Music: Christian Kolonovits
Libretto: Angelika Messner
World premiere – 26 April 2014, Teatro Arriaga, Bilbao, Spain
In the title role:
Federico: José Carreras
Morales: Carlo Colombara
Paula: Gladys Rossi
Alberto: Stanislav Leontiev
Abbess: Ana Ibarra
Maria: Marina Mareskina
Old Woman and Second Nun: Milagros Martin
First Nun: Itziar de Unda
The Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus
Musical Director and Conductor: David Giménez
Musical Director: David Giménez
Production by Emilio Sagi, realised by Javier Ulacia
Set designer: Daniel Bianco
Costume Designer: Pepa Ojanguren
Lighting Designer: Eduardo Bravo
Assistant Stage Director: Kristina Larina
Accompanists: Husan Park, Yekaterina Ilyna, Ekaterina Venchikova
Chorus Master: Nikita Gribanov
The Spanish Civil War led to the establishment of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in 1939. The country’s democratic institutions were abolished, with the Francoist victors creating a simplified judicial system that permitted the death sentence for all political opponents of the regime. Countless victims of mass repression disappeared forever in unmarked common graves, considered “lost without trace”. For at least half a million republicans their only chance of safety lay in emigration. Children of the regime’s victims were evacuated abroad or taken in by the Church to be “re-educated”. After Franco’s death in 1975 Spain’s transition to a democracy took place via negotiations, a consequence of the strategy of compromises from the opposing political sides. This is why, for twenty years, there was an unspoken ban on public criticism of the dictatorship in Spanish society. The process of understanding the terrible historical legacy of the past began as late as the 1990s. Spanish society witnessed the emergence of a civil movement which aimed to draw attention to the fate of repressed republicans, the restoration of historic veracity and justice. Those who were involved in the movement submitted cases to the National Court of Spain, demanding the release of documents from State and Church archives as well as all materials available on victims of the regime who had vanished without trace and the fates with which they had met; members of the movement pointedly carried portraits of those who simply vanished in order to bring the “forgotten dead” back to life.
Alberto García, a songwriter, tries to get society interested in the whereabouts of his lost brother with his song El pañuelo de seda (The Silk Scarf). He learnt of the existence of his brother for the first time on his mother’s deathbed. Paula, a journalist, enthusiastically embraces the songwriter’s cause. Judge Federico Ribas is chosen to rule on whether the Church files may be opened. He, too, was an orphan educated in a convent and he slowly begins to doubt what he had been told about his parents being murdered by the Left. However, under pressure from Morales – the head of a violent extreme right-wing organisation – he signs a declaration ordering that the files must remain sealed.
Meanwhile, people get together in a cafe to share memories of the past. Alberto’s song has triggered a wave of anger and rage among the general public and the authorities. An old woman speaks of the “black magpie”, the current abbess of the convent who abducted children, among them the abbess’ favourite, Judge Federico Ribas. Therefore nobody should be surprised by the judge’s decision not to permit the files to be opened. In desperation, Alberto decides to get into the convent himself to look for his brother’s file. Paula is frightened for him and reluctantly lets him leave. Shortly afterwards, the judge comes into the cafe. He wants to know more about the lost children. There is uproar when the people in the cafe recognise Federico. Paula protects the judge from the people’s wrath and asks him to talk to Alberto García so that a compromise may be found. Federico, charmed by Paula’s charisma, agrees.
Alberto has slipped into the convent with the help of a nun who helps him to search for his brother García’s file. Steps can be heard approaching. The nun hides Alberto in a side gallery. Morales enters the room and grabs García’s file from her; he tells the nun to go and get the abbess. The documents reveal that Federico Ribas is the brother for whom Alberto is searching. The abbess appears. Morales makes serious allegations, which the abbess denies. Federico is totally unaware of his past. Morales keeps the file and the abbess leaves. Soon afterwards, Morales’ men find the hidden Alberto and drag him out. Morales, seeing an opportunity to speak to the two brothers, promises Alberto the file if he ceases to speak in public for a few days. Alberto agrees to wait in his parents’ house until he is sent the file by messenger. Morales tells his men to abduct the judge’s daughter.
Federico and Alberto are at their parents’ house. While speaking with Alberto, Federico recalls the circumstances of his abduction and sets off to speak with the abbess. Paula, who comes in just then, tries to convince Alberto to go with her to calm the irate crowd. Alberto refuses to do so. Disappointed, Paula leaves.
At the convent, the abbess is struggling with her past and close to repentance. Federico appears, demanding explanations. Finally, she hands him the silk scarf that she has kept for all those years. Federico realises that Alberto is his lost brother. Furious, he blames the abbess and demands she opens the file. During the argument, news arrives that Alberto has seized the judge’s daughter and is hiding her in his parents’ house. Federico rushes there. Alberto denies that he has been given the file in exchange for the judge’s daughter and attempts to flee, but he falls when shot by Morales. Before he dies, he acknowledges Federico as his brother. The abbess publically admits her guilt and promises to open up the archives. Federico joins Paula in the search for other lost children and understands that only forgiveness can ease the suffering of the past.
The performance has one interval
In collaboration with Kupfer Kultur & Media
IC San Petersburgo