The Contemporary Audiovisual Week of Oviedo (SACO – Semana del Audiovisual Contemporáneo de Oviedo), which brings together various artistic disciplines related to film, has celebrated its 8th edition from March 11-20, 2022 in Oviedo, Asturias, having a very special movie-concert: ‘Blancanieves / Snow White (2021)’, performed live by the Oviedo Filarmonía conducted by Anthony Gabriele and with the participation of its composer, Alfonso de Vilallonga.
Here you can read the special article about this concert written by Pablo Laspra exclusively for SoundTrackFest.
As every year, SoundTrackFest has been invited to attend the events held within the framework of the Contemporary Audiovisual Week of Oviedo (SACO), organized by the entity directed by Pablo de María, and with the collaboration of the Municipal Foundation of Culture of the City Council of Oviedo. It is to be appreciated that in a city as cultural as Oviedo, this kind of events, which are out of the ordinary but have a great acceptance among the population, continue to be supported.
The post-pandemic period is complicated in the cultural field, and the COVID has definitely taken its toll on all mass shows where, even with all the security measures, there were still limitations that led the events to a reduction of its attendees and size in order to take care of the health of the public. The City Council of Oviedo has been able to deal with this situation in an exceptional way, and has not hesitated to continue supporting a consolidated and powerful event with an enviable line-up for any European film festival.
This year, among all the events held, which have been numerous and varied in styles and formations, we wanted to highlight two of them for their uniqueness and importance: the live performance of the soundtrack of “Blancanieves / Snow White“, a film by Pablo Berger and composed by Alfonso de Villalonga, by the Oviedo Symphony Orchestra “Oviedo Filarmonía – OFIL”, and also the live performance (or rather reinterpretation) of the soundtrack of the film “Fargo”, by the American composer Carter Burwell, in the hands of the French group “Fragments“.
In today’s special article, we are going to talk about the first one: Blancanieves / Snow White in concert.
Berger’s Blancanieves/Snow White, or the reinvention of a classic in Spanish style
- Teatro Campoamor de Oviedo
- Flamenco group: Juan Gómez “Chicuelo”, guitar; Anna Colom, singer; Iván Alcalá and Diego Gómez, palmeros.
- Alfonso de Vilallonga, piano, ukulele, and accordion.
- Orquesta Sinfónica Oviedo Filarmonía “OFIL”
- Conductor: Anthony Gabriele
We must emphasize once again the presence of Maestro Anthony Gabriele, who has been able to bring to a successful conclusion the interpretation of a complex audiovisual work, novel for its unusual interpretation and structure, and of millimetric adjustment. Maestro Gabrielle is already a clear connoisseur of the tactics and techniques of synchrony of live concerts on the projected audiovisual. In addition, the orchestra works comfortably with him: he is an enthusiastic person, knowledgeable of the craft, with an extensive interpretative background in charge of the best international orchestras, and with a character that makes you want more and more of his wit and energy.
In this case we have had the presence of the composer of the score, the maestro Alfonso de Villalonga, who has contributed with his musical and interpretative wisdom in this and other concerts of the cultural week. Villalonga, winner of the Goya for Best Original Music precisely for this score (among other deserved awards), is a multifaceted artist, with a novel vision of an art that might seem simple or easy, but is not at all: his use of music as a narrative element and as a character in the plot of the film makes it play a fundamental role.
The film is produced in an old style, in black and white and silent; therefore, the capacity to transmit the plot (obviating of course the use of superimposed texts in the projection, which historically have been kept in the style because their use responded to the audiovisuals with a lack of musical density of script) corresponds to the interpretation of the actors, the director’s editing, the setting of the scenes, and of course, to the musical script. And it is here where we emphasize the good work of the maestro Villalonga.
Creating several leitmotifs that clearly represent the protagonists and different situations, we see a clear inspiration in Spanish musical nationalism: airs of Turina, Tárrega, Granados, Falla, even snippets of Chapí and Chueca, sound like the muses of this very particular style that, although being a very defined and analyzed style, the author has known how to drink those fountains and reconvert them into his own style, being musicologically speaking a pure and worthy successor of the Spanish symphonism of the time without falling excessively into the obvious clichés (just the necessary ones).
The main theme of the protagonist, a famous and wealthy bullfighter, is, contrary to what is expected, an intimate theme that will evoke a dance, which the protagonist will not be able to do by himself in the plot of the film, but which at the beginning appears to us as an allegory of a paternal and endearing love for both his wife and the fruit of his love, his daughter.
The theme is perfectly developed by the orchestra, with a tight and millimetric interpretation, both in its dynamics and in its sonorous balance. The woodwinds, with a clear dramatic-emotive role, flow like rivulets of notes that lead to an internal drama. Unlike the bullfighting theme, which will sound when the bullfighting blood appears (in both father and daughter) and which is much more powerful in intensity, but not in feeling, this family theme is emotional and endearing, though at the same time bittersweet. It does not fit at all with the life that the bullfighter leads, and seems to convey his longing to end this endless jump of plazas to focus on his family, so it drenches the scenes it accompanies with fragility and a feeling of delicacy, and in the end, a bitter sense of incompleteness.
The theme of the bullring is a fanfare in Phrygian mode, characteristic for having a “Spanish” sonority. It is large, eloquent, and to be expected in the sense of being a sonority already linked to this type of event. However, it has a certain air of adventure in its rhythmic and orchestral structure (brass above all) that lead it to what it is, the adventure for survival. This theme reminds me (this is something personal, and some people will say that they are nothing alike, but it is my subjective vision) to the main theme of the series “The Adventures of Tintin“, composed by Ray Parker and Tom Szczesniak.
On the other hand, the interpretation by Juan Gómez “Chicuelo“ in the “zapateao” that accompanies the childhood of our protagonist was wonderful. The flamenco artist, accompanied by a group of “palmeros” (Iván Alcalá and Diego Gómez) and the flamenco soloist Anna Colom, gave the projection a cheerful note rooted in our popular musical entrails. The audience, who enjoyed this musical eclecticism present in the whole work, “olés” and “bravos”.
Far from provoking a burlesque mockery or a sense of decadence typical of the spectacles to which they were being subjected, maestro Villalonga’s orchestral choice to accompany the dwarfs of our story is effective and sharp: in a style somewhere between jazz, vaudeville, and festive band, and with a musical cherry at the hands of the accordion and ukulele, they are presented with a kindly and tender character, and at the same time with a character of survivors of the time. The use of honky-tonk or out-of-tune piano (typical cliché for the western saloon sound) also gives it that worn and unrefined touch, but still conveys a lot musically.
The final of the performance by the Oviedo Filarmonía was, in the words of all, apotheosis and terribly dramatic: such was the musical and visual depth conveyed by the film that not a breath could be heard in the Campoamor Theater in that closing pianissimo. The end of this audiovisual work leaves with a clear sense of sadness, it is not a reinvented Disney story, but it is a deep and critical drama with many aspects of the time, of the Spanish culture, and above all, of the popular way of life of the people. We see different situations judged by vulgar knowledge, and at the same time, we see represented many common scenes that, although they have changed scenario and protagonists, even today continue to condition our actions and events.
The ovation, despite this heartbreaking feeling at the end of the film, was tremendous, filling the theater of clamor both to the orchestra, the composer, the director, and of course, the flamenco group that offered us a beautiful encore that left the spirits high after the note of sadness at the end.
It was a golden brooch in the week that, although it was not the last event, was shaped as the main performance and most acclaimed by the number of attendees who came to enjoy the culture, once again.
Thanks to SACO. Thanks to the Municipal Foundation of Culture. And thanks to the City Council of Oviedo for bringing such worthy, professional, intimate, and atypical events that make the city an unprecedented cultural center for such a relatively small province. And of course, thanks to the maestros who on stage have given all the best of their art, and who have developed an event that, in capital letters, is a must every year in the city.
Article and pictures by Pablo Laspra