Barcelona represents itself through opera in the exhibition Opera, passion, power and politics, which on the initiative of Victoria & Albert Museum in London It covers four hundred years of gender history and its relationship with power and society. Through eight European cities – including Barcelona -, the sample that now falls into the CaixaForum of Barcelona It emphasizes certain periods and social changes in Europe. Starting with the Renaissance Venice of Monteverdi and ending with the Soviet Union of the thirties 20th century Stories of passion and politics through music and cities, where opera was moving abandoned the European royal courts.
He Grand theater of the Liceu He has actively participated in the adaptation of the exhibition discourse of this exhibition, which It was already seen at the CaixaForum in Madrid, and conceives it as an exceptional activity within the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the reopening of the Rambla theater. Josep Pons, the theater musical director, puts the voiceover that leads the audience through the different rooms. And he starts wondering if opera is just an art to entertain. "And if it is, to entertain us from what?" He asks.
Thus, the tour starts through the Venice of Monteverdi, listening in the arias headphones and exciting duets of
L’Incoronazione di Poppea
; then he enters the splendid London to the one Handel he took opera from Italy: he premiered his
Rinaldo in that theatrical ecosystem he raised blisters: could a German who wrote operas in Italian end up displacing Shakespeare before the London public? It is then about Mozart's illustrated Vienna and of
Le nozze di Figaro
, with objects that include even the marriage certificate of the composer or the piano he used during his stay in Prague.
Its about Verdi's Milan, at that time ruled by Austrians, and their
Nabucco in which the importance of choirs becomes evident – the famous Go I think
– to give voice to the people. It is also about Wagner's Paris, the then international capital of culture, which attracted an amalgam of artists, musicians and industrialists. His premiere of
Tannhäuser, in 1861, during his exile from Germany, an opera that Wagner had adapted for the city and that divided the public: while lovers of traditional opera were baffled, the focus of the total work of art inspired artists and writers.
Kate Bailey, curator of the Victoria & Albert Museum
It has been wonderful to discover the emotional story of the premiere of Jiménez Pepita in the Liceu ”
And it is here, at the end of the 19th century, where the Liceu finds its representation in the absolute premiere of Jiménez Pepita of Albéniz, in 1896. Just when Barcelona showed a new profile of modernity, with the Universal Exposition of 1888, the bourgeoisie and economic strength.
“It has been wonderful to discover the emotional story of the premiere of Jiménez Pepita in the Liceu ”, comments the exhibition curator, Kate Bailey, in relation to the story built around this premiere, with mentions of the voices that in that Barcelona society claimed the role of women and fashion that began to show a more progressive conception regarding gender. All presided over by Albéniz's piano and illustrated by works by Ramon Casas, as well as posters that refer to the Universal Exhibition. And the original score of the opera is also exposed, which was later released in Prague.
“Barcelona could have chosen other titles, Granados, Falla, but it was time to Jiménez Pepita he who was revolutionary, and his message is part of the narration of power, politics, influence and society, ”admits Josep Pons. “We were looking for a premiere that would also explain the Liceu and society, a society in which it is the people themselves who create the opera house, that space where they go to exhibit. And Albéniz, which only with his piano work is a milestone comparable with Chopin and Liszt, also has an important operatic production. He anticipates verism, Falla, Puccini. And with Pepita Jiménez confronts society, it is a love story between a widow in her twenties and a seminarian, who finally leaves the novitiate for love. ”
The last two episodes of this exhibition – which were overlooked when he traveled to Muscat, the capital of Oman – refer to the explosive modernist opera by Richard Strauss, Salome, and its premiere in Dresden in 1905, in the context of a progressive city that It was an emblem of artistic expressionism. This psychosexual opera caused a scandal for what meant a change of perception about women. And here the exhibition incorporates the feminist movement, as well as the costume designs that Dalí and Versace made for this title.
Elisa Durán, deputy general director of the Banking Foundation “la Caixa”
The musical selection adapts to the free travel of the visitor and also to his rhythm. And there are 300 varied pieces ceded by 30 institutions ”
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District, by Dmitri Shostakóvich, closes the political journey by the hand of Stalin's censorship, which he banned despite having initially been embraced by the public as an expression of the new Soviet opera. Because the Bolsheviks did not miss that opera was a powerful means to reach the masses. And that was how the state took over the imperial theaters. Among the elements that illustrate this period, it is worth highlighting a documentary that lasts over an hour that praised Shostakovich before being a victim of censorship. The composer, fearing for his freedom, did not compose any other opera.
“The idea of presenting this exhibition at CaixaForum was born from the excitement that caused us to see it in London, in 2017. We were impressed by the clarity of his speech, by the passion and interest that can be aroused in different audiences,” says Elisa Durán, deputy general director of the Banking Foundation "la Caixa". The musical selection adapts to the visitor's free travel and also at his own pace, and includes a variety of pieces, more than three hundred provided by more than 30 institutions, including documents, posters, instruments, goldsmiths … Some of the must-see jewels are the original score of Nabucco, Victoria Eugenia's dress, 18th-century Venice glassware … and some Degas, Monet and the aforementioned Houses that enhance the content. There is even a replica of the Orsni bomb that fell in the Liceu in 1894.
This museum and especially musical experience was conceived with the aim of making opera more accessible to the general public, explaining not only history but its link through the cities. In Madrid it was the CaixaForum exhibition that registered the highest level of satisfaction among the public. Now, in Barcelona, the museum institution expands the offer with parallel activities. Thus, apart from its already established four sessions of filmed opera, it will offer a family show that will remain later for schools: 20 sessions that will reach seven people, according to Valentí Farràs, director of CaixaForum Barcelona.
Salvador Alemany, president of the Liceu Foundation
This sample illustrates the social transformation, the way in which that bourgeoisie that created the Liceu has given way to another model of creation impulse ”
"This is the great challenge of Liceu, opening the opera to new audiences, younger and more transversal," said the president of the Liceu Foundation, Salvador Alemany. “And this sample illustrates the social transformation, the way in which that bourgeoisie that created the Liceu has given way to another model of creation's momentum. Now the profile of those who support the arts is another, and that is something that those who see the exhibition and listen to Pons will see. ”
“Do not expect an exhibition on opera, it is not about comprehensively addressing the chronology of hundreds and hundreds of operatic titles, but there is a focus, a vision. And if you enter the game it is fascinating, you just have to spend an hour and a half of your life, ”concludes Pons.
Josep Pons, musical director of the Liceu
Do not expect an exhibition about opera, there is a focus, a vision. And if you enter the game it is fascinating, you just have to spend an hour and a half of your life ”