GARCIA LORCA'S THEATRE. El teatro de Federico García Lorca
{Alhambra}
THEATRE

  The following works are commented below:

 

PLAY FIRST PERFORMANCE
The Butterfly's Evil Spell  Madrid 1920
Mariana Pineda   Barcelona June 1927
The Prodigious Shoemaker's Wife  Madrid 24 December 1930
Blood Wedding   Madrid March 1933
The Love of Don Perlimplin with Belisa in his Garden  Madrid April 1933
Retablillo de Don Cristóbal  Buenos Aires March 1934
Yerma   Madrid 29 December 1934
Doña Rosita the Spinster   Barcelona December 1935
The House of Bernarda Alba   Buenos Aires March 1945
The Audience  Puerto Rico 1976; officially Milan 1986
When Five Years Have Passed   New York 1945


From 1931 to 1936 Lorca was also artistic director of a student travelling theatre group, called La Barraca, that performed classical Spanish drama in villages and cities across Spain.

 In New York at the end of 1929 or beginning of 1930, he wrote the film script Viaje a la luna that was finally filmed in 1998.  


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EL MALEFICIO DE LA MARIPOSA
THE BUTTERFLY'S EVIL SPELL

(Comedy)

First performed in Madrid (Teatro Esclava) on 22 March 1920, directed by Gregorio Martínez Sierra; first published in 1954 in Arturo de Hoyo's Obras Completas

Synopsis
A beautiful butterfly breaks her wing and falls to the ground into a society of insects and bugs and creepy-crawlies. One of the bugs, Curianito, a dreamer and poet, falls in love with the butterfly and is left heart-broken and desolate when, her wing healed, she flies away.

Biographical Background.
In the summer of 1919, Lorca recited a poem (lost) on the same theme to dramatist and theatre producer Gregorio Martínez Sierra and the actress Catalina Bárcena in the Generalife Gardens in Granada. They were very moved and suggested he re-write the poem in a dramatic form. Lorca was never really convinced of the suitability of the theme for a dramatic presentation. The play was a resounding flop, which Lorca took with good humour.

Comments
This early works contains many of what were to become characteristic Lorca themes: the arbitrariness of love, unreciprocated passion, refusal to accept the mediocracy of life and the aspiration to personal self-fulfilment.

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MARIANA PINEDA

(Popular Romance)

 

First performed in Barcelona on 24 June 1927. Published in La Farsa, Madrid 1928.


Synopsis
Mariana Pineda was a local heroine in Lorca's home town of Granada. She was executed in 1831, at the tender age of 27, for having had a flag embroidered with the words "Liberty, Equality and Law". She helped her cousin, Pedro Sotomayor, a "conspirator" against Ferdinand VII's repressive regime, to escape from prison. Mariana could have saved her own life by betraying Sotomayor and his political allies. She refused. In Lorca's play, her motives are presented as non-political. She is moved only by the power of her love for her cousin, who proves to be unworthy of her (another familiar Lorca theme).
 
Mariana Pineda talking to Federico García Lorca,
drawing by Santiago Ontañon, 1933.

Biographical Background.
Although the play is dated 8 January 1925, Lorca first conceived the idea for this play in the summer of 1923. In September of that year, Primo de Rivera imposed a military dictatorship in Spain. For some time, Lorca found it difficult to find a theatre company willing to put on the play because it could be interpreted as a disguised criticism of that dictatorship. It was finally put on by the radical Catalan actress, Margarita Xirgú, in Barcelona, where the aspirations of Catalan nationalism made opposition to the dictatorship particularly strong. The success of Mariana Pineda was to a very large extent a political event.
 

Marianita, at home in Granada, wondering whether or not to sew the flag of Liberty. (Drawing in a letter to Melchor Fernández Almagro, September 1923.)


Comments
Mariana Pineda's fate bears a remarkable resemblance to Lorca's own. Like his Mariana, Lorca frequently denied that his actions were politically motivated. Mariana was, to the end, convinced that she would not die because "she was noble" and the noblemen of Granada would save her. Lorca returned to Granada from Madrid on the eve of the Spanish Civil War, where he was killed by fascist thugs, because he felt safer in his provincial home town.

 Bookshop:
Mariana Pineda
Mariana Pineda, La Zapatera Prodigiosa, Así que pasen..., Doña Rosita la Soltera, Bernarda Alba   

Aquí encuentras el texto de la obra en español.

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EL AMOR DE DON PERLIMPLÍN
CON BELISA EN SU JARDÍN
 
THE LOVE OF DON PERLIMPLÍN...

(An erotic broadside ballad)

First performed on 6 April 1933 by Pura Ucelay's Club teatral Anfistora in Madrid.

Synopsis
This is a re-working of the classical Spanish comedy theme of an old man marrying an attractive young bride. The old man is made to look ridiculous in the face of the young woman's sexual voracity. But in Lorca's play, the old man falls in love with his bride and is desperate to win her love. To do so, he disguises himself and converts himself into her mysterious lover. Finally, to prove his love, Don Perlimplín kills his rival, who is himself, of course.

Biographical Background.
Lorca started writing this play in 1924 and was working on it intensively after visiting Salvador Dalí in Cadaqués in the spring of 1925. The play seems to be imbued with the impossible passion that the poet felt for the painter. "For the first time in my life," he confided, "I am writing erotic poetry."

Also around this time, and under Dalí's influence, Lorca was working on a series of 


DIÁLOGOS

Among them: La doncella, el marinero, y el estudiante, El paseo de Buster Keaton (Diálogo de la bicicleta de Filadelfia), El teniente coronel de la Guardia Civil, y Diálago de Amargo ("The Maiden, the Sailor, and The Student", "Buster Keaton Takes a Walk", "The Lieutenant Colonel of the Guardia Civil", and "Amargo's Dialogue"). The first two were published in Granada in April 1928 in the avant-garde artistic magazine gallo, brainchild of Lorca himself. The latter two were published in 1931 in El poema del cante jondo, probably to give ballast to an otherwide exceedingly slim volume.  The four dialogues were first performed in Madrid in October 1986, together with El Retablillo de Don Cristóbal.


Comments.
Asked a short time before his death which he considered to be his most successful play, Lorca said he couldn't say which was most successful, but the one he liked best was this one, Don Perlimplín, which he likened to a piece of chamber music.
This play was being rehearsed for performance at the experimental theatre Caracol in Madrid in February 1929, when it fell foul of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship's censure.
Bookshop:
The Love of Don Perlimplín and The Prodigious Cobblers Wife


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LA ZAPATERA PRODIGIOSA
THE PRODIGIOUS SHOEMAKER'S WIFE

(Vulgar farse)

First performed on 24 December 1930 at the Teatro Español, Madrid.
Synopsis.

 The shoemaker's wife is much younger than her husband. She is always complaining about him and in the end he can no longer bear it. He disappears. Once he is gone, the shoemaker's wife starts to miss him and extolls his virtues. The shoemaker returns, disguised and unrecognised, and tells a morality tale criticising the shoemaker's wife's behaviour. When she tells him how much she regrets having treated her husband badly, the shoemaker reveals his real identity. They are happily reconciled. Yet it seems doubtful at the end of the play that the shoemaker's wife has really learnt "the error of her ways".
Biographical Background.

Lorca started writing this play in 1924 when he was very much under the influence of Manuel de Falla who sought musical inspiration in the popular traditions of the Spanish countryside. (Lorca was writing a libretto for a comic opera that Falla never finished writing the score for.) Later, Lorca said he wrote "La Zapatera Prodigiosa" as a sort of reaction to contemporary artistic tendencies towards abstraction. "La Zapatera" was, in contrast, a simple farse, a straightforward light-hearted comedy.
An extended version, with popular songs and dances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, opened at the Teatro Avenida, Buenos Aires, on 1 December 1933. 

 
Dress worn by actress Lola Membrives for the Buenos Aires production of La Zapatera 
Comments.
Lorca's brother, Francisco, described this work as the expression of the gaety and humour of their natal village, Fuente Vaqueros, contrasting it with "La Casa de Bernarda Alba", which, he said, represented rather the sombre frame of mind of the people of Valderrubio, then called Asquerosa, where Lorca wrote many of his early works and, indeed, where he started writing this one. The real-life models for the shoemaker and his wife, however, actually lived in Valderrubio.
 
 To buy this title click here
To buy the following works in one volume, click: La Zapatera Prodigiosa, Así que pasen cinco años, Mariana Pineda, Doña Rosita la Soltera and La Casa de Bernarda Alba.  

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BODAS DE SANGRE BLOOD WEDDING

(Tragedy)

First performed in Madrid (Theatre Beatriz) on 8 March 1933. Published in Cruz y Raya, Madrid, 1933.

Synopsis
On her wedding day, the just-wed bride runs off with her cousin, who she had previously had a relationship with before he went off and married another woman. Husband goes after lover and they kill each other. The bride lives on in disgrace.

Biographical Background.
Lorca conceived the idea for this work when he read about the "crime passionel" of Níjar (Almería) in the newspapers in July 1928. He finished it in the summer of 1932 during a period of two weeks, or less, of intense writing. During this time he played incessantly a Bach cantata and records of the flamenco artist, Tomás Pavón, on the family gramaphone at the Huerta de San Vicente. It drove the rest of the family crazy!

Comments.
With the success of "Blood Wedding", Lorca was now approaching the peak of his fame, with three theatrical works on concurrently in Madrid (Bodas, Don Perlimplín and a new version of La Zapatera) as well as being the artistic director of La Barraca Theatre Group. The Argentinian actress, Lola Membrives, put "Blood Wedding" on in Buenos Aires where it was such an overwhelming hit that the crowds didn't stop calling out for more. It led to Lorca's triumphant visit to Argentina between September 1933 and March 1934.

 

Bookshop:


Blood Wedding
Blood Wedding and Yerma
Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba
Bodas de Sangre  

 

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RETABLILLO DE DON CRISTÓBAL

(puppet farse)

First performed on 26 March 1934 at the Avenida Theatre in Buenos Aires.

Synopsis
Don Cristóbal and Doña Rosita are Spanish versions of Punch and Judy. There is hardly any plot, rather a series of scenes vindicating this form of popular culture and the right to creative freedom. Apart from the puppet characters, the theatre director appears, whose only interest is commercial success, and the author of the play, who dutifully says only that what he is paid to say.

Biographical Background.
This play was written in the 1930s, long after his earlier attempts to write puppet theatre in the early 20s. Lorca now has a lot of experience directing plays for a wide variety of audiences with  La Barraca. He has reached a very radical posture with regard to the rôle of theatre in society which comes out clearly in this short work.

Comments.
In the first decades of the Twentieth Century, musicians, in particular, looked to folk art to find new forms of creative expression. In the early 20s, Manuel de Falla finished his "Master Pedro's Puppet Show". The young Lorca was infected by Falla's fascination for puppet plays and in 1922 he wrote a first version of "The Tragicomedy of Don Cristóbal and Miss Rosita". 


LOS TÍTERES DE CACHIPORA. TRAGICOMEDIA DE DON CRISTÓBAL Y LA SEÑÁ ROSITA

(puppet farse)

For a while, Lorca and Manuel de Falla talked about touring Andalusia and even America with their puppet show, though nothing ever came of this project.  Lorca's tragicomic puppet farse was not performed in his lifetime. Its first performance was at the teatro de la zarzuela, Madrid, in 1937.The work was first published in 1948, in Madrid.

Aquí encuentras el texto de la obra en español.

Following on from "The Tragicomedy of Don Cristóbal and Miss Rosita", Lorca collaborated with Falla, responsible for the musical arrangements, in putting on a puppet show for children in his family house in Granada on 6 January 1923 (Epiphany). For this performance, Lorca wrote a short piece called "The Girl who Waters the Basil and the Inquisitive Prince" 


LA NIÑA QUE RIEGA LA ALBAHACA Y EL PRÍNCIPE PREGUNTÓN

(Andalusian folk tale)

This is an adaption of the folk tale La mata de albahaca ("The Basil Patch"). First published in Títere, Boletín de la unión de titeriteros, Madrid, in 1982.

The last, and least successful, collaboration between Lorca and Falla was on a light opera, for which Lorca wrote the libretto. This was


LOLA LA COMEDIANTE

(libretto)

dated 1923, first published in Madrid in 1981, but de Falla never finished the score for it.

 Bookshop:
Four Puppet Plays (and Play without a Title)

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YERMA

(tragic poem)

  First performed in Madrid in December 1934
 Poster  designed by José Caballero and J A Morales

Synopsis
A young woman gets married anxious to have children. As time goes by, she becomes more and more obsessed by her apparent infertility. In a moment of despair, she kills her husband, which, given her morality, is her only chance of ever becoming a mother. A feminist critic ridiculed the play for having no dramatic plot, but in fact Lorca had predicted this criticism.

Biographical Background.
Lorca's father's first wife, Matilde Palacios, died in 1894 after some 15 years of childless marriage. Lorca said his childhood was fascination with sets of cutlery bearing the initials "MP", the woman who "might have been his mother". But the agony of Yerma is also the agony of Lorca, who realised that his homosexual condition denied him the pleasure of fathering his own children.

Comments.
When this play was first performed in Madrid it scandalised conservative elements of Spanish society. So much so, that when the following year it opened in Barcelona, Lorca felt obliged to inform the public beforehand that this was not one of those plays "considered unsuitable for young ladies", but that it was in fact a profoundly moral play. The play was immensely successful.

 

Bookshop:
Yerma and Blood Wedding
Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba  

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DOÑA ROSITA LA SOLTERA
o El lenguaje de las flores
 

MISS ROSITA THE SPINSTER or THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

(A poem of nineteenth century Granada)

Emilio Grau Sala's poster  made for the first performance in Barcelona

First performed in Barcelona in 1935

Synopsis
The aging of a woman from Granada who lets her life pass by waiting for her fiancé, the love of her life, who promises to return but who has, in fact, started a new life in South America.

Biographical Background.
In 1924, Moreno Villa, a friend of Lorca's, read him the description of a rose, the "rosa mutabile", that changed colour from pink in the morning to red at noon and to white in the evening. "When he had finished, I had the play complete in my mind," claimed Lorca.

Comments.
There are numerous contenders for the role of prototype for Doña Rosita. Favourite is his cousin, Clotilde, who was deserted by her fiancé when he went off to Argentina. His life-long friend, Emilia Llanos, may be another. Two others are friends of his family from Pinos Puente who are described by José Mora Guarnido in his book Federico García Lorca y su mundo.

Bookshop:

Doña Rosita the Spinster, Yerma and Blood Wedding
Doña Rosita la Soltera and Bodas de Sangre  

 

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LA CASA DE BERNARDA ALBA
THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA

(A drama of women in the villages of Spain)

First performed in Buenos Aires by Margarita Xirgu's theatre company in 1945

Synopsis
Bernarda Alba's second husband dies, leaving her alone with five unmarried daughters. The eldest, Angustia, now a forty-year-old spinster, will inherit the family fortune. She is courted by a shady character called Pepe el Romano, who is evidently more drawn to Adela, the youngest and most attractive of the daughters. Adela refuses to relinquish her chance of happiness and fulfilment in favour of her step-sister. Bernarda Alba finds out and tries to kill Pepe. Thinking he is indeed dead, Adela hangs herself.

 
Biographical Background.
The prototype for Bernarda Alba was Frasquita Alba, who was the neighbour of Lorca's cousin, Mercedes. She tells that the two neighbouring properties shared a well, built into the wall that divided them. Lorca used to sit by the well and eavesdrop on the conversations taking place on the other side of the wall. Frasquita Alba, it should be pointed out, died in 1924, twelve years before the play was written, and was in fact outlived by her second husband. Furthermore, while it is true that she had five daughters in all, she also had two sons.

The facade of the house of Frasquita Alba in Valderrubio (then Asquerosa).

Comments.
Lorca finished this work on 19 June 1936 and gave several readings of it to friends in Madrid and later in Granada.

 Bookshop:
Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba
La Casa de Bernarda Alba  

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ASÍ QUE PASEN CINCO AÑOS
WHEN FIVE YEARS HAVE PASSED

(A Legend of Time)

First performed in New York in 1945

Synopsis
This is another play about the passing of time and letting life slip by unlived. The Young Man decides to wait an arbitary five years before marrying his fiancée, by which time her love for him has died and she rejects him. At the end of the play, he is murdered (in a somewhat surealistic fashion). According to Lorca's brother, Francisco, the Young Man is slain by Time.


Biographical Background.
Margarita Xirgú read the work shortly after it had been finished in 1931 but she considered it, with its surrealistic effects and unnatural structure, too difficult and preferred to put on "La Zapatera Prodigiosa" that winter. Five years later, it was being rehearsed by the Club Anfistora in Madrid in July 1936 but Lorca postponed the opening night until the autumn when he himself would supervise the production. Efforts to stage it were finally abandoned due to the outbreak of the Civil War and the death of the poet.

Comments.
This play was finished at the Huerta de San Vicente in Granada in the summer of 1931 and dated 19 August - 5 years to the day before Lorca was shot at dawn by a fascist "black squad".

 Bookshop:
When Five Years Have Passed
Así que pasen cinco años, Mariana Pineda, La Zapatera Prodigiosa, Doña Rosita la Soltera and La Casa de Bernarda Alba.

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EL PÚBLICO
THE AUDIENCE (THE PUBLIC)

(Drama)

First official performance 12 December 1986 in Milan. Dated 22 August 1930.

Synopsis
The structure of the play and the development of the plot have no conventional logic. A successful theatre director is urged by friends to turn from "open-air theatre" to a "theatre under the sand", ie. a theatre which defies theatrical conventions and tells the truth. The director argues that the audience would never tolerate such a theatre. And indeed it does not. Faced with the truth, the audience destroys the theatre and attacks the actors.

Biographical Background.
The play seems to have been started while Lorca was in Cuba in the spring of 1930 and finished during the summer in Granada. It takes up many of the themes and images that are prominent in "Poet in New York" and that also appear in the filmscript "Viaje a la Luna", written in New York at the end of 1929. Lorca was pleased with the finished product, considering it one of his best works, and spoke confidently of its "openly homosexual" content to his friend Rafael Martínez Nadal. As usual, he read it to friends but could find no theatre company willing to put it on. On his last day in Madrid, 13 July 1936, Lorca handed over a package containing the manuscript to his friend, Martínez Nadal, telling him to destroy it "if anything happened to him". Fortunately, Nadal did not comply with the poet's wishes. 

Comments.  

In 1935, Lorca returned to the theme of "The Audience" in the work known as "Play without a Title" (or "The Dream of Life") giving it a much more radical treatment in the light of the social and political struggles that had been taking place during the life of the Second Republic (since 1931). This unfinished work was finally published in 1976, by Marie Laffranque in the Bulletin Hispanique, Bordeauz, France. First performance: 23 June 1989.

 Bookshop:
The Public and Play without a Title
Play without a Title

Lorca's The Public, by Rafael Martínez Nadal

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In New York, 1929-30, Lorca wrote a film script 

VIAJE A LA LUNA

JOURNEY TO THE MOON

First published in English in 1964; published in Spanish by Marie Laffranque in 1980. 

The film script was undoubtedly a response to Dalí and Buñuel's Le chien andalou that had been shown in Paris in the summer of 1929.

Lorca entrusted its realisation to Mexican artist and film-maker Emilio Amero, who jealously guarded the manuscript but was never able to make the film. In the end it was artist and film-maker Frederic Amat who made the film of the script in centenary year 1998.

Aquí encuentras el texto de la obra en español.

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La Barraca

 La Barraca was a travelling student theatre group. It was set up at a special congress for Education Reform on 31 November 1931. The original idea was to erect a cabin (hence "barraca") for performances in Madrid. But this idea was soon rejected in favour of the proposal to take Spanish classic theatre to the villages of rural Spain. Lorca was chosen to be artistic director of this venture.

Between July 1932, when "La Barraca" went on tour for the first time, and April 1936, the date of its 21st and last tour, the following plays were put on:

 
Benjamín Palencia's badge designed for La Barraca.


 

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La Barraca in action.


Page updated 31 March 2007.

 

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