Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes El Amor Brujo

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), circa 1925

This is the third of three posts celebrating the Spanish director Carlos Saura’s spectacular “Flamenco Trilogy”, his set of three movies in which the stories are told primarily through flamenco music and dance.

My Dr. Bob Prescribes post for March 7 of this year addressed the first of these movies, Bodas de Sangre (“Blood Wedding”), of 1981. On April 5 we tackled the second of the trilogy, Carmen, of 1983. For today, it’s the third and final film in the trilogy, El Amor Brujo (“Love, the Magician”, or “Spell-bound Love”, or “The Bewitched Love”).

The post of April 5 – on Carmen – offered up brief biographies of the director Carlos Saura (born 1932); the choreographer and dancer Antonio Gades (1936-2004); and Gades’ principal female dancers: Cristina Hoyos (born 1946) and Laura del Sol (born 1961). With that biographical info out of the way, we will focus for a bit the brilliant Spanish composer Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), whose ballet El Amor Brujo is the basis of the film.

My Music History Monday post for November 23, 2020, was a birthday tribute to the Spanish composer and conductor Manuel María de los Dolores Falla y Matheu (“y Matheu” because Spaniards customarily add their mother’s maiden surname to their own), who was born on November 23, 1876 in the Andalucían port city of Cadiz. Falla (when only the surname is used the de is omitted) died “in exile” on November 15, 1946, in Alta Gracia, Argentina, eight days short of his 70th birthday. (Falla had fled to Argentina in 1939 after Francisco Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War.)

Andalucía – the southernmost region of Spain – is the birthplace of flamenco (a genre of Spanish song and dance that we celebrated together in my Dr. Bob Prescribes post on June 9, 2020). I said it then and I’ll say it again now: in my humble (but well-informed) opinion, flamenco is among the most viscerally exciting genres of music to be found anywhere on this planet.

Falla’s parents were not themselves native Andalucíans; his father was from Valencia in eastern Spain and his mother from Catalonia, in northern Spain. Each of these three regions – Andalucía, Valencia, and Catalonia – has its own distinct musical tradition, and consequently we should consider Falla’s music to be a free mix of all three of his “native” regions.

Falla’s mother was a first-rate pianist and was Manuel’s first music teacher. It’s a familiar story: a musical parent quickly recognizes the prodigious talents of a young child. Señora de Falla entrusted her son’s musical education to the best teacher in Cadiz – in this case, a woman named Eloisa Galluzzo – and so young Manuel’s meteoric development began.…

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