Wednesday, October 09, 2013

International Cervantino Festival: Choreographer Born in Guanajuato honored; Casa de Puebla; El Emperador de Atlantida

Gladiola Orozco, a distinguished choreographer who studied with Martha Graham and with her French partner designed socially committee dance in Mexico City for years, took center stage in Teatro Juarez this morning, honored with this year's presea. She showed her delight by wiggling her hips, not bad at 79. A well-made short video right before showed her teaching some years ago. What a pleasure to watch! By the way, unlike previous awardees, Gladiola was born in Guanajuato

At noontime, the garden of the Casa de Puebla in Pastita was full of dignitaries and Guanajuatenses royally plied with drink and Poblano style snacks.The Casa has a small restaurant, a craft shop, and a bookshop highlighting the state. Open 8-8 at least, with events for children and adults on the outdoor stage. The pink signs leading to the Casa de Puebla are easy to follow.

Poblano musicians adding a high note
That's Gladiola Orozco in the white blouse, still center stage

In the early evening, I went to the Cervantes Theater for the opera, The Emperor of Atlantida, the first event of the series the Art of Liberty. The first scene set against  a backdrop of tinted documentary film showing massive formations of Nazi soldiers marching, the onstage orchestra playing exceptional music always appropriate to the drama, and a dedicated cast, made for a powerful staging of the Mexican premiere of this anti-totalitarian work.

The opera, a collaboration between the composer Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944) and librettist Peter Kien (1919-1944), makes a memorable evening in the theater even those not knowing its historical context. But the facts are these: The two men wrote it while like 120,000 other Jews they were interned in the Theresienstadt camp near Prague When one of the Nazi overseers realized they had written an unfavorable portrayal of Hitler's Nazi state, Ullmann and his family were promptly sent on their way to the gas chamber as was the much younger.Kien.

To quote Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived: "We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of his freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one's own way." As did Ullmann and Kien.

The composer and the librettist were among thousands from Theresienstadt deported to Auschwitz to be murdered.We know the opera today only because its creators left a copy with a man who did survive. The monstrous loss of life in the camps is well-known, but until I read the list of talented people Nazi racial attitudes destroyed, I hadn't thought about the scale of loss to the arts, the works that would never be created.

Hugo Hiriart directed the production sung in the original German with supertitles above. Juan Carlos Lomonaco, a Guanajuato favorite, conducted. Gina Ogarrio, Victor Zapatero and Melisa Varish designed the set and the lighting. Of the cast, drawn from the Ensamble Iberamericano, Iraserma Terrazas deserves special mention for her limber, fluid performance of Arlequin.  

 Repeating Friday, October 11, 6pm at the Cervantes Theater..