The Courses, at the Teatro Real, to discuss the “engineering work” that is to take an opera from paper to stage
July 7, 2022

It’s past 5:30 in the afternoon of July 6 and on the ninth floor of the Teatro Real, in the Gayarre room, Joan Matabosch, its artistic director, is having a lively debate with the more than thirty people who this year are bringing together the summer course that he himself and the director of the Complutense Institute of Musical Sciences, Álvaro Torrente, have designed. On this occasion, together with the analysis, as it is tradition to do in the course, of the operatic program for the next season of Real, the conference focused on seeing what happens so that an opera, from the role in the that’s written, hit the stage. A whole “work of engineering”, as Professor Torrente describes, to ensure that when the curtain goes upand the spectator sits in his seat and opens his eyes and ears, everything is in its place.

Joan Matabosch provides data between surprising and curious in the workshop that closes the sessions – the next day, those enrolled are invited to a technical visit to the Royal Theater – of this course, included in the programming of the UCM Summer Courses. For example, she comments that since the pandemic a fact that was already like that, but that the agents of the actors or musicians preferred to count in another way, the contracts contemplate the period of time that the professional in question is going to dedicate to the workincluding rehearsals and performances. This happens because when the state of alarm was decreed in March 2020, many works, which had been in preparation for a long time, were left unreleased. “If the contracts only say that you pay so much for each performance, how were those people paid?” Another curiosity: the production budgets also include the cost of storing everything that the production entails after its completion. After being removed from the Teatro Real, the material for the work is taken to warehouses located in towns near Madrid, where it is stored in large containers. Some productions have come to occupy 27 containers.

As Álvaro Torrente explains, this year the course, in addition to reviewing the most interesting or unique aspects of the upcoming programming -six conferences have been held on this- has included two workshops , one led by Matabosch and two members of his team , Daniel López and Justin Way , on what the production of an opera entails, and the other, in which Torrente himself, accompanied by fellow Complutense professor Víctor Sánchez , Cambridge University professor Stefano Castelvecchi , and the director of orchestra Alberto Cubero, have explained the work that the researchers, the musicologists , do to recover the scores. 

This year, the Teatro Real’s program includes the staging of Achile in Sciro , a work recovered by the Complutense Institute of Musical Sciences (ICCMU) , written for Madrid in 1744 and which has not been performed in Europe since then. As the director of the ICCMU recalls, the work was going to premiere in March 2020, and just on the day of its dress rehearsal, the state of alarm was declared. The Teatro Real decided to recover the production and in February 2023 it will finally be released. “The good news is that by doing it again they have reached an agreement with a theater in Vienna to do a co-production, so it will be arecovery of a Spanish opera that is going to be performed later in Vienna, which is great news”, Álvaro Torrente values.