My friend Elise has joined me for tonight’s performance of Antigona, as has Carman Moore, Guggenheim award winning composer and friend of West-Park. Elise has traveled to Argentina and Andalusia. One time in conversation about Noche, she said that she preferred the darkness of the tango to the joyous frivolity of flamenco. I took a deep breath, Ohhhhhh…I said, but that is not flamenco. (Later Martin would explain about the bubbly version offered up to tourists, soda pop instead of dark, rich sherry.)
So tonight she would see the depth of flamenco as Noche pushed it to the edges. And beyond. Now after a week, the second half of the Antigona story builds and builds until Soledad Barrios final solo where she comes to a seeming climax at least twice before one more final explosion where you feel she could almost burst into flame.
After the performance, we were almost as breathless as the dancers. Carman gave the first musical review I’ve heard. He spoke of the seamlessness of the transitions, the crossing of boundaries (which Carman does) and the careful mixing of voices, sung and otherwise. He spoke of complexity and layers, all true.
The night was perhaps inspired by the review from the New York Times that came on line late in the day, for tomorrow’s print edition.
Review: ‘Antigona,’ From Noche Flamenca, Pairs Rhythmic Dance With Greek Drama
Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca: Antigona
Antigona Soledad Barrio in the title role, with Eugenio Iglesias on guitar, in this dance drama at West Park Presbyterian Church. Zarmik Moqtaderi
Flamenco paired with ancient Greek tragedy? It’s the kind of idea that makes the brow furrow. But in Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca’sdark and explosive “Antigona,” this odd-couple match makes an “Aha!” kind of sense, uniting two fierce and stylized forms to tell the story of a sister’s defiance of a king in defense of her dead brother.
A haunting, distant classicism coexists with sweaty, unmediated corporeality in this dance drama, adapted by Martín Santangelo, Noche Flamenca’s artistic director, from Sophocles’ “Antigone.” Displaying the same allegiance to dance as the earliest Greek dramas, it mines the martial, confrontational qualities of flamenco, and the mournful ones as well.
Sophocles’ narrative is not the easiest to follow, and “Antigona” takes pains to provide context amid the dance and song, almost all of it performed in Spanish with clear, well designed English supertitles. “Meet the family,” the gregarious Master of Ceremonies (Emilio Florido) says, introducing us to Oedipus and Jocasta; their sons, Polyneices and Eteocles; their daughters, Antigona and Ismene; and Jocasta’s brother, Creon.
The crown of Thebes passes among the men of the family, and Creon takes it after his nephews kill each other. When he refuses burial to Polyneices, a traitor to the city, Antigona buries him anyway.
Directed by Mr. Santangelo and choreographed by Ms. Barrio, who plays the title role with arresting intensity, “Antigona” takes atmospheric advantage of the arched space in West Park Presbyterian Church, on the Upper West Side, yet this production — which boasts Lee Breuer as consulting director — has a distinctly downtown vibe.
Sophocles liked a big chorus, and the group of eight here is a bit small by his standards, but it’s complemented by an excellent onstage band: Eugenio Iglesias and Salva de Maria on guitar, David Rodriguez on percussion, and Hamed Traore on electric guitar and bass. Together, the company reaches critical mass, no more so than when the astonishing Juan Ogalla, as Haemon, Antigona’s betrothed, nearly lights the floor ablaze with his dancing.
Like all discipline-straddling works, “Antigona” raises questions of category. It could be labeled theater or dance, and last fall, when it was a work in progress at the Joyce Theater, several segments from the piecewere reviewed as dance. Developed and expanded since then, the show sometimes feels like opera, and for a couple of moments — especially during a face-off between the brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices — even like rock opera.
A reasonably expansive definition of musical theater would embrace this show, even if Ms. Barrio, eloquent in Antigona’s anger and sorrow, is just about the only performer who’s doing as much acting as dancing.
“Antigona” continues through Aug. 8 at West Park Presbyterian Church, Manhattan; 866-811-4111, nocheflamenca.com.