By road the trip took some 4 hours, arriving in Merida in the close down period in the heat of the day. It is a terrific city stemming from its Roman origins in 2AD when Augustus gifted it to his army and proceeded to build a wonderful monument to himself. The colosseum and other ruins, including of course, the Roman Amiptheatre are extraordinary and well worth a once in a life time pilgrimage to see a show here.
The Merida Parador, with its own collection of Roman artefacts recovered from the site and now decorating the garden, is a part of the unique accommodation chain throughout Spain that has converted historic buildings into the most wonderful guest experiences. History, art, architecture and high local cuisine all come together with impeccable hospitality.
With only one night in Merida and making sure I was on the only train to Almagro early next day, my main focus was the performance.
Part of the Classical Theatre Festival of Merida, this show had only two performances, and when playing to a 5000 people full house, you probably don’t need more than that.
This Flamenco artist, Sara Baras is internationally renown for her choreography and originality. When visiting the theatre in the afternoon, I was there for some of the band sound check and quite an impressive band it was, 6 pieces including three flamenco acoustic guitars, cello, two percussionists and synth.
Medusa is a gory tale of the beautiful gorgon with snakes for hair and the ability to turn people to stone if they gaze upon her.
Perseus pursues her and to avoid her gaze, he is given a mirror shield by Athena, winged sandals by Hermes, a sword from Hephaestus and Hades helmet of invisability. He uses the mirrored shield to reflect Medusa’s image and then cut off her head. Ultimately the head and the shield depicting her head are gifted to Athena. It is believed to be an evil- deflecting device.
Apparently at that time, Medusa was pregnant by Poseidon and when Perseus beheaded her, Pegasus, a winged horse, and Chrysaor, a golden sword-wielding giant, sprang from her body.
That there is so much written about Medusa from mythology, psychology, the feminist movement, etc just illustrates the mystique and intrigue about this character and of course her image shows up again and again, particularly in connection with Ancient Rome.
And so to the performance. At 10 pm I joined the eagerness of the 5000 queuing to get into the ampitheatre for the 11.45 show on this deliciously balmy full moon night. Having an allocated seat helped enormously and suddenly there she was in a swathe of swirling white, with her husband, Jose Serrano playing Perseus.
I’m not quite convinced about the story telling technique, with a non dancer narrator wandering through the set at pertinent times, but the flamenco element was all consuming with the highly vocal, highly appreciative audience breaking the moments with their applause and bravos.
The encore was as stylish as the rest of the performance with each of the main dancers doing a routine.
I love flamenco. I love the expertise developed over years and years of training and I love the arrogance of the dancers which seems to say, ‘take that!’ And the audience howls their appreciation and along with them was hugely appreciative Aussie.
At 1am I made my way back through the equally excited sporting fans of Merida because Germany was playing Argentina. That excitement continued in the streets until sunrise at 6am. What a lively night, Ole!