El amor brujo (Love, the Magician, literally, Spell-bound Love or The Bewitched Love, sometimes translated as Wedded by Witchcraft) is a ballet composed in 1914–15 by Manuel de Falla to a libretto by Gregorio Martínez Sierra. In 1916, Falla arranged a rendition of the work for sextet and small orchestra and the following year he made a concert version, also for small orchestra. Later, he fashioned a piano suite from it and finally, a second ballet version (1925) that features expanded orchestration, elimination of the narration, small cuts and plot changes, and a different order to the numbers.
The work is distinctively Andalusian in character with the songs in the Andalusian Spanish dialectal modality. The music contains moments of remarkable beauty and originality; it includes the celebrated "Danza ritual del fuego" (Ritual Fire Dance), "Canción del fuego fatuo" (Song of Wildfire, or Song Of The Will-o'-the-Wisp), and the "Danza del terror" (Dance of Terror).
Versions and performance history
El amor brujo was commissioned in 1914 as a gitanería (gypsy piece) by Pastora Imperio, a renowned flamenco gypsy dancer. It was scored for cantaora voice, actors and chamber orchestra and performed at the Teatro Lara, Madrid, on 15 April 1915, unsuccessfully.
The following year, Falla revised the work by cutting its length, enlarging the orchestration, removing the dialogue and reducing the vocal part to three short songs for mezzo-soprano. This version was performed on 28 March 1916, by the Madrid Symphony Orchestra under Enrique Fernández Arbós.
In 1924 Falla finished a transformation of El amor brujo into a one-act 'ballet pantomímico'; it is in this version that the work is best known to this day. Published by Chester, the ballet was given in Paris the next year (1925) and by the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company at Philadelphia's Metropolitan Opera House on 17 March 1927, with mezzo-soprano Kathryn Noll and conductor Alexander Smallens.
Later, the composer arranged a suite for piano solo (catalog G. 69) of four movements from the 1925 ballet: "Pantomima", "Danza del terror", "Romance del pescador", and Danza ritual del fuego.
El amor brujo is the story of an Andalusian gypsy woman called Candela. Although her affection is for a man named Carmelo, as a girl she was promised to be married to another man (then a boy). After many years Candela's husband has died (at the hands of the husband of a woman named Lucia), but he continues to haunt his wife.
The entire village knows about the haunting, but still brands Candela as crazy because she dances every night with her husband’s ghost ("Danza del terror"). Candela, now a widow, is free to establish a relationship with Carmelo, but continues to be haunted by her husband's ghost.
After a conversation with other women of the village, Candela finally comes to realise that her husband was unfaithful to her, despite all her efforts to make their marriage work; her husband's lover is revealed to have been Lucia.
Candela and Carmelo get advice that a ritual dance is necessary to cast the ghost off ("Danza ritual del fuego"), but it does not work. The ghost is still obsessed with Candela's soul.
Candela manages to trick Lucía to come that night, with the excuse of hooking her up with Carmelo. As she turns up, the nightly ritual of Candela's dance with her husband's ghost begins, but at the last moment Candela moves away from her husband and Lucía is taken away by her now dead lover ("Danza del juego de amor").
Dawn breaks, Candela and Carmelo are now truly free to enjoy their love.
- Introducción y escena ('Introduction and scene')
- En la cueva ('In the cave')
- Canción del amor dolido ('Song of suffering love')
- El aparecido (El espectro) ('The apparition')
- Danza del terror ('Dance of terror')
- El círculo mágico (Romance del pescador) ('The magic circle')
- A media noche: los sortilegios
- Danza ritual del fuego
- Escena ('Scene')
- Canción del fuego fatuo ('Song of the will-o'-the-wisp')
- Pantomima ('Pantomime')
- Danza del juego de amor ('Dance of the game of love')
- Final – las campanas del amanecer ('Finale – the bells of sunrise')
Chamber music version (1915)
- 1991: Josep Pons with the orchestra of the Teatre Lliure, 'cantaora' Ginesa Ortega. Harmonia Mundi HMC905213
- 1946 (February 5): Fritz Reiner with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Contralto Carol Brice. Columbia Masterworks MM-633 (3 12" 78 RPM discs); Also Columbia LP ML-2006.
- 1953: Ataúlfo Argenta with the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, mezzo-soprano Ana-Maria Iriarte. EMI 7243 5 69235 2 2
- 1955: Ernest Ansermet with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, mezzo-soprano Marina de Gabaráin, Decca 417 691–2
- 1959: Jesus Arambarri conducting Orquesta De Conciertos De Madrid, contralto Inés Rivadeneira
- 1960: Leopold Stokowski with the Philadelphia Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett-Carter, Columbia MS 6147
- 1961 & 1964: Carlo Maria Giulini with the Philharmonia Orchestra, soprano Victoria de los Ángeles EMI 7 69 037 2
- 1963: Fritz Reiner with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, soprano Leontyne Price, Mercury
- 1966: Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos with the New Philharmonia Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Nati Mistral, Decca 417 786–2
- 1978: Luis Antonio Garcia Navarro with the London Symphony Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza, Deutsche Grammophon 429181-2
- 1983: Charles Dutoit with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, mezzo-soprano Huguette Tourangeau, London 410 008-2
- 1996: Edmon Colomer with the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona, 'cantaora' Esperanza Fernández. Valois Auvidis V 4768.
In 1967 Francisco Rovira Beleta directed a film version. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but lost to Jiří Menzel's Closely Observed Trains. However, it won the "National Syndicate of Spectacle, Spain" award.
In 1986, Spanish director Carlos Saura directed El amor brujo based on the ballet, starring and choreographed by Antonio Gades. It was the third in his trilogy of dance films, following Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding) and Carmen. The film filled out the story with spoken dialogue, but nevertheless used the entire score of the ballet, along with additional songs and dances performed by characters in the film. The Orquesta Nacional de España was conducted by Jesús López-Cobos, and the cante jondo singer heard on the soundtrack was Rocío Jurado. A soundtrack album, now out of print, was issued by EMI.
- Kennedy, Michael, ed. (2006). The Oxford Dictionary of Music. Oxford:Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861459-4
- An essay on El amor brujo by Peter Gutmann, accessed 25 December 2009
- El amor brujo from the Martha Argerich Project
- YouTube: Ritual Fire Dance from El amor brujo, accessed 25 December 2009
- Libretto on Spanish Wikisource, accessed 25 December 2009
- Notes on El Amor Brujo by Sato Moughalian, Artistic Director, Perspectives Ensemble