Carnival with Doña Francisquita at Teatro Argentino

ArgentinaArgentina  Vives: Doña Francisquita: Soloists, Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Argentino. Conductor: Guillermo Brizzio, Teatro Argentino, La Plata. 20.5.2012. (JSJ)

Doña Francisquita: Marisú Pavón / Eleonora Sancho
Fernando: Ricardo Bernal / Andrés Veramendi
Aurora: Mónica Sardi
Cardona: Santiago Bürgi / Santiago Ballerino
Don Matías: Luis Gaeta / Leonardo Estévez
Doña Francisca: Marta Cullerés / Matilde Isnardi
Lorenzo: Ricardo Crampton / Sebastián Angulegui
Lañador: Patricio Olivera
Sereno: Maximiliano Agatiello
Cofrades: Arnaldo Quiroga, Mirko Tomas, Alberto Jáuregui Lorda
Buhonera: María Luisa Merino Ronda
Irene: Silvina Petrina
Doña Liberata: Susana Paladino
Doña Basilisa: María Inés Franco

Director: Jaime Martorell
Sets: Daniel Feijóo
Costumes: Pedro Moreno
Lighting: Horacio Pantano
Chorus: Miguel Martínez
Choreography: Nuria Castejón

A scene from the Teatro Argentino’s Doña Francisquita. Photo Teatro Argentino

Vives’ Doña Francisquita is among the best known of the Spanish musical form, zarzuela, in which, like the British and American musicals, spoken and sung scenes are alternated.

With zarzuelas surprisingly little performed in Buenos Aires, given the country’s heritage, it is the one work that has been put on relatively frequently down the years, and now again – after an absence of more two decades – in a new production by the Teatro Argentino.

The setting is carnival time in mid-19th century Madrid, and like so many musical works the storyline is quite elaborate but in essence revolves around Francisquita’s efforts to signal her interest in Fernando, who is infatuated with Aurora, despite the counsel of his friend Cardona. Add Fernando’s widowed father Matias’s efforts to court Francisquita, rather than her mother Francisca, and in a succession of scenes fun, humour, misunderstandings and jealousies abound, before the two are finally brought together.

All of this was amply reflected in this spectacular production from the Argentino from the Spanish director and zarzuela expert Jaime Martorell, which was full of life and colour and a carnival atmosphere, without going over the top. With the basic scenery comprising different “buildings” – including the church – against a plain backdrop, moving these created very effectively a sense of passing through the streets and the different combinations of them different locations in the city.

The music was in the demonstrably capable hands of Guillermo Brizzio (with Darío Domínguez Xodo taking over three of the performances), with good momentum and balance. Excellent singing from the chorus and outstanding choreography, including an Act 3 Fandango from the 14 strong ballet group.

The casting was also well considered and Marisú Pavón shone as Francisquita and Mónica Sardi was a strong Aurora, while Marta Cullerés brought humour to mother Francisca’s role. Mexican tenor Ricardo Bernal, notwithstanding some apparent weakness in the upper register, was a suitable Fernando and Santiago Bürgi made the most of Cardona – including his masquerade as a female – as did Luis Gaeta as Don Matías.

And clearly they, and the rest of the large cast, all had as much fun presenting the work as did the audience in seeing it!


Jonathan Spencer Jones