De lo que le aconteció a Don Quijote en la cueva de Montesinos, y la verdadera razón de su viaje a Barcelona / Of what happened to Don Quixote in the cave of Montesinos, and the real reason dor his trip to Barcelona

Article published in the Amics del Liceu book corresponding to the 2000-2001 season. Barcelona, October 2000.

Since Justo Navarro and I received from La Fura dels Baus, in the fall of 1996, the commission to compose an opera based on the figure of Don Quixote, we were clear that the resulting work could not and should not be limited to a mere mise en musique of one or several scenes from the novel. This would have meant such a conventional approach to the suggested theme that the result, no matter how innovative the musical proposal might have been, would inevitably have been traditional. That is why we prefer to bet on the opposite route from the beginning, without caring about the use of traditional musical elements and procedures -quite the contrary: forcing their presence for the benefit of musical dramaturgy-, in the certainty that putting them at the service of an intention current stage performance would infuse them with a new vigor and energy.
Because, and although Don Quixote is an amazing book in every way, it is undeniable that for contemporary man the absolute modernity of its approach as a book is especially dazzling. Perhaps for a thought clinging to the classical or romantic tradition, the purely narrative aspects of the story told, or the simply human aspects of the character, are more attractive; but, from a current point of view, the undeniable importance of all this is almost irrelevant in the face of the overwhelming modernity of the very different formal aspects that concentrate interest, not on what is told, but on how it is told. It is not so much Don Quixote that matters, but Cervantes' portentously brilliant creative talent, revealed to us through a complex system of literary artifices as attractive in themselves as the novel itself.
Almost 400 years after being written, Don Quixote is today, inevitably, the book and everything that has been written, theorized, philosophized, composed, staged and painted on the book. Thanks to a literary critic fascinated by the work, today we do not know -nor do we want to- read Don Quixote without footnotes that, far from hindering us in reading it, make it much more enriching, by discovering to us between lines of blessed erudition what otherwise we wouldn't even peek. How to avoid the literary revolution of which Cervantes is the architect, by inserting himself between the pages of his own novel, appearing and disappearing as its author, saving himself from the burning of books that he himself organizes and even compete with his rival, Avellaneda, in the second part, where a first bibliography of the first is even noted? How can we not take our hats off to a work that is at the same time a novel, parody, criticism and essay, and where the narration within the narration, and this in turn within another narration that at the same time is part of another narration... shakes the reader's security, based on the control of the different structural planes of a conventional literary work?
All this makes Don Quixote a fully current work, in the strict sense of the full validity of the procedures used. In the face of all this, for today's reader, what was undoubtedly paramount in Cervantes' thought is unimportant: the parodic intention of his novel, which, to be fully understood, requires knowledge of the books of chivalry to whom he intended to ridicule through fierce satire. And the fact that in our days the books that served Cervantes as a reference have fallen into oblivion, but nevertheless we continue to enjoy Don Quixote, is irrefutable proof that the novel imposes itself, both in its plot, that it enjoys autonomy from the parodic references that inspire it, as well as its unquestionable literary quality.

Our scenic proposal, however, wishes to approach that original, fundamental pretext of the novel, through a triple parody that, in general terms, has the following references:

a) Parody of the opera as a genre, through the use of easily recognizable formal operistic procedures that, in a certain way, characterize the most important characters (such as the arias of the Auctioneer in act 1st, or those of Don Quixote and the Trifaldi Sisters in act 2nd), as well as "winks", in the form of more or less rapid bursts, of operas from the traditional repertoire and that, therefore, will be quickly identified by those who know them, going unnoticed by those who ignore them (as occurs in the innumerable situations in which Don Quixote parody scenes from satirized chivalry books, undoubtedly familiar to the reader of the time, but unknown today).
b) Parody of Cervantes' own novel. In our opera there are many references to scenes from Don Quixote (the adventure of the galley slaves, the puppet show of Master Pedro, the enchanted head, the penance in Sierra Morena, the Courts of Death...); but it powerfully caught our attention that Cervantes, in a stroke of brilliant pirouette, referred to the adventure recounted in the twenty-third chapter of the second book as apocryphal, in the very title of said chapter. The adventure in question is none other than the narration that Don Quixote makes of what he has seen in the cave of Montesinos, to which he had descended in the previous chapter. Cervantes wants the reader to believe that what happened to Don Quixote in the cave was so incredible that, fearing not to be believed, he did not hesitate to tell a story on his return that was plausible in its madness, but that his friends (and even Cervantes himself, camouflaged here as a skeptical observer) found it as crazy or more than the real thing: the encounter with Montesinos, Durandarte, Belerma and their entourage, all there enchanted by the magician Merlin.
Well, and to say it with as much irony as possible: let it be known from now on that Don Quixote in Barcelona is nothing more than the narration, set to music, of the true events that happened to Don Quixote in the cave of Montesinos: Believing he was actually entering the cave, Don Quixote appears in a Geneva auction room in the distant future, trapped by a time locator machine for ancient wonders, programmed to find him in the past. Don Quixote is sold to a Hong Kong multimillionaire as a gift for his daughters, the Trifaldi Sisters, who exhibit him locked up in a cage of air and time in their Garden of Monsters. Don Quixote's nostalgia is so great that the sisters decide to return him to where they have the greatest memory of him -that is: to his epoch-. But instead of being sent back to his time, Don Quixote appears in Barcelona in 2004, within a congress held to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the novel, and which aims to elucidate the authorship of the book, given the ambiguity with which Cervantes deals in it said matter. The presence of Don Quixote in Barcelona not only brings a great stir to the congress: at the same time he arouses the forces of nature around him, causing a hurricane that, coming from the sea, devastates the city up the Ramblas. That, and not denying Avellaneda, which makes him travel to Zaragoza, is the real reason why Don Quixote wants to return to Barcelona at the end of the second part of the novel: to undo the wrong caused by his previous visit to the city.
c) Lastly, a parody of what we could call metaquixotism, or everything that has been written about Don Quixote to explain Don Quixote, which we previously referred to as a consubstantial part of the book itself today, and which in our opera focuses on the last act, in the Don Quixote de la Mancha International Congress.

And this is, broadly speaking, our pre-text. With regard to the text, it can be said that the general parodic intention of Don Quixote in Barcelona requires a far from negligible amount of sense of humor and scenic agility for its realization; but, as happens in Cervantes' novel, this is not an obstacle for the character and his story to become endearing, such is the load of humanity that they ooze. Ultimately, Don Quixote is nothing more than a poor mediocre human being who resists a life of eating lentils on Fridays and pigeons on Sundays. Visitors to the Trifaldi Sisters' Garden of Monsters are horrified by his presence upon discovering that he is infected with Time, a deadly, radioactive substance from which their society has known how to get rid of at the time and which, at most, can be excavated to recover, among its different layers, the most valuable objects of the past.
The revelation is produced not only by what Don Quixote says ("... and not feel time, a Merlin that time injects me..."; or "... I want to heal myself from time, not to be who I am, to be Don Quixote."), but by how he says it: through the use of a language (tonal) and a rhetoric (formal: aria) that reveal his origin from another world -the past- in which time was one of the great scourges of humanity. With this, the confrontation between language and current and traditional procedures becomes consubstantial to the dramatic situation of the moment itself, so it should not be considered a procedure that is both formal and expressive, ideal for evoking the protagonist's nostalgia: a disease of the soul that, as everyone knows, has time as its cause and as its only cure.

April 2000