EL PALACIO IMAGINADO
For several centuries, there has been a widening gap between the modern
world and the indigenous communities of Latin America.
In an attempt to achieve a homogenous society, many policies have
been practiced through the centuries to eradicate different indigenous
languages and culture to impose Spanish as a unique one.
The title itself reflects the essence of the work, which refers to
a Latin American country in which a new culture has been imposed by
ignoring and oppressing the native one. When referring to Mexico, the
ethnologist Guillermo Bonfil Batalla refers to two different realities
to explain this problem, profound Mexico and imaginary Mexico:
What has been proposed as a national culture in different moments
of the history of Mexico can be understood as a permanent aspiration
for destroying what we are. It has always been a cultural project that
neglects the historic reality of the Mexican social structure and it
therefore, does not accept the possibility of building a future on
its reality. It is a project of substitution in every case. The future
is somewhere else, anywhere but here in this concrete reality. The
task of building a national culture consists of an imposition of an
alien model, a distant one that would eliminate the cultural diversity
and would achieve a unity from suppressing the existing.
These are the issues that prompted me to write this work. Isabel Allende’s
story provided me with an ideal framework to shape the piece and to
work on the libretto with Adriana Díaz Enciso.
The music is subservient to the dramatic development as is the case
in opera form. The setting of the text is very close to that of the
natural qualities of the languages used in the piece. In several sections
I explore the sound qualities of the indigenous languages and expand
it, both with electronic means and as a setting. The sound and dramatic
qualities of the text is constantly extended. The melodic lines are
not treated as leitmotivs as such, as they are part of a dramatic texture
that is clearly identifiable as the piece progresses.
The concept of leitmotiv is therefore applied to a whole texture played
by different instruments, which depict different dramatic elements
throughout the work by revealing the emotional input of the characters
or depicting an emotional landscape.
All these musical elements are presented in the first Act and are
developed in the following acts.
The vocal lines, explore the unique capabilities of Neue Vocalsolisten
who inspired me with their abilities.
In some scenes, solo instruments become part of the character. So
voice and instrument go hand in hand to portray certain aspects of
characters. It is the case of the trombone in the speech of the Benefactor,
where a special technique is required for the trombonist to be able
to echo his self-importance, or the role of the trumpet in the third
scene of Act I, where it plays a distorted canon with Ambassador Lieberman,
as if trying to translate what he is saying.
As a whole, the instrumentation is treated as part of the dramatic
development. To choose a small ensemble, enabled me to treat the instruments
A couple of traditional Mexican tunes are quoted in the piece, merely
as a means to refer to a historical moment in Act l.
The role of the material on tape is clearly associated with the “other” reality.
That of the “invisible” indigenous people that have been
ignored for several hundred years, those who have found in their invisibility,
in hiding, a way to preserve their true identity. These voices were
recorded in Mexico for the elaboration of the tape.
I wish to thank:
Juana Catalina Méndez, Petra Iturbide, Eduviges and Benito Cortés,
Gastón de la Luz Albino, Alberto Palacios, David Carrera, Paula
Manuel Hernandez, Sofia Hernández Maria, Cristina Gómez
López, Ma. Magdalena Gómez, Lucas Ruiz Ruiz, Iris Chilpcholp
and her Grandmother, for their valuable contribution to the material
on tape and of Radio UNAM for their help with recording, ;Jorge
Lara for his invaluable help with the recording ; the
following Mexican poets: Briceida Cuevas-Cob, Juan Gregorio Regino
Toledo, for reading their poems into my microphone.
The tape also includes a selection of texts from El Ritual de los
Bacabe, a compilation of ancient Mayan spells dating to the time of
the arrival of the Spaniards, read by Valentina Vapnarsky. These fragments
are also set into music in different moments throughout the piece.
The tape was produced at the Experimental Studio Heinrich Strobel
Stiftung des Sudwestfunks in Freiburg, with the assistance of Stefan
I wish to thank the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation for awarding
me a fellowship and inspiration to start this piece.
El Palacio Imaginado, was commissioned by Musik der Jahrhunderte,
International Festival of Arts and Ideas and English National Opera.
It was written between 2001 and 2003.