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MANUEL DE FALLA (1876-1946)

Danza española No. 1 from La vida breve

September 24, 2017: Emily Daggett Smith, violin; Michael Brown, piano

Falla composed his opera La vida breve (The short life) at a feverish pace in 1904–05 for a composition competition that offered a substantial financial prize and the hope of a performance at one of Madrid’s theaters. With librettist Carlos Fernández Shaw, he settled on a tragic subject from one of Shaw’s poems, El chavalillo (The little lass), about a lover’s treachery because of class distinction. Falla won the competition by unanimous decision, but no performance materialized in Madrid—nor did a projected performance occur in Paris, where he soon settled.

After numerous revisions and many failed attempts for performance and publication, La vida breve was premiered in Nice on April 1, 1913, and in Paris the following January as part of a joint agreement. The critics raved! Among the opera’s most popular numbers is “Spanish Dance No. 1,” a lively jota, which has since been arranged for a plethora of instrumental combinations, such as the present version for violin and piano by [Fritz Kreisler?]. In the opera, the dance is performed as part of the betrothal celebration for Paco and Carmela, the girl of his own class that he must marry instead of his beloved Salud, a Gypsy maiden.

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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