By Gualveris Rosales Sánchez . Photos: Rodolfo Blanco Cué
If you want to know, unfaithful woman /the affliction that your betrayal caused me …in the deep voice of José Luis Castillo -Pupito- is the 'once upon a time' with which Camagüey’s Folkloric Ballet begins to relate, the tragic life of a femme fatale, the story of Marías Antonia, woman of fire and rum.
The play written by Eugenio Hernández Espinosa recreates the conflicts of a passionate and untamable woman; transgressor of the human and the divine nature, in a marginal Havana before the Revolution. Now, 41 years after its publication, it is told in a different way by the Camagueyan troupe, that is has been led by maestro Reynaldo Echemendía Estrada since 1991.
These new codes are simply high doses of music and dance in a spectrum of genres that goes from yoruba, to abakuá, Spanish flamenco, bolero, rumba, cha cha and many other rhythms, and amid everything, the main parliaments of the play recited by the dancers that turned into actors and actresses.
But maestro Echemendía took four years t to choose the traditional songs and the Afro-Cuban religious chants among over 200 scores, themes that could match the plot of María Antonia, in order to finally put on the stage that classic of the contemporary Cuban theatre.
Talking with Luis Molina, producer and technical chief of the troupe, Jorge Navarro, reporter of Radio Camagüey, and Echemendía himself, this reporter learned how the idea of this sui géneris setting arose.
It was December, 2001 and Camagüey hosted the Panorama of the Scenic Arts, a cultural event that is organized in the province every two years, in which the main exponents of the theatre and the dance in the territory compete. Eugenio Hernández Espinosa was in town for the contest and he witnessed, for first time, a work played by the Folkloric Ballet of Camaguey: Ikú lobby ocha.
The playwright was so fascinated with the setting that went down to congratulate the members of the company. The way and the artistic concept we had worked with the folklore had impressed the author of Maria Antonia, Echemendía highlights.
Some of those people present in that meeting told me that Eugenio suggested that the Camagüeyano could make one of his tragedies, and gave Echemendía green light to chose the play he liked most.
After studying Eugenio’s work, the General Conductor of the Folkloric Ballet selected María Antonia, for it was suitable for setting up a spectacle with lot of music and dance, where the chants would fit the action.
A first fruitless attempt was done in 2003; one year later the Folkloric Ballet had almost finished the play; but because of production inconveniences they could not take it to the stage.
In spite of being short and punctual the parliaments in this new version of María Antonia, is actually praiseworthy the performance of several of the artists, for instance first ballerina Elsa María Avilés, acclaimed by embodying the character of María Antonia, and of dancers Camilo Ernesto Rubinos and Mario Mendoza who played Julián and Carlos, respectively.
And what to say about the claps dedicated to a hilarious Yurnia Montes, who plays drunk Cumanchela, and the cheers to Charo Jiménez, who was divine playing Ochún.
It is important to highlight the work of the corps de ballet of the Camagueyan troupe in this oeuvre, a corps renewed by young figures, many of them trained in the company.
Likewise, it is essential to applaud the musical work and basically the work of the vocals, where 18 years old clarinettist and singer Gretel Becerra shone; together with Romualdo Hinojosa, short in height but giant in the folkloric chant, and the above mentioned José (Pupito) Castillo.
With María Antonia is truly praiseworthy the effort of maestro Reynaldo Echemendía Estrada, one of the most outstanding personalities of the culture that this “land of shepherds and hats” offers to the national artistic heritage.
For him and the girls and boys of the Folkloric Ballet, to venture in this new spectacle has been a challenge, tough, but possible and they are already tasting the success got in their soil and with the best praises, including those of actress Hilda Oates, and of researcher and narrator Inés María Martiatu.
Before the year comes to an end, the public in Camaguey will have the chance one more time the version of our company. Meanwhile Santiago de Cuba will welcome Camaguey Folkloric Ballet to see the play Maria Antonia, now danced and sung, aside from well acted.