The poetry of Ada Salas, the voice of Niño de Elche and the painting of Van der Weyden come together in ‘Descent’ | Culture

Niño de Elche and Carlos Marquerie, in a rehearsal last Tuesday of 'Descent'.
Niño de Elche and Carlos Marquerie, in a rehearsal last Tuesday of ‘Descent’.KIKE TO

Carlos Marquerie likes the word “transfer” to talk about his work Descent, based on the collection of poems of the same title by Ada Salas. He was not looking for a recital or a theatrical adaptation. His dramaturgy is not a line with origin and destination, it is a ritual that invites the viewer to a meeting of high poetic content with live music and singing by Niño de Elche. Three interpreters, Fernanda Orazi, Emilio Tomé and Lola Jiménez, the voice of Niño de Elche, musicians Clara Gallardo and Joaquín Sánchez take part in the performance, which opens at the Abadía Theater from this Thursday until the 25th. Gil, and the beautiful Marquerie puppets.

“It has been a work of goldsmithing in which we have been weaving with delicate threads all the wefts looking for a visual and poetic display”, says Marquerie (Madrid, 66 years old), a benchmark of the most avant-garde performing arts and far from the narrative theater that Despite his 45 years in the trade, he premieres for the first time in an institutional theater with a show of his own creation. Descent it is the example of the new line of artistic programming from the change in the direction of La Abadía, with Carlos Aladro at the helm, who assures that it is “a kind of manifesto”.

Cover of 'Descent'.

Van der Weyden and Ada Salas: an act of love

Rogier van der Weyden has been everyone’s great companion on this choral journey that began two years ago. There is so much intimate history behind The descent (1435), the Flemish painter’s masterpiece that hangs on the walls of the Prado Museum, which gushes forth in the encounter with Carlos Marquerie, Ada Alba and Niño de Elche, after showing the first scenes of the show.

An emotional crisis led Alba to this painting that represents the descent of the cross from the body of Christ and the pain and sinking of the Virgin along with other biblical figures. “I was writing about death, about a corpse that I needed to bury. My writing took me to the picture that has always been inside me. I asked myself: ‘What is a 21st century poet doing writing about a biblical painting from 1435, someone who believed, but lost faith long ago in the face of such a clear expression of Catholic iconography?’ But death and pain are always the same ”, says Alba (Cáceres, 55 years old), who published her collection of poems Descent (Pre-Text Publishing) in 2018.

A year later, and during the reading in the Prado of some poems by Alba herself, it was when Marquerie discovered and admired the “austerity and rhythmic precision of the text”. “When I heard Ada before him Descent by Van der Weyden, which was the first painting that I visited on my own at the Prado, I suggested that he bring his collection of poems to the stage ”, Marquerie intervenes. It has been two years of a “beautiful but difficult” journey. “The show has a ritual component, but at the same time an absolute break with that ritual,” says the director, who has made the old church of La Abadía a circular stage just below the beautiful vault of the room, in a kind of embrace of the public to the artists.

“I am interested in spaces where the viewer is not distant. This round stage invites people to share, which is really what theater is, a deeply political act in the sense of reunion ”, explains Marquerie, an opinion shared with emotion by Ada Alba. ”The real politics is not in what appears in the media. Politics is in the bet for what matters, the root of the human, the pain and the conflicts that life presents us and that is what makes us unite ”, adds the author.

Francisco Contreras, known as Niño de Elche (Elche, 35 years old), would like to know how he got to this music by Descent, he confesses with some irony. “The relationship between the sound in the scenic and Ada’s poems have to do with a constant rereading of the texts and a fluid dialogue with her and with the director. Perhaps Van der Weyden’s painting is not what has inspired me the most, but Marquerie’s puppets and the biblical theme are. I like to leave holes in the inexplicable because each one comes to the show with their own experiences. I wanted to reach ground zero territories that can connect with any type of personal or collective descent, ”says the musician and singer who is accompanied on stage with two wind instruments.

What is clear is that in this old abbey, now converted into a theater, there is a very intimate meeting. A miracle, as Alba defines it. “I feel like a gift. A spiritual rite that has managed to complement languages, forces, intelligences and sensibilities of all branches of the theater, interpretation, dance, music, Paco’s voice, flamenco and poetry. A miracle ”, assures this author and teacher.

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