The Barcelona composer is in a cloud after the success achieved with her opera ‘Alexina B.’ at the Lyceum. He has dedicated two years to creating the first opera inspired by the true story of an intersex person, with a poetic libretto in French by Irène Gayraud, delicate staging by Marta Pazos and a fantastic team of singers, under the wise musical direction of Ernest Martinez Left.
His debut on the stage of the Gran Teatre has been spectacular.
I am in a cloud because the success has been resounding in every way. It has not only been liked by critics, but also by a very diverse audience, from opera fans to people who had never been to the Liceu. The plot worried us because we didn’t know how people would react but this opera has moved the whole world. From the LGTBI collective and people who study gender to people who would never have been interested in this topic have empathized with Alexina’s story.
It has created a lot of debate as well.
It is that Alexina is a very interesting character, someone who was happy in her childhood and during her love story with Sara. We didn’t want to take a doomsday approach, even though there was clearly drama and misfortune in her life. The latter is explained by the second and third acts. But she loved and was loved.
And ended up committing suicide.
He explains the reasons very well in his memoirs, a very small book that will be republished in Temporary Spanish from April 5. They will be signed with the name of Abel Barbin, the one that Alexina adopted before the Civil Registry. But not even becoming a man before the law could he join Sara, her love. The model in your couple’s time was heteronormative, you were a man or a woman. He felt that he did not belong to either gender. He was a non-binary person and he didn’t fit in. Biology is one but gender is a social invention. It is something that we still do not fully understand.
Which scene cost you the most to compose?
The coroner who appears at the beginning. It was a very critical scene because the doctor is defending ideas that we do not share, but the story had to be contextualized.
“The scene in bed was difficult. I wanted to capture that there was pleasure and that it was a story of deep love.”
Was it more difficult to put music to the explicit love scene in bed or the ones with the medical examinations?
I thought a lot about the bed scene. It is the longest scene. It lasts 12 minutes because it is the trigger for the trip that Alexina undertakes. I asked myself many questions: what should a first night of love between two women who had only kissed be like? what is the context? And what are my references as a woman? How many love scenes have I seen between women or between men and women seen from a female point of view? In the cinema, in most of these scenes the woman is usually an object rather than a subject. She does not think about pleasure, nor about psychology. I wanted to capture that there was pleasure and that it was a story of deep love.
It is unusual in opera to see two women loving each other.
But it is a precious moment. It should be noted that it does not matter if it is between two women, a man and a woman, two men, with one person or more than two people… In the end it is love. I understand that there are those who have been scandalized but how many explicit rape scenes are there in the opera and we have normalized them. Should we be scandalized by such a deep and transcendental love? What I intend in that orgasm that is built is to show spiritual transcendence.
Have you applauded the scene at any function?
No. But not a cough has been heard. People are upset, partly because the microphone allows us to listen to their breathing so that it is understood that it is a very human moment. Of course, beyond the thanks to the singers, the orchestra, the choir, the musical director and the stage director, I have to thank the magnificent work of Sixto Cámara. Without a good sound engineer this type of project doesn’t work. Miking is an art. In newly created operas, if the concept of the proposal requires it, they must be able to have sound. I don’t see any problem because you can equally appreciate the virtuosity and the quality of the voices. In fact, they can be best seen and heard throughout the theater.
“Opera is the genre that I like the most, with which I feel I can contribute the most to music and to society”
The newly created opera does not enjoy much space.
But if opera houses want to move forward, they must offer works with themes that challenge the public with an accessible narrative rhythm. Subscribers will not live forever and it is not possible to program only repertoire titles. In the world of opera, he needs to give entry to the new creation to guarantee the continuity of the genre. If there is no profound change in this sense, you will not be able to continue. The same happens in concert halls. In both cases, the average age of your audience is high and the change must be implemented now to awaken interest in other things and attract new audiences.
His previous opera ‘Je suis narcissiste’, which was seen at the Lliure, also seduced viewers and critics.
Opera is the genre that I like the most, with which I feel I can contribute the most to music and to society. The great victory of ‘Alexina B.’ for me it is that all the people of the intersex collective with whom I have been working to have a better perspective have left grateful and moved. But she has connected with many people and this, after the ‘tour de force’ working alone at home, is the best reward. Meeting all kinds of people who hug you, who cry, who tell you that they have been moved is brutal. Transcending people’s lives in this way is not usual for composers like me. Hopefully this opera can be done again in more places.
And now, what will be next?
First, vacation. I need a break, to be able to go for a walk when the sun rises. Then we’ll see, I have several orders.