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Presentation

La cabeza del Bautista
Enric Palomar

Opera in one act. Libretto based on the play of the same name by Ramón María del Valle-Inclán, adapted by Carlos Wagner. Music by Enric Palomar. World premiere.

Enric Palomar was born in Badalona in 1964 and studied under Benet Casablancas and Joan Albert Amargós. He has been highly active as a composer and arranger in such diverse fields as chamber music, flamenco (with Miguel Poveda), jazz, popular music and, of course, opera.
Palomar's new opera is based on the play La cabeza del Bautista by Valle-Inclán and follows the original text very closely. Valle-Inclán published La rosa de papel and La cabeza del Bautista, two «melodramas for puppets» subtitled «macabre novels», in «La Novela Semanal» in 1924. In 1927 he included them in a set of plays entitled Retablo de la avaricia, la lujuria y la muerte. This retablo (or reredos) seeks to depict a world of human relationships dominated by two of the capital sins —avarice and lust— and the macabre presence of death.

The title La cabeza del Bautista (The Baptist's Head) is a deliberate reference to Oscar Wilde's Decadent play Salome (1891), which aroused controversy all over Europe and was later made into an opera by Richard Strauss (1905). The leading figure in the play, the daughter of Herodias, is so obsessed by her sexual desire for John the Baptist that she passionately kisses the prophet's mouth after he has been beheaded. Valle-Inclán incorporates certain features of Wilde's characters into a gruesomely Expressionist work, set against a sordid background, and converts the tragedy into a perverse, intricate melodrama.

 

The location is the backward, poverty-stricken countryside of Galicia, inhabited by personages without values or convictions who are fighting to survive. Don Igi, the proprietor of the village bar and billiard room, is visited by El Jándalo, a well-built, disquieting traveller from Argentina. He has come to blackmail Igi over a crime he committed in Toluca, the victim of which was the Argentinian's own mother. Igi served a prison sentence, but returned home in the guise of a man who has grown rich in the New World. Igi is convinced that all is over, but the good-looking, ambitious Pepona is determined not to waste one farthing of her protector's wealth and she persuades him to kill the blackmailer while she makes love to him. Igi complies, his dagger strikes home, and Pepona goes on insatiably kissing the corpse she holds in her arms.

 

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