Posted by: puebloman | March 28, 2010

Bach to the future

I was brought up in the Church of England and Judy is Jewish so neither of us is religious. Nevertheless, after three months of incessant rain without a day off, we decided to have a night out in Malaga whatever the entertainment and were looking through the theatre listings .

Judy: What about the “Teatro Cervantes”? They have some Bach on . . .

Me: It’s Easter. It’ll be the St Matthew’s. Or the St. John’s . . .

Judy: It’s the St. Matthews . . .

Me: Let’s go for God’s sake. It can’t be worse than another night indoors on the piss. . .

So we go.

We put on our best togs and we leave an hour and a half to get to the theatre although it only ever takes an hour. It isn’t  enough because we hadn’t calculated for the Malaga Santa Semana rehearsals. All the feeder roads were clotted and the underground car parks full.

Staggering from a car park at 9.30 after a long queue  (the concert started at nine), we are almost flattened in the street by a huge tronos (float) bearing the scourged Christ carrying his cross and garlanded with royal robes and a crown of thorns.

The surging crowd is accompanied by tubas drums and police whistles. We push between it. This was only a rehearsal for the Catholic orgy of Easter, while we are fighting our way towards a protestant orgy of God and man without benefit of clergy.

We finally made it late  and had to sit on a hard bench with limited vision but very good acoustics.

It was fine. it was a rest. I sat back, listened to the music and took in the frieze on the ceiling while the choir  opened up the closing chorus of the first half “O Mensch, bewein dein’ Sünde groß”. There were about 40 amateur children in the choir and they brought a windy enthusiasm into this glorious chorus, unaware of the doleful text :

“Oh man, be aware of your great sinfulness”

The first half finished. The audience arose and fled to the steps outside the theatre. Judy clearly thought that it was all over. It’s a Jewish thing. Jews have a very boundaried relationship with God.  A couple of hours is quite sufficient for wallowing around in sin.

Of course Bach doesn’t agree.

We made our way back into the Theatre, giving up the ticket we had been given “in case we wanted to return”. Some confidence!

One of the nice things about Spanish theatres is that everybody’s dying for a fag. So while Jesus was in Gethsemane saying “My God my God, take away this cup from me”, the entire audience was watching him saying to themselves “My God my God, take away this craving from me”.

Because evryone was outside lighting up, no one was at the the food and drink kiosks and we were able to get a cold beer and a flabby sandwich without queueing at all. We could even go to the toilet.  Even Judy, without queueing.


In the second half there was a lot of chat. “Recitative”, they call it. Well, I know the story and the happy ending, so I got to drift off and  look around the theatre to see where I was and what I was doing.

I was in a strange, neoclassical setup. A semicircular auditorium, with the second tier all “boxes”, no “pit” and no substantial “Gods” at the top. It felt like something Napoleon might have built on his way to Elba. But very scruffy.

Then there was the choir. Amateurs in the chorus, professionals in the leads, but all very competant and well trained.

The Spanish surtitles were wonderful and gave a brand new take on the Passion. St Peter translates “Pedro” in Spanish, so during the exchange between Jesus and Pedro about the cock crowing thrice, we had the surreal impression of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Only in Spain.

I watched the chorus. There were about fourty young to middle aged men dressed as though in the garb of monks looking for all the world like a Catholic paedophile convention, separated from the chorus of pubescent children by sixty amply endowed women  . . . .

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