfelt and breathtaking than the one toward the third act’s conclusion, entitled Parigi, o cara (We will leave Paris).

Staging was an absolute success. One of its most obvious triumphs was including Valéry’s alter ego or shadow in several strong scenes. Such a character was a nice touch and served as a point of clarification for those opera-goers who have not yet read Alexandre Dumas Jr.’s book. This “shadow” looked exactly like Jarman and wore a white dress, appearing during important scenes, becoming less and less active as the opera progressed. Toward the second act’s resolution, she started walking very carefully, as if she was trying to keep her balance on top of a tight rope, representing Violetta’s struggle between life and death. In the third act, this character changes her dress from white to black, symbolizing that Valéry life has ended. During the third act, being Mardi Gras outside, the opera draws a very clear dichotomy between an inner, painful, true love and an external, lighthearted, fake fun.

XXIX Premio de Ensayo Becerro de Bengoa

El pasado martes, 12 de diciembre de 2017, se entregaron los Premios Literarios de la Diputación Foral de Álava, en la Sala Amárica, Vitoria-Gasteiz, País Vasco, España.

El evento fue presidido por el Diputado General de Álava, Ramiro González, y la Diputada Foral de Euskera, Cultura y Deporte, Igone Martínez de Luna, entre las 19:00 y 21:00, hora local. Los autores premiados aparecen a continuación:

Nombre del Concurso Idioma Número de Obras Presentadas Autor Premiado, localidad Obra Premiada
XLVI Certamen de Cuentos Ignacio Aldecoa Castellano 417 Fernando Molero, Córdoba, España El efecto dominó
XLVI Certamen de Cuentos Ignacio Aldecoa Euskera 36 Xabier Etxeberria, Guipúzcoa, España 1982
XXIX Premio de Ensayo Becerro de Bengoa Castellano 14 Raúl Quintana Selleras, Camagüey, Cuba Filosofía fragmentada. 137 pensamientos para el tercer milenio
XXIX Premio de Ensayo Becerro de Bengoa Euskera 6 Juan Luis Sudupe Ateismoaren aldarrikapena
XXXVIII Certamen de Poesía Ernestina de Champourcín Castellano 86 Imanol Ulacia Bar Kabi
XXXVIII Certamen de Poesía Ernestina de Champourcín Euskera 6 Manu López, Vitoria-Gasteiz, España Aldi Baterako. La colección ‘Para un Lado’

Bases.

Medios de comunicación:

Fotos:

Ver más fotos del evento.

Dibujos de Ángel López de Luzuriaga (Ardiluzu).

Fragmento de la obra Filosofía Fragmentada.

Discurso de aceptación del premio Becerro de Bengoa en su vigésimo-novena edición.

Samson et Dalila: not even God could have saved this opera’s limitations

Spanish version.

Samson et Dalila: not even God could have saved this opera’s limitations
A story of betrayal and unfulfilled expectations: romantically, religiously, and musically.

The opera Samson and Delilah premiered last Friday, 10/20/2017 at 8:00 pm at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in the AT&T Performing Arts Center, located in 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, Texas, 75201. The opera, in three-acts, was created by the French romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns, and was returning to Dallas for a third time, after previous presentations in 1964 and 1971. The performance featured Olga Borodina as Delilah and Clifton Forbis as Samson, with the conduction of Emmanuel Villaume.

Operas containing biblical stories were taboo in XIX century France, so Samson and Delilah was first played in Germany, becoming relatively popular since then.

The plot outlines the turbulent relationship between Samson –a Jew- and Delilah –a philistine-, the infamous couple from the Old Testament. They do not resemble the type of love embodied by Romeo and Juliet, being members from enemy castes that fall in love, a recurrent theme since Purgatory’s Canto VI depiction of the Montecchi and the Cappelletti.

The opera couldn’t really maintain all the expectations laid down during the overture, which welcomes such an intensity and passion that makes it hard for the rest of the opera to keep up, hence falling short in comparison. Most of the opera does not reach the height of other works, such as Danse Macabre, from Saint-Saëns.

As outlined previously, the opera does not recover after its emphatic introduction. However, it has some praiseworthy tunes, such as a bacchanale, and a couple of commendable arias, among which Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix (Softly awakes my heart) resulted particularly appealing to the audience.

Toward the opera’s resolution, particularly during the third act, most of the scenes are filled with recurrent, almost recursive, tunes, as if Saint-Saëns had ran out of inspiration by then. At this juncture, we have more dancing than singing and the opera becomes a symphony, which takes away from the dramatic overtone the plot was building up to.

Conversely, the scenography and visual effects were handled masterfully. The opera’s climax, the falling of the temple, was able to elicit shocking responses and genuine reactions within the audience. Also, the third act presented a few scenes in where Samson sings while the rest of the cast stands idly, thus making him a greater focus of attention. This technique was not only a clever of enhancing the plot’s message but it was an absolute visual success. Most of such scenes were so perfectly executed that they seemed Renaissance paintings, a true photographic achievement and an impressive job by choreographer Nycole Ray, make-up designer Dawn Rivard, costume designer Carrie Robbins, and set designer Peter Dean Beck.

Even though the opera was originally written in French by Ferdinand Lemaire, as it was presented to an American audience, it featured English subtitles. Such subtitles made sure to capitalize any references to God, either in name or through personal pronouns; making him the great, albeit hidden, protagonist. Nonetheless, this opera wasn’t really about Samson, Dagon, love, or God for that matter, but about Delilah, a persuasive and pragmatic woman.

Samson’s most impressive biblical actions get omitted in the opera. And the performance makes clear how extraordinary masculine strength, such as in the cases of Samson and Hercules, can only be tamed by feminine seductiveness.

Sophocles’s Electra

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2403 Flora Street, Suite 500, Dallas, Texas, 75201

Spanish version available in Bicidue.

 

Electra takes place in Argos a few years after the Trojan War. Even though the work showcases Electra as the main character, Orestes and Clytemnestra are in fact at the center of the plot.

The play was directed by Kevin Moriarty and displayed on Annette Strauss Square by the Dallas Theater Center. This adaptation was an interesting take on a classical play, especially because it used experimental techniques in a successful fashion. The actors and the audience interacted constantly and the screenplay was very dynamic and fluid, with no interruptions such as life itself. Most of the time, the audience experienced the actors talking directly to them, as if they were the cameramen in a film.

The play sides with a very patriarchal and androgenic (male-centered) worldviews. Indeed, King Agamemnon’s crimes are mostly ignored. Agamemnon is portrayed as a victim when he was never so. Let us remember how he sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to allow the Greek fleet reach Trojan soil safely, just as Jephthah did in the Bible.

Electra displays brotherly bonds and familial stress and disagreements masterfully. This is especially a work about revenge and its cyclical nature but also about forgiveness (or the lack thereof) and earthly justice.

Electra presents the world as a continuous sequence of causal events. We see how every action has a reaction (Newton’s third law), and every crime has a punishment (from now on, we should probably refer to Sophocles before we refer to Dostoyevsky). For instance, let us explore how the following events were interrelated:

  1. Paris chooses Aphrodite (who promises Paris the love of most beautiful woman in the world) in despite of Hera and Athena (Apple of Discord event).
  2. Paris snatches Helen from Sparta and takes her to Troy, even though she was married to Menelaus.
  3. Trying to rescue Helen, the Greeks declare war on Troy.
  4. The Greek fleet gets delayed in Aulis and Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to please Artemis.
  5. Clytemnestra takes Aegisthus as her lover and kills Agamemnon. Aegisthus becomes king.
  6. Electra allows Orestes to escape and he returns years later to kill his mother and her lover Aegisthus.
  7. Orestes gets persecuted by the Erinyes or Furies because of his crime.

I disliked the fact that Pylades does not appear in the plot and is instead replaced by an old pedagogue, who assimilates his part. Furthermore, Agamemnon assumes the chorus’s role at times and operates as Orestes’s conscience. The Electra complex from Jung’s Neo-Freudian psychology describes how daughters compete with their mothers for the attention of the fatherly figure. You can definitely see how Electra gets more drawn to his father, albeit in a non-sexual way (it is extremely common to see the psychosexual approach misinterpreted and misrepresented).

The play ends with the best possible scenario and both Orestes and Iphigenia (she surprisingly survived her sacrifice, such as Isaac did in the Bible) get reunited after Orestes is finally forgiven by the Gods: only a divine intervention can prevent future bloodshed and end the cyclical nature of revenge. It is very common for Greek myths to have different versions, especially based on the historical period in which they were written on. Also, Electra proves how violence cannot go on forever and, as Gandhi said: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Madame Butterfly — Opera by Giacomo Puccini

Thursday, March 23, 2017
The Dallas Opera, 2403 Flora Street, Suite 500, Dallas, Texas 75201

Spanish version available in Relatos Sin Contrato.

Having wings doesn’t mean you can fly. This is especially true about Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, which is staged on 1904’s Nagasaki and has three acts. The libretto was originally written in Italian by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. The plot is based on a short story by John Luther Long.

The opera’s main character is Cio-Cio San (Madame Butterfly), a 15-year old Japanese girl who gets engaged to B. F. Pinkerton, a US Navy lieutenant stationed in Japan. The plot revolves around freedom and draws an analogy to Rousseau’s maxim: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Butterfly can break away from her duties and customs, but not from her feelings, which would end up destroying her.

Pinkerton owns the house as he owns the wife, and yet cancelling both contracts would come very easy to him. An analogy can be drawn to the ninth commandment (“Thou shalt not covet thy neighour’s wife”) as if females and property were one and the same.

Pinkerton is obviously not in love with Cio-Cio San but longs to get back to America to remarry. Butterfly proves her love once and again fighting against familial pressures (represented by his uncle Bonze), renouncing her ancestral religion, nationality, and family, embracing Christianity, bearing Pinkerton’s son, rebuking her maid Suzuki’s advices, and rejecting Prince Yamadori’s proposal after Pinkerton leaves to America.

After being inconsolable for several years, Cio-Cio San gets a glimpse of hope when she learns that Pinkerton is returning to Japan. She commits suicide when she finally realizes that her feelings are not simply not reciprocated but intended for someone else: Kate Pinkerton. Pinkerton gets temporarily taken aback once he understands how much Butterfly really loves him but one couldn’t help but think that Pinkerton was not genuine or moved by emotion but by regret, remorse, and guilt.

Madame Butterfly is more a clash of feelings than it is a clash of cultures. Puccini is the Bel canto (beautiful singing) composer who never labeled himself so. His aria “Un Bel Di Vedremo (On Fine Day We Shall See)” would be enough to prove it. Puccini inserts a wide number of popular tunes within his operas, such as Tosca’s E Lucevan Le Estelle and Turandot’s Nessun Dorma.

¿Cuánto cuesta escribir un libro?

Nota preliminar: en el siguiente artículo no considero a escritores fantasmas, antologías, o trabajos literarios por encargo. Las cifras incluidas aquí han sido estimadas y no reflejarán a todos los escritores.


“Yo no pago para verme publicado” es una frase que hemos oído hasta el cansancio y que me parece debemos poner a prueba.

La literatura no es un canje comercial. Los escritores, entre los cuales me incluyo, escribimos para llenarnos, para mejorarnos, para compartir con el mundo la inspiración que emana de nuestras almas.

Nuestras obras intelectuales no tienen precio desde un punto de vista artístico. Sin embargo, invertimos -no gastamos- nuestro dinero y nuestro tiempo para hacerlas realidad.

Gasto #1 (tiempo):

Supongamos que escribir un libro nos tomaría dos años trabajando cinco días a la semana y dos horas al día. El total sería 1.040 horas (2 * 52 * 5 * 2). El salario promedio en los Estados Unidos es de $20,00 por hora, pero no podemos usar nuestro salario de una forma lineal, sino que tenemos que adaptarlo a la temática de nuestra obra y al enfoque de nuestro trabajo:

1.1. Cuando trabajamos en un tema que resulta mucho más complicado que nuestro trabajo. Por ejemplo, una novela romántica ambientada en la Segunda Guerra Mundial no es necesariamente más complicada que el trabajo de una oficina de patentes, ya que resultaría imposible establecer una comparación. Sin embargo, un libro sobre algoritmos en criptografía que analiza los métodos de Alan Turing es mucho más engorroso que trabajar como programador de sistemas. Si la obra en cuestión es en efecto más rigurosa que nuestro trabajo, entonces el costo por hora aumentaría en un 33% y se traduciría en $26,60.

1.2. Si el libro que estamos escribiendo resulta extremadamente similar a nuestro trabajo, entonces el pago sería menor porque usualmente escribimos fuera del horario laboral, por lo cual nuestra cotización no tendría el mismo valor. Si descontamos un 33%, el valor sería $13,40. Cuando nos pagan para que escribamos, como en el caso de los periodistas, el valor del tiempo invertido permanece constante.

1.3. Si escribimos un libro que aborda un tema que nada tiene que ver con nuestra profesión o con nuestra preparación educacional o vocación profesional, el salario por hora sería menor. En el caso de trabajos muy especializados que no se relacionen en absoluto con la literatura, yo sugeriría usar un costo 50% menor ($10,00). El salario sería aún menor si estamos desempleados o somos estudiantes, pero nuestro tiempo siempre tendría algún valor.

Finalmente, consideremos siempre el salario que ganábamos mientras escribíamos el libro. Si escribimos el libro cuando teníamos 20 años y ganábamos $10,00 por hora, entonces no podemos considerar nuestro salario actual, ahora que cumplimos 30 años y ganamos $150,00 por hora.

Gasto #2 (edición):

La mayoría de los escritores invierten en edición/corrección. Existen dos grandes grupos de editores, quienes mejoran la trama, estructura y estilo y quienes trabajan la precisión léxica y los detalles orto-tipográficos.

Toda obra debería ser editada por dos correctores. Si nuestro libro tiene 50.000 palabras, estimando que nos cobrarán $0,01 por palabra, podemos estimar un gasto de $1.000,00.

Mientras más prestigio tenga el editor o la editora más aumentaría el precio de la corrección. Aunque publiquemos a través de una editorial tradicional siempre es una buena idea entregar nuestro manuscrito corregido (por el autor y al menos un editor profesional).

Gasto #3 (materiales):

Otros gastos incluyen energía eléctrica si utilizamos una computadora, gastos de tinta para impresora, papel, etcétera.

A veces incurrimos en gastos de envío cuando mandamos nuestros manuscritos a la prensa, casas editoriales, o concursos.

Gasto #4 (promoción):

Consideremos también gastos de promoción a través de redes sociales como Facebook y Twitter y anuncios radiales y televisivos.

Otras consideraciones

Hasta aquí llegan los gastos de la publicación tradicional, para la autopublicación tendríamos que incluir gastos de maquetación, diseño de portada, entre otros.

He ignorado cualquier gasto adicional de traducción, ya que éste es opcional. Los gastos de promoción reflejan un plan muy básico y una estrategia de promoción limitada.

Gastos totales

Escritura Edición Materiales Promoción
$3.000,00 $1.000,00 $500,00 $500,00

Calculando gastos
GASTO_TOTAL = (SALARIO_ESTIMADO x HORAS_DE_ESCRITURA) + (NÚMERO_DE_PALABRAS x PRECIO_DE_EDICIÓN_POR_PALABRA) + (MATERIALES) + (PROMOCIÓN)

Entonces, ¿vale la pena?

Una vez que terminamos nuestra obra, ¿cuánto tendríamos que ganar para simplemente recuperar nuestra inversión inicial? Consideremos que hayamos gastado un total de $5.000,00 (incluyendo tiempo y recursos), cifra que en mi opinión es extremadamente baja y muy optimista. Supongamos que nuestra editorial venda el libro a $10,00 en formato papel y a $1,00 en formato electrónico. Generalmente los autores cobran un 10% por copia vendida en papel y un 25% por copia vendida en formato electrónico, lo cual se traduciría a $1,00 en papel y a $0,25 en libro electrónico. En pocas palabras, tendríamos que vender más de 5.000 libros para recuperar la inversión inicial en formato papel o más de 20.000 libros electrónicos. Ambas son cifras extremadamente altas para cualquier autor.

¿Vale la pena ser un escritor con fines comerciales? No. ¿Vale la pena ser un escritor con fines artísticos? Sí.

De Troya says enough!

— Spoilers ahead —
7 / 10

Spanish version available in Revista La Oca Loca.

I had a chance to attend De Troya‘s premiere last Friday, 05/05/2017 and I enjoyed a crude yet symbolic and rewarding acting display.

The story, written by Caridad Svich and directed by David Lozano, outlines the mishaps of Mara (Maya Malan-Gonzalez) and Raya (Stefanie Tovar). Filled with symbolism and allusions, the play portrays feminism and victim-hood as being interrelated, as if women were set up to lose this game we call life.

Except for a fleeting reference to Pegasus, the flying horse born from Medusa’s blood, the play lacks mythological references that could have made it stronger. For instance, I would have recommended using Hecate, a Christian-like trinity of Greek origin made up of three different natures: Apollo’s sister Artemis, Selene (the Moon), and Hecate’s infernal representation. In the same way Artemis and Selene have parallel lives in different realms, so do Mara and Raya.

Throughout the play, you can start noticing more and more similarities between both women, as they start taking control over their lives, as they stop being victims. Such a progression is so central to the plot, that you cannot help but ignoring all other characters and regard them as peripheral and unremarkable at best. You could almost smell the environment of violence and despair both Mara and Raya find themselves in.

The plot reminded Michael Apted’s Enough (2002), coincidentally starring an abused and hopeless Hispanic woman named Slim Hiller (Jennifer Lopez), who is trying to escape his possessive, chauvinistic, and androgenic husband. In the same way Slim Hiller starts growing and eventually overcomes his fears and starts fighting back until she prevails, so does Mara. Mara descends into hell and makes it back, even though she probably thought that ending her life would have been easier. Yet Mara, in opposed to Eurydice, does not need an Orpheus to escape from Hades. She has everything see needs, she finds herself. We can also see how Raya grows away from hate and starts welcoming forgiveness, finally adopting a saint-like attitude.

Svich‘s writing is strong and Lozano‘s adaptation is praiseworthy. In despite of a few disconnected scenes, I wholeheartedly recommend De Troya.

Review a synopsis here.

Buy tickets here.