Siudy Garrido & Company Shine at L.A. Philharmonic's 'Falla & Flamenco With Dudamel'

Jorge Lozada
"Falla & Flamenco With Dudamel" performed at the Los Angeles Philharmonic on May 21, 2015.

“Falla & Flamenco With Dudamel,” a new production from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, celebrates Spanish composer Manuel de Falla’s love for flamenco with choreography from renowned Venezuelan dancer Siudy Garrido and members of her eponymous ballet company.

Despite being criticized by many Spanish conservatives in his lifetime for having been influenced excessively by the French, Falla remained a proud Spaniard at heart. Throughout his major works, which spanned the first half of the 20th century, Falla’s Andalusian roots are undeniable. He wasn’t prolific, but he mastered the art of composing for the theater, whether it was a zarzuela, an opera or a ballet.

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The centerpiece of “Falla & Flamenco With Dudamel” (May 21-24 at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles) is “El Amor Brujo” (Bewitched Love), one of Falla’s best-known works, which premiered on the stage of Madrid’s Teatro Lara in 1915. It was Falla’s first work back in the Spanish capital after returning from a formative sojourn in Paris at the beginning of World War I.

“El Amor Brujo” was originally composed as a gitanería of dances, songs, and spoken texts in collaboration with the husband-and-wife team of Gregorio Martinez Sierra and Maria Lejarraga. For this new production, Garrido added a prologue introducing the principal characters: Candelas, a widowed gypsy tormented by the ghost of her husband (Garrido); the Ghost (George Akram); the Ghost’s lover in life, Lucia (Natalia Novela); and Candelas’ new love interest, Carmelo (Farruquito).

Singers Argentina and Ismael de la Rosa provided the cante jondo component, backed by guitarist Jose Luis Rodriguez and percussionist Sudhi Rajagopal.

Gustavo Dudamel seemed as comfortable and in command of his orchestra as ever, starting with the first of the three acts, Falla’s “Suite No. 2” from “El Sombrero de Tres Picos” (The Three-Cornered Hat). The 34-year-old Venezuelan wunderkind, who began his term as music director of the L.A. Philharmonic in the 2009/2010 season, recently added artistic director to his title and has extended his contract through the 2021/22 season.

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For the night’s second act, Dudamel brought out Angel Romero, the classical guitar maestro who made his debut with the L.A. Philharmonic stage at age 16. Having grown up under the tutelage of Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo, Romero played the latter’s best-known score, the 22-minute “Concierto de Aranjuez,” setting the stage perfectly for what was to come.

Garrido, the daughter of celebrated dancer and instructor Siudy Quintero, was mesmerizing in the third act, as was the corps de ballet under her artistic direction, exhibiting a masterful, full-body command and delivering intense emotion and electricity throughout the 45-minute set of “El Amor Brujo.”

Infusing the choreography, particularly the arm movements, with a grace and fluidity reminiscent of “Swan Lake,” Garrido proved why she’s one of flamenco’s leading exponents. Beyond her stage work, Garrido has added some flamenco flavor to music videos by A-list Latin stars including Romeo Santos (“La Diabla/Mi Santa”) and Maná (“El Rey Tiburón”).

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the night came when Garrido and company gathered for the “Danza Ritual del Fuego” (The Ritual of Fire), when the Shaman and Carmelo finally exorcise the Ghost, giving Candelas a chance to start again.