Opera Scotland

Atlántida Atlantis

Music

Manuel de Falla (born Cadiz, 23 November 1876; died Alta Gracia, Argentina, 14 November 1946)

Text

The composer

Source

Catalan poem L'Atlántida (1877) by Jacint Verdaguer.

 

Premieres

Composed 1928-46, unfinished. Realisation and completion by Ernesto Halffter.

First Performance (concert): Barcelona (Teatro Liceu), 24 November 1961.

First Performance (staged): Milan (La Scala), 18 June 1962.

First Performance (revision - concert): Lucerne (Kunsthaus), 9 September 1976.

First Performance in UK (concert): Edinburgh (Usher Hall), 26 August 1962.

 

Background

Atlántida is described, not as an opera, nor even an oratorio, but as a 'scenic cantata'. Falla took his manuscript with him to Argentina in 1939, and continued to work on it. Some sections were almost complete, others quite fragmentary. After his death, a friend and colleague Ernesto Halffter was commissioned to complete it, and likewise devoted several years to the work. This version received its British premiere at the Usher Hall during the 1962 Edinburgh Festival. After initial experience of performance, Halffter revised it extensively. The second Edinburgh performance, in 1989, returned to Falla's own original work - only half the amount of music.

 

Main Characters

Isabella (soprano)

Pyrene (mezzo-soprano)

Corifeo/Narrator (bass)

Columbus as a boy (treble)

Alcide - Hercules (silent)

 

Plot Summary

A Caatalan form of the ancient legend of Atlantis forms the basis of the work, with the inspirational effect it had on Columbus and Isabella.

Christopher Columbus, as a child, learns of the legend of Atlantis. The chorus foretells the future greatness of Spain. In mythical times, the land of the Pyrenees is ravaged by a three-headed monster, Geryon. Hercules (called Alcide in the text) rescues the Queen Pyrene from the resultant conflagration, and before she dies he promises that he will avenge her. He creates a new mountain range before heading off in search of the monster. Tracking it to Cadiz he is diverted to Atlantis, killing a dragon. He returns to Cadiz where he defeats Geryon. God now tells Hercules of the wickedness of the people of Atlantis, who deserve to be punished. Hercules now strikes the mountain bridge that links Africa to Europe, and this collapses into the sea. The land of Atlantis  is drowned, and Hercules erects a pillar on each side of the strait. These were to indicate the limit of man's exploration, but Colombus, on a voyage near the Pillars, hears voices telling him to explore further, and to seek help from Queen Isabella. She has meanwhile dreamed of a dove dropping a ring into the ocean from which beautiful islands arise. She sells jewellery in order to fund Columbus's exploration fleet and he sails for the New World.

The Cast

Child
 Columbus as a boy
Contralto solo
 
Corifeo
 Narrator
Isabella
 Queen of Castile
Pyrene
 Queen of the Pyrenees
Tenor solo
 

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