The Kennedy Center

El Amor Brujo

About the Work

Manuel de Falla Composer: Manuel de Falla
© Dr. Richard E. Rodda

After his years in Paris absorbing the riches of what was then the world's most vibrant musical city (and simultaneously befriending Debussy, Ravel and Dukas), Falla retreated to Spain in the face of the German invasion of France in 1914. Soon after Falla's arrival, Pastora Imperio, the reigning donna of Gypsy music, asked him to provide the accompaniment for a "song and dance" for her act. For some authentic inspiration, Pastora arranged for her mother, Rosario la Mejorana, to meet with Falla and the playwright Gregorio Martínez Sierra, who was to provide the text for the song. So fervent was Rosario's singing of the traditional songs and recounting of the Gypsy legends that Falla and Martínez Sierra decided to create not just a "song and dance" but a full ballet. The playwright devised the scenario and Falla worked feverishly on the score, completing it in five months.

Despite the popularity of Imperio and her troupe, the premiere of El amor brujo won little success. Perhaps the combination of such an earthy subject with Falla's new style, which distilled native folk music to its most elemental components, was not to the audience's taste; or perhaps the small instrumental ensemble of the original version (piano, flute, oboe, trumpet, horn, viola, cello and double bass) may have been too limited to fully realize the glowing orchestral colors inherent in the music. At any rate, Falla immediately began revising the score, mainly by cutting some numbers and expanding the orchestra. In so doing, he created a work that seems the very quintessence of the spirit of his native land.

El amor brujo is one of the great works of an era that witnessed an explosion of interest in indigenous folk music as the basis for concert compositions. Bartók, Vaughan Williams, Chávez, Enesco and Ives were only a few of those who drew inspiration and models from the music of their countries. Falla, working with the care and precision of a watchmaker, penetrated to the heart of the Spanish musical idiom to find its unalloyed essence. "Falla's work reacts against the turgid romanticism of the 19th century and reverts to the clarity of the 18th-century clavecinists," wrote A.A. Fraser. "The dry flower of the guitar gives it movement, the song of the people gives it life." In his book on Spanish music, Gilbert Chase summarized Falla's compositional style: "There is not a superfluous note, not an ounce of padding, in the finely wrought, muscular texture of his scores. The sinews of his art are tense, yet flexible; they pass from meditative repose to dynamic action with dramatic rapidity. His creative reflexes respond with sensitive alertness to every emotional impact, yet the process of musical transmutation is achieved with the most painstaking care, with a ceaseless, disciplined striving for perfection." Distilled from Gypsy cante jondo, Andalusian melodies and rhythms, flamenco and other aspects of the Spanish melos, Falla's music shows him to be, in the words of Georges Jean-Aubrey, "a poet of Spanish emotion."

El amor brujo is set in Andalusia. A passionate motto theme, which runs through the ballet, is heard at once in the introduction. To the accompaniment of singing, the heroine of the ballet, Candelas, appears. She has been in love with a dashing Gypsy, recently dead, who lives on in her memory and keeps returning to haunt her. Always Candelas remains under the influence of this specter. A live and handsome villager, Carmelo, loves Candelas and wants to marry her but the ghost intervenes. His sorcery prevents her from granting Carmelo the kiss of perfect love. Desperate, Candelas tries to drive off the specter through a ritual fire dance. She fails, so Carmelo tries to trick the ghost, whose habits were known to him in life. Since the deceased always had a strong taste for attractive women, Carmelo decides to use Lucia, a companion of Candelas, as a decoy. Carmelo comes to woo Candelas. Jealous, the specter appears, but when his eye is caught by the pretty Lucia, he ignores Candelas and follows her friend. Carmelo convinces Candelas that his own devotion to her is greater than that of the ghost. As morning dawns and the bells of the village sound, the pair at last exchange the perfect kiss and exorcise the ghost forever.


1. Introduction and Scene

2. With the Gypsies-Night

3. Canción del Amor Dolido
¡Ay! Yo no sé qué siento,
Ni sé qué me pasa
Cuando éste mardito gitano me farta.
Candela que ardes,
¡Más arde el infierno que toita
mi sangre abrasá de celos!
¡Ay! ¿Cuando el rio suena,
qué querrá decir? ¡Ay!
¡Por querer a otra se orvía de mí! ¡Ay!
Cuando el fuego abrasa,
Cuando el rio suena
Si el agua no mata el fuego,
¡A mí el penar me condena!
¡A mí el querer me envenena!
¡A mí me matan las penas!
¡Ay! ¡Ay!

English Language Translation:
Song of Heartsick Love
Ay! I don't know what I feel,
I don't know what happens to me
When this accursed
  gypsy's away.
Only Hell's fire burns hotter
Than all my blood burning with jealousy!
Ay! When there are rumors,
what could they mean? Ay!
For the love of another, he forgets me! Ay!
When the fire burns,
When there are rumors ...
If they cannot kill the fire,
Suffering condemns me!
Love poisons me!
Sorrow kills me!
Ay! Ay!

4. The Ghost

5. Dance of Terror

6. The Magic Circle-The Fisherman's Tale

7. Midnight-Sorceries

8. Ritual Fire Dance

9. Scene

10. Canción del Fuego Fatuo
Lo mismo que er fuego fatuo,
Lo mismito es er queré.
Lo mismo que er fuego fatuo,
Lo mismito es er queré.
Le juyes y te persigue,
Le yamas y echa a corré.
Lo mismo que er fuego fatuo,
Lo mismito es er queré.
¡Malhaya los ojos negros
Que le alcanzaron a ver!
¡Malhaya los ojos negros
Que le alcanzaron a ver!
¡Malhaya er corázon triste
Que en su llama quiso ardé!
Lo mismo que er fuego fatuo
Se desvanece er queré.

English Language Translation:
Song of the Will-o'-the-Wisp
Like the will-o'-the-wisp,
The very same is to love.
Like the will-o'-the-wisp,
The very same is to love.
You run from it, and it follows you,
You call it, and it runs away.
Like the will-o'-the-wisp,
The very same is to love.
Accursed the dark eyes
That succeeded in seeing him!
Accursed the dark eyes
That succeeded in seeing him!
Accursed the saddened heart
That wanted to burn in his flame!
Like the will-o'-the-wisp
Love vanishes the same.

11. Pantomime

12. Danza del Juego de Amor
Tu eres aquel mal Gitano
Que una gitana quería;
¡El queré que ella te daba,
Tu no te lo merecías!
¡Quién lo había de decí
Que con otra la vendías!
¡Soy la voz de tu destino!
¡Soy er fuego en que te abrasas!
¡Soy er viento en que suspiras!
¡Soy la mar en que naufragas!
¡Soy la mar en que naufragas!

English Language Translation:
Dance of the Game of Love
You are the evil gypsy
That a gypsy girl loved;
The love that she gave you,
You did not deserve!
Who could have thought
That with another you would betray her!
I'm the voice of your destiny!
I'm the fire in which you burn!
I'm the wind in which you sigh!
I'm the sea in which you drown!
I'm the sea in which you drown!

13. Las Campanas del Amanecer
¡Ya está despuntando el día!
¡Cantad, campanas, cantad!
¡Que vuelve la gloria mía!

English Language Translation:
The Bells of Dawn
Dawn is breaking!
Sing, bells, sing!
That my glory is returned!