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24 January 2022

LUIS DE PABLO EL ABRECARTAS Opera in a prologue and six scenes

Opera in a prologue and six scenes
Libretto by Vicente Molina Foix based on his novel of the same name

Madrid, Teatro Real, 16-26 February 2022
World première

Vicente Molina Foix
El abrecartas

El abrecartas was published in 2006 and won, among others, the Spanish National Prize for Litterature 2007.

Five years after its publication, Maestro Luis de Pablo, for whom I had written beforehand two freely conceived opera libretti – El viajero indiscreto (“The Indiscreet Traveller”) and La madre invita a comer (“Mother Invites to Lunch”) –, asked me to adapt a substantial section of my novel, so that he would compose his sixth opera, “an opera which mirrors my own life”, he then told me.

El abrecartas begins with a child Federico García Lorca playing with other schoolboys in a Grenade village, but the action of this dramatic opera moves on to present an adult Federico in joyful friendship with young gay artists and poets like Vicente Aleixandre (Nobel Prize for Litterature 1977) and Miguel Hernández, who as well as García Lorca, died (Lorca assassinated, Hernández in prison) in the aftermath of General Franco´s coup d´état and his military victory in 1939.

They all were, as many others fictional characters who inhabit the book, victims of the Spanish Civil War.

Both the novel and the finished opera, sadly Maestro de Pablo´s last, dramatize half a century of Spanish history. The private life of a group of losers, heroes and political exiles, mingles with the anti-heroic comedy of spies and rogues, all set against a background in which poetry looms large and passions have to be kept in secret.

Vicente Molina Foix

Luis de Pablo
Note on El abrecartas

El abrecatas is an opera with a libretto by Vicente Molina Foix taken from his novel of the same name. It consists of a prologue and six scenes, with an estimated duration of around an hour and a half. An “abrecatas” (“paper knife”) is a small knife – sometimes also a small jewel – that was used – today much more rarely – to open letters. The novel is epistolary in form and Molina Foix has made a theatrical adaptation of it, keeping the same title.

The central theme of the opera is the evolution – the transformation – of modern Spain through its literary protagonists: the child García Lorca, the young Vicente Aleixandre, the still younger Miguel Hernández… their isolation, their death, their exile, their survival during the Franco regime… and their evolution, changes in ideology, youthful adventures (not only politically speaking, but especially regarding their life and personal beliefs), until reaching the present (a present of ten years ago) and noting the spiritual return of that past which, despite the repression, has re-emerged – at least in part – almost unbeknown to its current protagonists.

The novel devotes much space to the youth of today, without forgetting their predecessors. Nor are the repressors and opportunists forgotten, portrayed in a fiercely satirical manner.

The opera covers only the time span of the first part of the novel and closes with a question mark: the future is uncertain, nothing is guaranteed… There is, then, a certain tinge of pessimism.

I have written music that is as varied as the story told by the libretto. It is maybe my most ambitious and contrasting work. This, at least, is how I see it.

I use a full orchestra, with saxophone and quadruple woodwinds; a small mixed choir, a small group of children's voices – García Lorca as a child – and a dozen or so voices.

Luis de Pablo