Balada "Faust-bal" Introduced in Madrid
The world premiere of Leonado Balada's Faust-bal took place for a run of performances at Madrid's Teatro Real in February. His collaborator was the Spanish Surrealist poet and playwright, Fernando Arrabal, whose libretto, a study of good (as personified by woman) and evil (man), takes the old Faust legend and reverses the gender of its principals, Faust becoming the female Faust-bal and Margaret the male Margarito. Although the moral of the tale was prickly, its implicit humor was not lost on the opening night audience that was hugely entertained.
The large corps of attending music critics gave the premiere impressive coverage. Here is some of what they had to say:
Balada strongly wielded the whirl of eclecticism and whipped up a rich sauce of children's chorus cum cluster, sizable arias and sound storms. Above all, in distinction to operatic law, everything here goes very quickly: love, birth, hopeless salvation, death—here now and gone. This is meant to show desperation but serves the satire well. What would be the alternative? — Manuel Brug, Welt Online
Balada's music is beautiful, very beautiful. — J.A. Vela del Campo, El Pais, Madrid
Leonardo Balada has set [the libretto] to music with the facility and wisdom of one who has traveled this path and come up with a score that is heterogeneous, rich, diverse, and non-controversial. — Alberto Gonzalez, ABC, Madrid
Caption: "A Stimulating world premiere...should become repertory item": Balada has humor, a humor that is lucid, reflexive, and bright....Contemporary opera has gained a strong, positive push as a result of this splendid "Faust-bal." — Alvaro del Amo, El Mundo, Madrid
Balada's music conjures up all the ghosts of neoromantic silence and is in good hands with Jesús López Cobos and his orchestra. The music is seamlessly projected on the drama with its dramatically charged belcanto. There is no distortion and no question as to the means....The singers may be grateful throughout that Balada employs a sweet belcanto. — Joachim Lange, Wiener Zeitung
Fortunately, Balada's music, especially his delicate, varied and rhythmic orchestral scoring, managed to tell a story that was not present in the libretto. — Roberto Herrscher, Opera News
The score, treated with the security of the professional artist, is replete with diverse effects....[Balada] demonstrates technical virtuosity in the delicate treatment of passages such as the attractive citing of the Catalan tune, "The Song of the Birds," assigned to Faust-bal, the ultimate hope of humanity. &mdash Arturo Reverter, La Razon, Madrid
Leonardo Balada has written music of an unmistakable stamp that shows the experience of more than 40 years of composing. — Phillipe Santos, Actualidad Economica, Madrid
The colorful score is in excellent hands with Jesús López Cobos, the Teatro Real's departing music director. The musical factor in the whole has a very homogenous character despite many heterogenous elements, musical citations and allusions, sharp contrasts and exaggerations, tender and almost mystical moods. The work bears the hallmark of Balada's late work, i.e., the fusion of atonal avant-garde techniques with lyrical tonality; on the other hand, the integration of folkloric elements almost totally recedes to the background. López Cobos clearly features these contrasts, thus creating the strong atmospheric changes with great transparency. The Coro y Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid, strengthened by the Coro de Niños de la Comunidad de Madrid, was totally engaged in the new work. The Madrid audience, full-house and concentrated, visibly enjoyed the evening. Much applause, no objection. — Dirk Ufermann, opernnetz
The music of Barcelona-born composer Leonardo Balada stands out and dazzles you with its effective sounds from the moment the curtain rises. There is no showing off, only great narrative economy controlling the spectacle....Throughout the score, you can feel a sense of humor that softens the earth-shaking style of the story and influences the staging. — Jose Ramon Diaz, Teatro Musical, Madrid
Faust-bal is published by Beteca Music. Information and perusal material available from Music Associates of America.