THE SALON OF ANUBIS
Academy of Lilí and Danté
(foto: © David Ruano / TNC)
Blog The Salón
NOTES ON THE CHARACTERS AND MUSIC OF THE SALON OF ANUBIS
The two characters Danté and Lilí are double in the sense that on the one hand they are the two presenters of the Cabaret and, on the other, they are the archetypal figures symbolised by the masks of Thot and Anubis (Egyptian gods who traditionally participate in the judgement of the dead: Thot as guide and scribe, and Anubis as the companion of the soul). The symbolic complexity of Danté and Lilí extends to their respective masculine and feminine condition: he as the guide charged with showing the Deceased the principle aspects of his new condition, she as the telluric presence which receives the power of life from the earth and at the same time receives the power of death over life.
The duality shared by the characters of Danté and Lilí also imbues the opera's other two characters: the Guest is, on the one hand, a member of the audience who is called up on stage and, on the other, a recently dead individual. During the opera the Guest undergoes a clear evolution: as he gets ever smaller, he gradually acquires, with each transformation, greater awareness of his deceased condition. An awareness which is expressed indirectly by means of the arias and duos concerning anguish, search, return to childhood and nostalgia for the same, and which only at the end will be really understood and attended to. Rosa, the Guest's wife, is also clearly a double character: a member of the audience, wife of the lucky Guest who is invited to go on stage, and the wife of the Deceased who experiences the drama of death.
Magic is the thread that sustains the fiction of the Cabaret and at the same time is the artifice which enables the constant playing with duality: things both are and are not what they seem. The mystery which always accompanies stage magic effects corresponds with the mystery of the characters that live this double condition of being alive and dead at the same time. The magic supports this illusion of being two contradictory things: truth and falsehood, life and death...
THE SALON OF ANUBIS takes as its point of departure the idea that the correct point of view on life is that of the “dead”. Which is to say, only the individual who has nothing to lose because he or she has already lost everything, can reach an attitude of ponderation, wisdom and objectivity with regard to life. The Salon of Anubis or the Academy of Lilí & Danté is the place in which these truths are learned. The death that takes place on stage should be understood as both real and symbolic. Only from this real and symbolic condition is it possible truly to enter the mysteries of death. Which is to say, so that it can be symbolic, death must be lived as something real.
The opera does not postulate any vision or belief with regard to the “beyond” but proposes the theme at a symbolic level: death as the mirror-hinge in which the past life appears in double, superimposed on itself: what we see in the “beyond” is no more than the reflection spread over the life that has been lived, which stretches forward like a “double mantle”. In order for this mirror-hinge to be activated and the forwards “double unfolding” occurs, it is necessary to pass through the experience of death, obviously symbolic, on stage. The death of the character in the opera is expressed by means of a process of continual reduction in size – in the same way that in traditional shamanic experiences it is carried out by visions of dismemberment of the human figure.
Music is the essential companion of this process: drums in traditional ceremonies, the sung voice and orchestral music in our case. Music, therefore, leads the ceremonies; with its atmospheres of light and sound, it is the space where the transformations occur. Song and music are the means by which the characters express themselves when they occupy this symbolic level of experience.
Thus music has the function of leading the characters and the audience through the opera's different levels, both symbolic and experienced, leading them in the process of existential dualities, of transformation of character, of becoming aware of their human condition.
One register traverses the opera from top to bottom: that of cabaret, charged with threading together the different scenes. As always, cabaret harbours truth and fiction, joy and sadness, beauty and ugliness. In this case, the cabaret is in the form of a “magic variety show”, which adds a tone of mystery and “darkness” not usually present in cabaret. This register however undergoes an evident evolution from beginning to end. The cabaret-magic show opens with a tone that is initially joyful and relaxed but develops to end in a dramatic tone reflecting a profound life experience. As with a leit motif , the thread of the cabaret weaves the scenes together, a thread which, at the beginning, is fine and light and ends thick and deep . By means of this thread, the different scenes of the opera slot together, these being the steps by which the Guest descends to the acceptance of his condition as the Deceased while, at the same time, he becomes continually smaller physically. These step-scenes or stages each has its own particular atmosphere, different in each case, which also evolve towards depth and symbolic profundity as the scenes progress. This evolution towards gravity unfolds into shadows in the last scene, where suddenly darkness gives way to clarity, as if the shadows opened windows through which airs of freedom enter.
The culmination of this whole experience is the physical disappearance of the Guest, and his transformation into a puppet by means of the ceremonial manipulations carried out by the presenters, dressed in the accoutrements of Thot and Anubis. Once converted into a puppet – in the simple mask of his personality – he can then be reborn in a different condition ( the human figure that separates from the mask, while the latter remains alone, moving without rhyme or reason, without its habitual manipulator who now comes out of his prison and initiates the final process of re-encounter and liberation ). This point of culmination begins with the Cooking-pot scene, continues with the birth of the puppet, the appearance of the Double, and the trio Rosa/Double/Ro, and ends with the re-encounter of the Guest with the masks and characters from his life. At this point, the final shadow-puppet scene bursts into life, opening into spaces from the Guest's life, of recognition and of freedom, (and the scene is sung by the opera's four voices together).
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