The Marriage Of Figaro Teatro El Salinero July 2019
A Ruby Wedding Chiringuito Tropicana July 2019
Visual arts round up various locations July / Aug 2019
Oh yeh, really, it was like a Royal Wedding. We even had to go to the palace to pick up our invitations to the reception. Well, ok, not the palace but to that big, posh building in the middle of the capital. That CIEM or whatever it is, you know the one, with that white metal shutter that they can pull down that seems to make the whole building disappear. There was this big sort of reception area and a lady there taking our names and giving out the invites.
Actually she was really nice and when we asked if anyone could tell us a bit more about the arrangements she made a call on the internal phone and this chap came down in the gold lift to meet us. As he walked towards us we realised that, to our amazement, we recognised him. He had played the piano at some concerts we had seen. In fact, only very recently we had seen him playing the piano with one or two choirs and even with the Lanzarote Ensemble classical orchestra. We’d thought he was really good. Turns out he was bound to be good as he’s director of the conservatoire ! He shook hands and told us his name is Javier Diaz and he’d be happy to give us some background information on The Marriage of Figaro.
He told us he had always wanted his students to learn how enjoyable opera can be and just how much work, and of what kind, goes into producing one. He said that apart from playing and singing one or two arias in the past, students hadn’t really encountered opera on their curriculum.
¨Playing at the wedding,´ he said, ´would be a thrill, for students to produce and play alongside their mentors and staff members from all over the islands.´ Senor Diaz told us there would be a full choir and orchestra and soloists, too, with full theatre lighting and acoustics.
When we joked that opera is often seen as elitist art in the UK he smiled and said the pupils had enjoyed laughing at some of the comedy and satire in the opera.
The director is obviously immensely proud of the academy and its staff and students and was certainly looking forward to the reception as much as we were.
Of course, by the time we got to the theatre it was obvious that not everyone was happy about this wedding. I’m not sure they ever really trusted that Figaro bloke Suzanne has married. Some people said the couple had even been spied on whilst canoodling in the privacy of the gardens. What sort of people do that? Apparently Suzanne and this Figaro fella even started leaving false trails and sending notes to mislead people. There were all sorts of rumours flying round the theatre about disguises and deceptions.
Naturally, it all kicked off big time, at the wedding, didn’t it? I don’t know the ins and outs of it but there were hints and allegations of affairs and all sorts of shenanigans.
Before the reception, of course, we’d taken a sneak peak at The actual Marriage Of Figaro. It was the biggest hoo hah ever seen on this island, though, I can tell you. There was no expense spared. There were musicians and singers and the reception ceremony went on for more than four hours. It was all reported on in the newspapers and Diario de Lanzarote estimated there were around 500 guests, but to be honest it seemed to me there were even more than that. I didn’t see her there, but the Diario reported that even the new President of The Cabildo was amongst the guests.
To be honest, it all turned out quite beautifully, though whether or not Figaro and Suzanne will live happily ever after, remains to be seen. She’s very flighty and I thought he seemed a bit of a wimp, really.
The Marriage Of Figaro really was magnificent, though. The costumes, the lighting and the sound, and the props and scenery and the soloist singers and the ensemble vocals were gorgeous. There were fifteen people playing stringed instruments and another fourteen or fifteen playing wind instruments. With seven sopranos, seven altos, three tenors and four bass voices they made a beautiful sound.
Javier was there, as he’d said he would be, playing the leitmotif on the harpsichord, and there was one guest with an English sounding name who pranced around all through the reception as if he was leading the choir.
It was all rather refined. There were no Beatles´ hits being blasted out and the dancing was quite courtly. There was nobody doing the Hippy Hippy Shake, I can tell you. In fact someone told me that all this music, coincidentally, had been written (well, they call it ´composed´ because this is ´proper´ music) about two hundred and seventy years ago, in Europe, whilst Lanzarote was enduring its last series of volcanic eruptions. So maybe opera was the ´rock´ music of its day. To be fair, though, all these staff and student musicians from the Academy worked hard. The reception seemed to last for hours and hours and the congregation kept shouting ´bravo´ and bursting into long rounds of applause.
There was quite a mix of people who attended the wedding. Some people had taken little babies with them and there were definitely three or four generations there of some of the families. In fact, we noticed one or two of the teenagers slipping away after a couple of hours but everyone was really well behaved. Of course part of the fun at a big wedding is looking around to see who else has been invited.
We actually bumped into some friends even before we went in. We stepped into a bar just round the corner from the venue and there Dena and Christine with their partners, having a crafty drink beforehand, and we got all the ´inside information´ from them.
They both sing in local choirs and know all about the arts scene on Lanzarote in all its glory and we enjoyed chatting with them. We’ve mentioned them in these pages before, and another musical performer we have made note of here is Marianne Whelpdale, who leads a German Choir and we noticed her floating about later at the reception. So, too, we noticed a white haired German man. Now, we don’t know him personally, and in fact we have only spoken to him once, but we see him at nearly event we go to.
At first our view of everything was blocked by two giant young men sitting in front of us, but fortunately they were two of the teenagers who slipped away early. From then on we could see all the proceedings very clearly, and we could see who was trying to ´trap off´ with whom and all the chatting up attempts, successful of not, that were going on.
As the bride and groom were leaving at the end there was the presentation of beautiful bouquets to several major members of the family and we noticed Javier beaming proudly, but shyly, as he was pulled centre stage to take a bow with other performers. Whatever his ambitions were in bringing all this together must have been vividly realised, and his students had done him proud. Despite all the fears about whether they would put in the hard work needed to play to the high standard required the evening was a triumph. Once again, this island, with so few indigenous people, had produced high art of great quality and everyone was all smiles afterwards.
We noticed a few people, though, who we had seen arrive alone, leaving together hand in hand, and heading off into the island’s nightlife. Bound to end in tears some of those new relationships I reckon, just like they do in Coronation Street. In fact, I suppose you could say it was a real soap opera wedding.
It’s funny, though, isn’t it, how big celebrations are like British guaguas? You wait for one forever, and then two come along side by side.
That was the case at the weekend when Figaro’s reception was on the Friday evening and then the following day our friends Melly and Carlos were celebrating their fortieth anniversary, or their ruby wedding, as we would have called it in the UK. We first got to know this Spanish couple because we loved the restaurant they own in Matagorda. It became a habit that still survives to call in there every Monday as we make our way to Lidl in PDC for our weekly shop. We so enjoy the tapas lunches of scrambled eggs, or chic pea and spinach, and the apple pie and ice cream, all eaten as we gaze out to sea under a huge blue sky.
Melly immediately made us feel welcome and was patient with Dee’s hesitant Spanish and even was polite with my non-existent Spanish. When we learned that Carlos Loma, advertised as a leading vocalist on the windows of the premises, is her husband and co-owner of the establishment we started making trips in the evening to hear Carlos perform. We fell in love with the qualities of his voice and his understated showmanship and his mix of material that includes romantic ballads, dance music, flamenco fusion and folk lore music.
Since then, we have seen him perform in other venues, including at this site of their anniversary celebration, Chiringuito Tropicana near The Royal Monica Hotel in Playa Blanca. We have also seen Carlos perform as a guest artist recently at The El Salinero in a flamenco fusion line up that we reviewed on these pages last week.
During our early visits to their Italica restaurant, a son of Melly and Carlos introduced himself to us in perfect English, as he served our meal one night. Jorge is unfailingly smiling and polite and it was through him that we found firmer common ground with his parents, and then he introduced us in turn to Kasia, his beautiful girlfriend, who only last month became his beautiful wife, and so it became ever easier and easier to talk to whoever of the family we met when we visited the restaurant. Carlos and I share a passion for music, and my son who lives in South Korea shares a passion with Carlos for motor bikes.
We were nevertheless so surprised to be invited to their anniversary celebration that we almost turned it down for fear that we might get in the way. The reception party, it transpired when we got there, was for about twenty five family and friends, and we seemed to be the only English people there. We were, however, made to feel very welcome, especially by Carlos´ mum, who rambled away to us in a Spanish dialect even less familiar to us than any others. She lives on mainland Spain, near Seville, and spoke about her six (we think) children and how Carlos´ love of music is inherited from her as she, too, loves to sing. She then proved her point by serenading us from her chair.
There were buckets full of chilled wine and iced beers and cold, soft drinks, and a six or seven course tapas meal including grilled cheeses and sausages, a seafood soup, a shell fish selection, a fantastic pork pie on a bed of fried potato, a rice and chicken dish and slices the size of paving stones of deliciously dripping water-melon.
We all chatted, sang along to recorded music and gazed out over the sea to Fuerteventura, some fifteen kilometres away, but looking as close as if I could have painted it with the tip of my finger. Suddenly, the recorded music came to a halt and like a flash Carlos was up behind the microphone and ready to strike up a song. Before he could do so, however, his family called for the obligatory photo-opportunity kiss between man and wife.
Marital duties out of the way, Carlos went into some obviously well-known numbers to which several ladies got up to shimmy and sway to some fairly gentle flamenco rhythms that then gave way to a very elegant follow-the-leader dance of the type that often too soon becomes a ramshackle conga in the UK. Carlos´ mum was invited by Kasia to join in with the dancing and did so with an energy and obvious enjoyment and, as Melly was leading all the dances with a beaming smile, Carlos was singing his heart out,
It was all a memorable occasion and we felt privileged to be taking part in it but then came a sight that will live with me forever, but about which I probably can’t find the words that will ´show´ you the scene, rather than merely tell you about it.
Whilst Carlos was singing and almost all the guests were dancing on the sea walk, his son Jorge suddenly rode past on his little electric scooter, and then back again, waving with one hand, and then back again leaning over the handlebars like Superman and then back again, and somehow all that seemed to be done in time to the music. Many of you of around my age will remember the scene from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid in which Paul Newman cavorted around the farmyard on a found bicycle, all ´look mum, no hands.´ Keep that image in mind, and then put aside the picture of Newman in his black waistcoat and bowler hat, and try instead to imagine Jorge, garlanded, in a floral t shirt and shorts as he scooted through the dancing hordes, whilst avoiding his new wife who was desperately trying to flag him down to a stop!
That memory will abide as will the memory of almost everyone in our whole party each intricately clapping hands, each seemingly in a different but recognised rhythm that somehow created perfect counterpoints to what Carlos was singing.
Any man who enjoys a life style that sees him delivering wonderfully presented and delicious food to his customers, while his wife and family work by his side, and who can also play live the music he loves, and who is able to recruit, and be recruited by, other talented musicians, and who rides classic motorbikes and drives vintage cars surely can’t help but smiling through every day. To see him here, surrounded by his close and extended family, most of whom had come over from Spain, seemed to be the icing on his cake.
We thank not only Carlos and Melly but also every member of their family who made us feel so welcome and accepted on what was a really special occasion.
So, The Marriage Of Figaro, and The Ruby Wedding Of Carlos and Melly showed us, with the first, the splendour and the sauciness of such family gatherings and also, with the second, the simple but sincere emotions that we felt with Carlos and Melly at their truly tasteful celebration.
By the way, the management and staff at Chiringuito Tropicana were fantastically hard working and polite, even smiling benignly when we were all dancing on the walkway. I acknowledge that they are all friends of Carlos and Melly anyway, and that we should expect politeness and hard work from the service industry. We should not, though, take for granted how much the owners and staff of this premises contributed to the enjoyment of all the guests here today. So, our thanks go out to them, too.
We spent the rest of the week visiting new and old favourite art galleries. On deciding to make a return to CIC El Almacen to look again at the Entre Islas collection of work by Ildefonso Aguiler and curated by Pepe Betancort, we invited an artistic neighbour along to see if her opinion of the work would match our high regard. We had been privileged on our first visit a few weeks earlier to have been escorted on a guided tour of the show by Estefania Comeja and so were able to share with Sandra some of the facts we had learned from her. In my all across the arts review for Lanzarote Information that week I made reference to a downstairs room being so dark, and grounded with picon that it felt almost like stepping down in darkness on to the moon as we descended to look at some of the artist’s larger displays. Strangely enough, we took Sandra to the exhibition on the day that Eight Days To The Moon, a visual reconstruction of the moon landing that took place fifty years ago, was shown on BBC 2.
Like us, Sandra found the most intriguing facet of the exhibition to be the short silent film following the artist through the process of the creation of an art work, using soil and sand and dust particles and found objects and audio recordings. My impression of the work during my first visit was that it was dark, and brooding and a little bit foreboding but Sandra pointed out some smaller, lighter exhibits that we had passed by and overlooked on that previous occasion.
What was also very apparent during our return visit though, was Manrique´s brilliant design of the gallery itself, when converting it in 1974 from a disused warehouse, in 1974, altering its elevated walkways, ´underground´ rooms and huge wall spaces that privilege any art. Because the exhibition closed on 13th July this was a timely return trip and proved well worth a trip into Arrecife, giving us a chance to also study the posters advertising the forthcoming opening, on 3rd July, of the Vivero Musical De Lanzarote exhibition in another part of the gallery. I was intrigued by what I read about an exhibition that is designed to show how space in the gallery and surrounding areas might be employed to create, record and perform music. The whole idea emanates from a Cabildo sponsored competition in 2017 to seek a solution to the dearth of such creative space in the town. This is the latest stage in an effort to move towards connectivity between creative groups having an opportunity to share cultural and mechanical tools to make music.
We moved round the corner to show Sandra the current exhibition in Casa Amarillo, (The Yellow House) to wander round the 100 Años Lanzarote Y Cesar exhibition. This turned out to be a colourful but seemingly jumbled collection of art works, models of objet trouve and even literary copies of changes that have taken place in the arts and culture and lifestyles and living conditions on Lanzarote in the century since the birth Of Manrique It was intriguing and seemed both ephermeral and eternal in equal parts but was less an exhibition to wander round in an hour or so than it was maze to ramble around in for a week or so, settling down to read histories and explanations. It has the feel of an Emporium, or a granny’s attic, full of webs and dangling threads and old photographs and tiny mysterious, manufactured objects. The collection is there until October and we will certainly call in again, to explore the collection at a slower pace.
At the end of the week we also met up with an artist working hard not only to create her art form but also to create public awareness of that work. Lanzarote Information had recently been approached by this artist with a flair for self-promotion. It was perhaps less a desire to promote herself but more a desire to put her work into the public spotlight that drove Evelin Toledano Aparicio to e mail Miguel’s office alerting him to the opening of a recent exhibition.
Santosha is the title of her exhibition being housed at La Sala de Arte la Erita de Tias, from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm and then again from 4.30 pm until 8.00 pm from Monday till Friday until 26th July. The exhibition itself is well worth a visit, but if you need to reassure yourself of that then follow the link to her site at https://www.instagram.com/evelin.illustration/ to view dozens of examples of her work, with its interesting perspectives, dazzling brightness of colour and distinct evidence of her love of the landscape and lifestyle from which it emanates. There is also a separate anthology on line at https://www.evelintoledano.com/ showing her work in another fascinating dimension. Don’t miss our comprehensive review and exclusive interview with the artist on our all across the pages next week.
Meanwhile, if you would like to see this or any other of the free exhibitions or artists mentioned here in all across the arts. check locations, dates and open hours on Miguel’s whats on guide, or via the Cabildo web site or through Tourist Information. All details are correct at the time of going to press, but are subject to change.