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8.557632 - GURIDI: El caserio (The Homestead)
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Jesús Guridi (1886-1961)
El Caserío (The Homestead) – Lyric Comedy in Three Acts

Original Libretto in Castilian by Federico Romero and Guillermo Fernández-Shaw

Santi - Vicente Sardinero (Baritone)
Ana Mari - Ana Rodrigo (Soprano)
José Miguel - Emilio Sánchez (Tenor)
Chomín - Felipe Nieto (Tenor)
Don Leoncio / Don Jesusito / Manú - Fernando Latorre (Tenor)
Eustasia / Inosensia - Maria José Suárez (Soprano)

Sociedad Coral de Bilbao (Gorka Sierra, Director)
Orquesta Sinfónica de Bilbao
Juan José Mena, Director

 

The 1926 première of El Caserío (The Homestead) at Madrid's Teatro de la Zarzuela was one of the highlights of Guridi's career. He had wanted to find a new direction after his earlier stage works (Mirentxu and Amaya), while keeping the Basque setting, and did so with this three-act zarzuela, confident that his skill and theatrical flair would win him a place amongst the great figures of the genre.

This, the first of Guridi's seven operatic works in Castilian (rather than Basque) signalled the start of a fruitful relationship with librettists Federico Romero and Guillermo Fernández-Shaw, then at the height of their powers following the huge success of Doña Francisquita (one of the best works of its genre). El Caserío tells the story of the people of an imaginary Basque village, Arrigorri. Santi, owner of the homestead Sasibill, hopes its future will be assured by marriage between his nephew and niece: José Miguel, who loves the good things in life, and his sweet-natured cousin Ana Mari, with whose mother Santi was secretly in love. Santi has to use all his ingenuity in order to show the womanising José Miguel that he is really in love with his cousin.

The plot progresses steadily towards its predictably happy ending with a good mix of simplicity and humour along the way, not forgetting of course picturesque touches in the shape of local songs, festivities, processions, dances and a contest between bertsolaris (poetry improvisers). Different social classes are represented in the story, and the dialogue includes examples of certain syntactic elements peculiar to the Castilian spoken in Basque villages.

Unlike Amaya, which follows the Wagnerian model, El Caserío is composed in the classic zarzuela structure of consecutive numbers, with distinct romanzas, ensembles and choruses. Basque colour is present throughout the score, introduced by means of dance rhythms, notably that of the zortziko which acts as a common thread woven through the whole musical fabric. It appears in the most significant sections, each time adapted to the particular nature of the action: tender and sentimental in Santi's romanza, grandiose in the second-act prologue, defiant in the bertsolaris' contest and loving in the second-act finale. El Caserío contains Basque folk songs and dance rhythms, as well as original melodies composed along the lines of traditional folk music, a technique at which Guridi excelled. It also includes, as was usual for the genre, numbers built on rhythms and dances fashionable at the time, such as the americana (José Mari's love song, 'No sé que veo en Ana Mari', Act Two), and folk-based numbers such as the seguidilla featured in the third-act comic duet for Inosensia and Chomín, or the regular beat of the sonsonete in 'Con el trébole' (quartet, Act One). The Italian aria also has its place, in the first-act duet for Ana Mari and José Miguel. The orchestration is lively and rich in colour throughout, and Guridi makes magnificent use of the dramatic and expressive potential of choral writing.

The Prelude to Act One opens with a melodic phrase made to sound modal by the modified seventh, often used in works with a Basque setting, conjuring up the peaceful countryside in which the story will unfold. The upcoming fiesta is soon heralded by the txistu and tamboril (respectively a three-hole pipe and a double drum, played by the same person), with an offstage chorus supported by the rhythms of the ariñ-ariñ dance. After Ana Mari and José Miguel's duet ('Buenos días') and the 'Con el trébole' quartet, comes Santi's moving romanza, 'Sasibill mi caserío', in tripartite form, a long lyrical episode enclosed by two sections built on the characteristic 5/8 rhythm of the zortziko. In anticipation of the happy ending, the chorus hums a love song.

The Prelude to Act Two is one of the work's best-known numbers. An orchestral gem, it outlines all the main themes, and leads into a series of traditional festive scenes: the pelota match, choral singing through the streets ('Pello Joshepe'), religious processions, prayers and the espatadantza (Basque sword dance). In the middle of all this, José Miguel, in a gently swaying melody ('Yo no sé que veo en Ana Mari', in americana rhythm), becomes aware of his true feelings for his cousin, while the act's final trio contains the greatest suspense and drama of the work as a whole.

In Act Three, nature, the mountains and the rain create the atmosphere for Ana Mari's lament, its simple religious sentiment emphasised by a melody with far-off echoes of church song ('En la cumbre del monte'). This number is followed by a lively contrast: the inevitable comic duet, here about single people's hopes of marriage ('Dise mi madre'). Ultimately, of course, the whole tangle of relationships is resolved, and joyful celebrations ensue.

Santiago Gorostiza

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Synopsis

The story is set in Arrigori, an imaginary village in the Basque province of Biscay, in the early twentieth century.

Act One

The setting is the yard of the 'Sasibill' homestead and its outbuildings, one of which is a cider-house. 'Sasibill' is currently home to the local mayor, Santi, and his niece and nephew, Ana Mari and José Miguel, the children of Santi's two brothers who emigrated to America to seek their fortune. When they died, Santi brought the two children to live with him at Sasibill. Ever since, Ana Mari has dedicated herself to looking after the house and her uncle, who adores her. Her cousin is less settled — he is an attractive young man who enjoys life to the full and has become a good pelota player. With them lives a labourer, Chomín, while husband and wife Manú and Eustasia live in the cider-house with their daughter Inosensia, a gauche young woman for whom Eustasia is trying to find a good match.

Day breaks at Sasibill and a chorus of voices can be heard in the distance: 'Cuando sale el sol / quiero contemplar / desde mi ventana el arrebol…' (As the sun rises / I love to watch the red glow / from my window…) Eustasia comes out of her house, dressed for church. She bumps into Ana Mari who is worried because José Miguel is not back from a night on the town in Bilbao. When Santi appears, Ana Mari tells him José Miguel came back the night before and has already left for Mass; Santi does not believe her. At this point Manú appears, followed soon afterwards by Don Jesusito, the town clerk. Eustasia goes inside to look for her daughter, while Santi tells Chomín to take care of the cattle and pigs while he and the others are at church. They all leave apart from Ana Mari and Chomín, who declares his love to the young girl and offers to take her away to Mexico with him. Ana Mari turns him down, but as gently as she can.

In the following scene two village girls, Miren and Cata, joke with Ana Mari. She then leaves and José Miguel enters, light-heartedly singing: 'Yo te diré al oído / lo que te he de decir.' (I'll whisper to you / what I have to say.) Speaking over a musical backdrop, he flirts with the girls and tells them he is not interested in marrying Ana Mari because she is his cousin. Then Ana Mari and he are left alone on stage and sing first in turn then together, ending their meeting with a spoken dialogue: 'Buenos días. / Buenos días. / ¡Ya viniste! / ¡Cómo no! / El tío Santi…' (Hello. / Hello. / Home at last! / What of it! / Uncle Santi…) She reproaches him for the way he is leading his life and the worry he is causing Santi. José Miguel, meanwhile, sings about life, youth and love. Ana Mari encourages him to find a wife and he remarks that when Santi dies they will inherit his wealth and she may be able to marry a marquis. The scene is interrupted by the appearance of Chomín, who has come to try his luck again with Ana Mari, but she does not take him seriously.

Chomín, Manú, Don Jesusito and José Miguel, taking advantage of Santi and Eustasia's absence, have stolen a barrel of wine from Eustasia's store. Together they sing happily: 'Con el trébole, trébole, trébole con el trébole y el toronjil…' (With clover, clover, clover, with clover and lemon balm… [plants traditionally seen as bringing good luck or having healing, even magical qualities]). When Chomín, Ana Mari and Inosensia are alone, Chomín tells the girls he is in love, but does not say with whom. Ana Mari says he is still very young to be thinking about marriage, but Inosensia does not seem to agree.

In the following (spoken) scene, Santi and the kindly old priest Don Leoncio are deep in conversation. Leoncio confesses that he knows Santi's tragic secret: in love with the same woman, Marichu, as his brother Martín, he kept his feelings to himself and stood aside to let the two marry. They had one daughter: Ana Mari. Santi tells Leoncio that one night he dreamt that he had married Marichu and that Ana Mari was really his daughter. Ever since, he has considered her as such. He goes on to say that he wishes Sasibill could be hers in future, even though it should be José Miguel's by right as he is older and, despite his nephew's faults, he does not want to disinherit him. Don Leoncio suggests that the two cousins should marry, something Santi has already thought of, or alternatively, that Santi should marry Ana Mari himself. Santi, however, does not think he could make her happy, as he is twenty-five years older than her. On the other hand, he is convinced that his nephew is only staying on at Sasibill until he gets his inheritance. Don Leoncio therefore suggests that Santi should announce plans to marry, without yet having chosen a bride, and see how José Miguel reacts. In all likelihood he will leave Sasibill and not come back, and Ana Mari can then inherit. Santi likes the idea and thanks Leoncio for his advice.

He then sings of his love for Sasibill: 'Sasibill, mi caserío, / tibia cuna / de mi niñez...' (Sasibill, my homestead / happy cradle / of my childhood…) and of his frustrated love for Marichu, comforting himself with the thought that Ana Mari, whom he now loves (platonically) as he once did her mother, will be held in Sasibill's heart. After this, he finds José Miguel, Don Jesusito, Manú, Eustasia and Chomín and announces his plans to get married next winter. Chomín is relieved when Santi says he has not yet chosen a wife, while Eustasia, hopes raised, scurries off to find Inosensia. José Miguel, angered by the announcement, calls Ana Mari to tell her the news. To his surprise, however, she sees no difficulties in the plan, in spite of her uncle's age, and even offers to look for a candidate among her friends. As the act ends, Miren, Cata and the chorus of villagers come together, heralded by the sound of Chomín's drum, and later Don Leoncio joins in the general uproar: 'Acudiros y llegaros / que no es broma el pregonsito…' (Come along and join us / for his little idea's no joke…). The villagers think that Santi intends to marry his niece and sing of their joy that Sasibill will have such a good mistress. The two cousins are alone for a moment and express their contrasting views on their uncle's future. Santi and Don Leoncio, who have witnessed the scene, congratulate themselves on a good idea: 'Mejor que te piensas. ¡Quizá que sí!' (Even better than you thought. Perhaps you're right!)

Act Two

It is the evening of a feastday in Arrigorri's main square. Among the crowd are four young men from Elgoibar and two local pelota players, along with the accordionist Polcaperes and the village quack.

They sing the popular Basque song 'Pello Joshepe'. During the general celebrations, the two rival teams from Elgoibar and Arrigorri joke and boast about their respective abilities. They all encourage Polcaperes to play, while the quack tries to sell a magic potion to anyone who will listen.

José Miguel enters, along with one of his teammates. Eustasia is surprised to see him, as he has been away for more than a month. She tells him that Santi has still not chosen a wife, evidently hoping he will choose Inosensia. Ana Mari appears and the others leave her and José Miguel alone. He asks her about Santi's marriage plans and says that they will both suffer if he finds a wife. He adds that he has come to stay for a year. Ana Mari is very happy about this and begs him to change his ways, but he tells her he intends to steal away any girl his uncle may choose. He has heard that Santi has his eye on Inosensia, but Ana Mari tells him she is in love with Chomín. They part, José Miguel saying he wants to speak to her later about something. As she goes into the church, he realises he has fallen in love with her: 'Yo no sé qué veo en Ana Mari / que nunca, nunca vi.' (I know not what I see in Ana Mari / that I never saw before.) Eustasia, Inosensia and Chomín join him on stage. Much to Chomín's surprise, José Miguel begins to flirt with Inosensia.

The following scene features a Basque dance (the espatadantza), a religious procession and music from the local band. All sing to the Virgin Mary and the Glory of God: 'Reina del Cielo hermosa / Madre del Redentor' (Fair Queen of Heaven / Mother of our Saviour). As the procession enters the church, José Miguel, Inosensia and Chomín stay outside. Encouraged by Inosensia, Chomín says he knows how to speak in verse, a skill shared by José Miguel, whose father was a great improviser (bertsolari). Chomín gives a crude demonstration of his abilities, much to Inosensia's delight. Once he has gone into the café, José Miguel flirts with her again. She tells him her parents want her to marry Santi, but she would prefer a younger man, even if he were poor. José Miguel insinuates that Chomín is always thinking about her and has even written some verses about her. At that Chomín comes out reciting a dreadful poem, which fills Inosensia with hope.

After Mass, the congregation go to the pelota match, leaving Santi and Leoncio on stage. Santi is not going because his nephew is playing, but he does admit to having bet on him. Ana Mari comes over and offers them a drink. Still unaware of José Miguel's feelings, she decides to speak to her uncle, and offers to marry him herself and give him a son to inherit Sasibill, if he has not already chosen someone else. Just as Leoncio is about to give thanks to God that Santi's prayer has been answered, Chomín arrives to tell them about the match. Santi and Ana Mari are then left alone and sing a duet: 'Con alegría inmensa / tu resolución / oigo de tus labios / Ana Mari.' (With great joy, / Ana Mari, / I hear your decision / from your lips.). Santi expresses his happiness but also his concern that she is sacrificing her youth and his fear that she will live to regret her decision. She reassures him, although, out of his hearing, she confesses that she is losing a love and burying a dream. Santi tells her how he loved her mother, whom he can now see reborn in her. Chomín overhears this, and resignedly accepts the situation.

José Miguel wants to buy drinks for everyone to celebrate winning the match. Chomín says there is nothing to celebrate as this has been a terrible day: what he has overheard will affect José Miguel's pocket and his own heart. They agree to a poetry contest and ask Eustasia and Inosensia to serve wine and cider to all: 'Chiquito de Arrigorri, bravo José Miguel…' (Young man of Arrigorri, brave José Miguel…). Chomín begins by warning José Miguel to open his eyes: he may have won the match but he's about to lose his family. José Miguel replies that he is master of both, and explains his plan to steal any bride away from his uncle. Chomín tells him that Santi has already chosen Ana Mari, at which José Miguel loses his composure, calls him a liar and accuses him of speaking thus of Ana Mari out of spite. He tries to get Chomín to admit that he's lying, but Chomín insists that he saw the two together and heard what they said to each other. José Miguel is finally forced to believe him and exclaims, aside, '¡Lerdo de mí!… ¡Ana Mari¡' (How stupid I've been! Ana Mari!). As the act ends, Ana Mari, Santi, Don Leoncio and the chorus join in with everyone else: '¡Basta ya de bailes y de boberías!' (That's enough of dancing and fooling!)

José Miguel confronts Santi and asks for the truth. Santi confirms he is considering marrying Ana Mari. All express their surprise and their support for his choice, apart from Eustasia, Manú and Chomín. José Miguel, meanwhile, moves to centre stage and takes his cousin by the hand. In answer to his questioning, she, feeling herself committed now, confirms that she has given her word to her uncle to love him as both his niece and his wife. In a low voice he calls her his love, but in the surrounding noise he doesn't realise that his feelings are returned. He interrupts the celebrations and goes to his uncle to say that he will leave Sasibill. Santi tries to dissuade him, but he insists. Ana Mari now agonises, wishing her cousin had declared his feelings earlier. The crowd begins to disperse and José Miguel leaves. Santi and Don Leoncio agree that he will not stay away long, and Santi encourages everyone else to carry on dancing and celebrating.

Act Three

The final act unfolds one winter's evening in the kitchen at Sasibill. Ana Mari, Inosensia, Eustasia, Miren, Cata, Santi, Don Leoncio, Don Jesusito, Manú and other villagers are shelling corn and collecting the kernels in baskets, while Santi and Don Leoncio sit by the fire.

The chorus sings: 'Mientras llueve sin cesar se hace grato trabajar del hogar alrededor.' (While the rain continues to fall it's good to work in the dry.) Above the chorus, Ana Mari sings a song about a girl mourning the death of her lover, until she too dies, 'En la cumbre del monte, de la luna a la luz…' (On the mountain peak, from moonlight till dawn…). As the songs come to an end, the friends chat and tell jokes, then Santi and Don Leoncio are left alone. Santi says he cannot keep postponing the wedding, but he is sure that Ana Mari really cares for José Miguel and that her offer to marry him was induced by a sense of sacrifice and despair that her cousin did not love her in return. Leoncio recalls José Miguel's sadness and anger when he left; Santi noticed this, but cannot understand why he has not come back for her: he cannot love her the way Santi himself loved her mother. Leoncio advises him to speak to Ana Mari, but apparently she will not talk about the matter at all. Both men agree it is very difficult to know what women are thinking about… Eustasia and Inosensia overhear some of this and Eustasia tells her daughter to try and win Santi for herself. Inosensia, however, complains about the age difference between them and, as her mother makes threats, remains thoughtful, not knowing how to say that she is in love with another man.

In the following scene, Inosensia and Chomín are alone together. She explains that her mother has ordered her to do something impossible. He offers to help, and a sung dialogue follows: 'Cuando hay algo que haser no se debe dudar.' (When there's something to be done don't hesitate.) Here Inosensia tells him that her mother wants her to marry him and that she has to convince him that she will make him a good wife. Chomín is most surprised, but begins to flirt with her and accepts her proposal. Finally they sing in unison: 'Hasta los animales del caserío van a saber que estamos en relasiones.' (Even the farm animals will know that we're together.) In the next (spoken) scene, Ana Mari comes to find Inosensia, saying her mother wants her. Neither tells her about their engagement. Inosensia leaves, and Ana Mari asks Chomín to take a letter to the post for her. It is addressed to José Miguel and she has left it open so that Chomín can read it and there will be no misunderstandings. Chomín now tells her that he is engaged to Inosensia, to Ana Mari's delight. She leaves and Santi enters, catching Chomín in the act of sealing the envelope. Santi takes the letter, Chomín leaves and Ana Mari returns. Santi tells her José Miguel does not love her and accuses her of waiting for him to return, in spite of everything. He adds that he knows she does not really want to marry him and reproaches her for having continued to write to her cousin. He also reveals that he has been intercepting José Miguel's letters to her, although not reading them, and then gives them to her, telling her that if he really loved her, her cousin would have come back to claim her. Ana Mari asks Santi if he loves her and he replies that in the beginning he loved her as a daughter, but with time he has realised that he does not want her to marry anyone else, while recognising that parents always suffer when their children get married. Resigned, the two decide to marry and agree to announce a date the following morning. Ana Mari leaves and Santi walks towards the fireplace while the orchestra plays.

He then sings: 'Sasibill, mi caserío, viejas losas del tibio hogar…' (Sasibill, my home, worn flags of my homely hearth…). Suddenly the door is flung open, and in bursts José Miguel. The two men confront one another. Santi accuses his nephew of not coming in peace and says he is prepared to defend Ana Mari. José Miguel warns him to stand aside as he doesn't know how far he will go in the name of love. Santi is amazed, and at first does not believe him. José Miguel admits he only realised how he felt when he saw her with Santi, adding that if he knew that Ana Mari loved Santi, he would accept the situation. Santi knows that he will not be able to make her truly happy and that their life would be overshadowed by his niece and nephew's love for each other. He is not convinced yet, however, and accuses José Miguel of loving Ana Mari because she will inherit Sasibill. This offends the young man who says he truly loves her for herself. They call on Ana Mari to come and resolve the dispute. Everyone's true feelings become clear and Santi gives them his blessing, hoping they will stay at the farm. José Miguel begs his forgiveness and then everyone else joins them. Santi sings of his happiness at being able to live out his days at Sasibill, with his two beloved “children” and everyone congratulates Ana Mari, saying she will make a wonderful mistress of the homestead. While everyone is celebrating, Chomín kisses Inosensia passionately.

José Gortázar
(Translation: Susannah Howe)


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