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Zarzuela (Spanish operetta): “The Jewish Boy” by Pablo Luna
April 30, 2016 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pmFree
Friday 29th April (India International Centre, Auditorium) 6:30 p.m.
Saturday 30th April (Instituto Cervantes, Sala de exposiciones) 7:00 p.m.
performed by Neemrana Music Foundation, Ócar Lobete & Jasmin Martorell (music dir.), Sunit Tandon (stage dir.)
Introduction: As the 20th century got into its stride, the zarzuela began to lean towards the manners of operetta. The robust comedy of the Madrileño genero chico began to succumb to the flimsy exoticism that appealed to the jaded palettes of Paris and Vienna. When the operettas of Lehar, for example, started to find favour in Madrid, zarzuela composers were not slow to tailor their work to the new fashion. The most successful exponent of the operetta style in the 1910’s and 20’s was undoubtedly Pablo Luna, and in El niño judío (“The Jewish Boy”) his librettists provided him with an unashamed vehicle for highly coloured musico-theatrical display. Luna’s score is resilient and varied enough to make up for an obvious lack of substance as to plot. The flamboyant Canción española remains justly popular, likewise the curried harmonies of the Indian Dance – a number which conveys the weird impression of a herd of elephants dancing a pasodoble. The mordant black comedy of the Act 2 Dúo for Samuel and Jenaro is equally good. With xylophone suggesting skeletal dancing bones, it even offers a striking foretaste of that deathshead humour which Puccini was to provide for Ping, Pang and Pong in Turandot.
Synopsis: The action takes place in Madrid, Aleppo in Syria, and in India, in the early 20th Century
Act One. Scene One (A bookstall near the Prado, in Madrid, 1900)
At a used book stall in the Paseo del Prado in Madrid, the stall keeper Samuel, a lad about fifteen or sixteen years old, is visited by Concha. They are in love, although the girl’s father, Jenaro — the owner of the book stall —, does not agree because Samuel’s family background is unknown, although Jewish. Jenaro arrives and sends Samuel to see his adoptive father, David Benchimol, whose illness has suddenly got worse. He then confides the secret he has just discovered to Concha: Samuel is really the son of an extremely rich Jew called Samuel Barchilón who lives in Aleppo. Forgetting his previous prejudice, Jenaro encourages Concha to marry Samuel and he sells the rights to the shop in order to gather money so all three can travel to Aleppo.
Scene Two (The Market Square of Aleppo in Syria, beneath the Citadel)
A public square in Aleppo, on a market day. Samuel Barchilón is complaining to Manacor about the little luck he has had with women. Jenaro arrives with his servant Ataliar and asks Manacor for information on Barchilón. Jenaro, Samuel and Concha reach Barchilón’s house. The owner appears and, the moment he discovers who Samuel is, tries to strangle him. Those present stop him doing so and, once Barchilón has gone, the three travellers find out the truth from Manacor: Samuel is not the son of the Jew, but rather of Rajah Jamar-Jalea, who eloped with his mother, Esther. At that moment, Jenaro, Samuel and Concha decide to continue their journey to India.
Act Two. Scene One (The Palace of Jamar-Jalea (“Gobble-Jelly”), in India)
After an arduous journey, the protagonists reach the Jamar-Jalea palace in India, where the anniversary of enthronement is being celebrated. Samid, the aide de chambre, ushers the three travellers in. Jenaro takes advantage to deliver Jamar-Jalea a letter stating that Samuel is the Rajah’s son, but he says it is false and arrests them all. After a moment of fear, everything is sorted out and Concha sings the “Spanish song”. However, the situation is again complicated for the travellers, by an execution order signed by Jubea, the Rajah’s wife.
Scene Two (The temple)
When Mirsia and the priestesses are performing the rituals to execute the three travellers, a further discovery is made: that Samuel is not the son of Rajah Jamar-Jalea either. He enters the temple, halts the sacrifice, lavishes gifts on the protagonists and helps them to return to Spain.