Barcelona Skyline

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Flamenco in Barcelona: Flamenco Festival and El Cordobes tablao

When I get invited to a tablao (a flamenco show) I go with a little fear and trepidation. You very well might be in for a little melodramatic tap dancing; a few bloodcurdling shouts; and a heavy dose of trite Spanish folklore, a noisy parody of Carmen´s Andalusia. This is definitely not what you get at El Cordobés, Barcelona´s best and one of the three best-known and serious tablaos in all of Spain.

El Cordobés is a five-minute walk down the Ramblas from the Hotel Principal. Last night we sat down with Maria Rosa Adame, the current owner and director, for an informal interview. Flamenco is in her blood; El Cordobés was opened in 1970 by her guitarist father, Luis; and her dancer mother, Irene Alba. In the dining room Maria Rosa explained that the locale is decorated with original tiles, floors, and ceilings which are copies of Arabic elements in Granada´s Alhambra. The actual stage (the tablao) recreates the intimacy, improvization, interraction, and charm of the traditional tablaos.

The artists are from among the best in Spain: legendary artists such as Camaron de la Isla have performed there; the current lead singer is a winner of the most prestigious flamenco awards; many of the dancers are from El Baile Nacional de España (the National Dance Troupe of Spain). The show is a nice mix of the classical cante jondo and dance styles with some modern innovations.

You don´t usually think of Catalonia when you think of flamenco music and dancing. But actually, as Maria Rosa explains, the flamenco/gypsy tradition in Barcelona dates back to the 19th century. The immortal dancer Carmen Amaya is among the many famous artists from Barcelona.

And flamenco is definitely alive and well in Barcelona. We at the Hotel Principal went to see Diego el Cigala kick off the de Cajon Festival Flamenco de Barcelona at the Gran Teatro del Liceu. This ornate belle-epoque opera house seems an odd venue for flamenco´s new numero uno and worthy succesor to Camaron de la Isla. But the strange incongruence works real well and the music was great. The festival will go on through April 3 and will feature the likes of Niña Pastori and Jose el Francés at various locals around Barcelona including the masterpiece of Catalan modernism, el Palau de la Musica.

So if flamenco is your thing or you just want to find out what it´s all about Barcelona is a just the place.

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