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A PRODUCTION OF LA VIDA ES SUENO AT MADRID'S TEATRO ESPAÑOL ALVA V. EBERSOLE University of North Carolina At the close of the Calderón tercentenary celebrations, the Teatro Español offered its version of La vida es sueño as a kind of wrap-up of activities. Others of his plays were presented during the course of the year in a diversity of settings, notably La cena del Rey Baltasar, commented in the latest issue of the Bulletin, and La hija del aire, still playing at the Maria Guerrero. Taking advantage of a two-day stopover in Madrid in early January, my wife and I chose to see La vida es sueño, since we had recently made our own version on videotape back in Chapel Hill (as duly noted in the May issue of the Bulletin). The Spanish production was playing at the recently renovated Teatro Español, subsidized by the Ayuntamiento de Madrid. For one who is not familiar with the play, it must certainly be an enthralling production. For us, however, it was less than satisfying, in spite of the sometimes brilliant concepts displayed by the director, José Luis Gómez, who also played the role of Segismundo. The opening scene was original, for it showed Basilio the astrologer attempting to read the stars (no dialogue); the sound of a galloping horse became louder, and the traditional play began. With fog filling the stage, Rosaura, in jeans, rolled across the stage and began her famous lines of «Hipogrifo violento . . ..»As the fog lifted we saw Clarín lying semi-conscious a few feet away. When Segismundo 's torre became visible, the two ran down the center aisle, to reappear through a trap-door on stage, and they watched Segismundo as if from a stairway. Segismundo, restrained by a rope fastened around his waist, was truly animal-like in his first movements around the 123 124Bulletin ofthe Comediantes stage. He recited his opening soliloquy in modern dress. The play progressed traditionally until the end of the first act (I had recited Clotaldo's lines so many times I knew where we were in the play) but there was no curtain. Then came the first major change. The lengthy scenes that involve Rosaura-Astrea, Estrella, and Astolfo, and deal with the recovery of Rosaura's portrait from Astolfo, began the second act (technically speaking). Estrella and Rosaura wore more authentic costumes (in the palace), as did Astolfo. Basilio was dressed as a Gothic king. For his amusement, two electronic instruments and a counter-tenor appeared through the trap-door. When Segismundo was brought on-stage, still drugged, he wore little more than a loin cloth. The servants dressed him all in white (modern dress again). Segismundo then played the following scenes, in which he discovers how quickly people obey his slightest gesture, for laughs. The only intermission came after Segismundo was taken back to his torre. The second half began with his famous soliloquy scene, followed immediately by Clarin's equally well-known monologue, given from the trap-door. The contrasts between appropriate costume and modern dress were fewer here. The director's dilemma, when faced with other long speeches, was notable when, toward the end of the play, he had Rosaura and Segismundo reciting, simultaneously, the long soliloquies thatreveal Rosaura's identity and show Segismundo's inner struggle. Neither speech could be clearly understood, so that confusion was the result. The director, with a huge stage and an obviously unlimited budget, had problems filling that space, with soldiers milling around with no real purpose, or with people wandering on and off stage with little motivation. At the end of the play, to show Segismundo's liberation , a wall came tumbling down, filling the stage with debris and dust, clouding over the obvious, before we heard the sound of the galloping horse fading into the distance that further emphasized Segismundo's freedom. Much is made of the many refundiciones that were popular at the turn of the 19th century, yet little is said of the reworkings of the classics that still appear in Madrid. This production, with one performance a night (except the week-ends), did...


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