Work: El amor brujo
About This Work
There has been an enormous amount of confusion about the various versions of Manuel de Falla's ballet El amor brujo, even down to the translation of the title, which properly is "Love the Magician." Falla composed the work in 1914-1915,
using a story by María and Gregorio Martinez-Sierra about a young Gypsy woman, Candelas, who wins back her indifferent lover's affections, not with magic (which she tries), but with the magic of love. Hence, "Love the Magician." In 1916, Falla arranged a rendition of the work for sextet and small orchestra. The following year, he made a concert version of the work, 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. It is this second version of El amor brujo that is the most popular today, both in concert halls and recording studios. Each rendition has two scenes and features a mezzo-soprano soloist.
The most immediately obvious difference to the listener between the two ballet versions lies in the scoring: the original was written for 14 instruments only, while the latter is scored for a more standard-sized ensemble. Their lengths vary considerably, too, with the original lasting 10 to 15 minutes longer. The discarding of the narration accounts in part for the reduction in length, but not all since much of it is spoken during instrumental sections. Perhaps the most noticeable difference in the re-arrangement of the numbers comes with the appearance of the work's most-famous theme, that of the Ritual Fire Dance. It is first heard fourth in the original, "Dance at the End of the Day," whereas the fourth number in the later version is the very brief "The Apparition." This is followed by the "Dance of Terror," neither of which contains that theme, though the eighth does. Another example of Falla's re-arrangement of the music is the shifting of "Song of Love's Sorrow" from the second in the original, to the third number in the second ballet version. There are, of course, further differences in the order of the numbers, as well as slightly different titles to some of them, but on the whole the work remains in spirit quite the same in both versions. Some listeners will be distracted by the narration, because it often intrudes on the music: the aforementioned No. 4 in the original ballet version, for instance, features narration at the beginning of the number, though it is only very brief. Others will want it to enhance the dramatic elements in the story and will also favor the more delicate scoring of the original.
-- Robert Cummings, All Music Guide
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