Wednesday, May 3, 2017


I always seem to suffer more from jet lag when I fly to Europe than when I fly back. For a few days I am falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon and can't get to sleep at night.

Places are always a bit different when you go back to them, aren't they? Madrid doesn't seem as inexpensive this time, but I think that is because I haven't figured out how to avoid the touristy places yet. Spain has its own unique way of doing things. Take restaurant trash for example. Most restaurants have a bar, where you can drink coffee or juice or alcohol, but also where a lot of people eat tapas and other dishes. Traditionally, meaning when I was here as a student, you just threw your crumpled paper napkins on the floor. At the end of the day, they swept it out, but for most of the time, the floor was a real mess. Things have evolved now: they have these little trash baskets under the counter now that catch most of the stuff:

Click to enlarge

There are also three prices, which is like Italy: one price if you stand at the bar, another price if you sit at a table and a still higher price if you sit at a table outside.

I wandered down Calle Arenal, a big pedestrian street, and saw these street musicians:

Last summer I saw several street musicians playing pop music, jazz, standards, but no Spanish or classical music. Can you guess what these guys are playing? Yes, that's correct, the first movement of the Winter concerto from the Four Seasons of Vivaldi, which you can easily divine from the demeanour of the cellist. Just kidding! But it was nice to hear and I made a contribution. I hope this isn't these guys only source of income.

I dropped by the Teatro Real box office today and picked up tickets to the two operas they have on this month: Bomarzo by Ginastera and The Golden Cockerel by Rimsky-Korsakov. There was a bit of confusion as they denied any knowledge of Ginastera until they looked in the season booklet and saw that he was the composer of the presentation they knew all about, "Bomarzo." Same with the Rimsky-Korsakov, which they knew only as El Gallo de Oro! Serves me right, thinking only of the composer. I see it is the same on the tickets, which name the work, but not the composer. These tickets are much better than the one I had last year to the Schoenberg opera, which was far, far up in the nosebleed section. These are, I think, pretty good seats, but I will know for sure when I go. They cost three times as much, which indicates something!

My apartment is just a few blocks from the Teatro Real and this is the street leading to it:

That white building in the middle is a rather elegant hotel:

A room there will set you back 400 Euros. That might be where the lead singers in the opera stay. Or maybe here, the Hotel Opera, even closer:

And the musicians in the pit? Oh, probably where I'm staying.

For a little envoi, let's listen to Act I of Bomarzo, the 1967 opera by Alberto Ginastera on a libretto by Manuel Mujica Láinez:

Or, if you just want a taste, here is a short clip from the Teatro Real production:

Just goes to show that atonal music can always be improved by the judicious use of sexy costumes.


Steven said...

Just noticed that the Ginastera opera you're seeing will be live-streamed over at the Opera Platform ( on the 5th May, if you or any other readers are interested.

Bryan Townsend said...

That's very cool! Thanks, Steven. We can all watch it together. I read the Wikipedia article on it today and it sounds very interesting.

Will Wilkin said...

Thanks for blogging even on your vacation! Not having traveled much myself, this vicarious trip to Spain is very enjoyable for me!

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks for saying so, Will. I have traveled quite a bit in service to music--in fact my first trip of any distance anywhere was to
Spain in the 70s, which is why it feels so familiar to me.

Marc Puckett said...

The livestreaming unfortunately happens in the middle of my day at work but I'll watch on the weekend. Am looking forward to having been able to read your comments!

Marc Puckett said...

Am listening now to Bomarzo (Julius Rudel, Opera Society of Washington, 1968; 'highlights' at 2'21")-- vaguely listening, listening in between doing other things, amazed that I can catch as much of the Spanish as I do-- and there's a measure from the Dies irae, 'remixed', as it were (Act I, scene 7, 'galliard and masquerade'). I wonder if any other chant is so widely utilised in bits and pieces?

Bryan Townsend said...

The "Dies Irae" chant seems to the most quoted ever--at least in the last couple of hundred years. John Duarte even wrote a set of variations for guitar on the theme, each one in the style of a different composer. There was a Scarlatti variation and a bunch of others.