Despite the early morning train and a long but comfortable journey, arriving at the deserted Almagro station felt like a homecoming. With ease I was able to walk to the centre of town and find The Almagro Parador. The cool comfort it offers feels like an oasis in the desert. Almagro is in Castille-La Mancha which is pretty much in the centre of Spain. I just love it. It is the wide yellow plains of Don Quixote, with evocative architecture, specialized manchegro cuisine, bull raising, and unique hospitality and friendliness.
I am greeted by Laura who I met last year and even though the show was fully booked, I did manage to get a ticket for the Compania Nacional de Teatro Clasico production of Donde Hay Agravios No Hay Celos by Rojas Zorrilla. The approximate translation of the title is, Where There is No Jealousy, There is No Grievance.
As the name of the theatre company suggests, this is the National Classic Theatre Company and is based in Madrid. Its’ charter is to preserve and present theatre of The Golden Age and each year it takes up residency at Almagro for the festival and performs in the beautiful outdoor auditorium at the Teatro Hospice de San Juan. The director, Helena Pimenta is very well regarded and the very stylish and slick production I saw last year made me a big fan.
A return to the Parador, a beer, a snack, a bath and a nap to get ready for the 22.45 start. Very civilized indeed and then people still go out for drinks and tapas afterwards, the main square is full of activity and the craft market operates over the weekend. So both tourists and local artesans are well catered for.
This rarely performed play was quite a contrast to the high camp sophistication that I saw last year and instead presented the rakish adventures of a country caballero and his buffoon, Sancho. When considering the location of this festival, there is an irrepressible charm associated with the choice of this work. Basically, it’s a let’s swap identities story that reminded me a bit of Don Giovanni, in a rural setting. The set and costumes were appropriately rustic: again, a stark contrast from the high glamour of 2013. The execution of the piece was very imaginative with a piano accordion as a musical accompaniment that served to link scene and lighting changes orchestrated by one of the female actors with some captivating moments that made me look forward to her every entrance just to change a scene!
What I derived from this production was the superb use of language. The language of The Golden Age is exceedingly difficult High Baroque and I was very aware of the vocal coaching provided by Vincente Fuente, whose vocal workshop, The Way of Verse, I had attended last year. Overall the tightness of the company in executing the piece was the stand out which is all due to the masterful direction by Ms Pimenta.
As it transpires, and for a range of circumstances that will become apparent, this is the only show I saw in Almagro and it was an exceedingly fine example of The Spanish Golden Age. It also embodied the lovely lifestyle experience of being in Almagro during the festival, and yes of course, I was able to help the local economy by getting a couple of things at the craft market.
For Salome Bielsa’s truly evocative photos of Almagro go to