The moustachioed surrealist sings
An opera based on the life of Salvador Dalí will premiere at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona in October
By Cristina Carrillo De Albornoz. News, Issue 226, July-August 2011
Published online: 19 July 2011
MADRID. An opera based on the life of Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala has finally been previewed in Madrid, seven years after its planned debut. “Yo, Dalí” (I, Dalí) opened at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in June. It will premiere at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona in October.
The four-act opera retells significant moments in the artist’s life, with its main theme being his relationship with his wife, whom he met in Paris in 1929. The opera also encompasses Dalí’s relationship with his father, as well as his relationships with his literary and artistic peers such as the poets Paul Eluard and Federico García Lorca, as well as the film-maker Luis Buñuel with whom Dalí collaborated before they fell out.
In 2001, the composer Xavier Benguerel was commissioned to write the score by the Spanish ministry of culture, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth in 2004.
However, a succession of changes in management and artistic direction at both the National Institute of Stage Arts and Music, the opera’s sponsor, and the Teatro de la Zarzuela, meant the work was shelved. “It has been a real miracle to have this opera [performed],” said Benguerel.
“Yo, Dalí” is Benguerel’s first full-length opera, following his earlier chamber opera, “Spleen”, which made its debut in 1984. For the libretto, he first approached biographer and novelist Ian Gibson, renowned for his book The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí, but Gibson turned him down. Benguerel’s second choice was fêted Spanish playwright Jaime Salom, whose 1993 work “Almost a Goddess” dealt with the relationship between Dalí and Gala.
“All I knew about Gala and Dalí, I applied to this opera,” said Salom. “Their relationship was a rare mixture of love-hate, greediness and generosity. She was all to Dalí and he depended on her completely. She was his wife, his twisted lover, his mother, even his enemy. Gala admired him as much as she despised him. And she made the Dalí myth.”
While Salom portrays Dalí as a genius who went mad through his own talent, Salom makes concessions to Gala. He explained: “Her father had been cheated by the tsar who asked him to move to Siberia where he thought he would find gold. Gala always blamed her father’s death on poverty. That was the reason for her avarice.”
The libretto was written in English, Spanish, Catalan and French. “The opera also illustrates the megalomania of Dalí through a great orchestra with 80 musicians including five percussionists,” said Benguerel.
Dalí, who expressed a fondness for Wagner, wrote an “opera-poem”, “Être Dieu” (To Be God), based on a libretto by the esteemed Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán.
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