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Opera Matinee: Falla's La vida breve

A new recording of Falla's vivid, passionate opera from the BBC Philharmonic and Juanjo Mena, followed by music by Elgar and Novak performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

A new recording of Falla's vivid, passionate opera from the BBC Philharmonic and Juanjo Mena, followed by Elgar & Novak from the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Falla: La vida breve
Nancy Fabiola Herrera - Mezzo-soprano
Aquiles Machado - Tenor
Cristina Faus - Mezzo-soprano
Gustavo Pena - Singer
Josep Miquel Ramon - Baritone
Jose Antonio Lopez - Baritone
Vicente Coves - Guitar
Raquel de Luna - Dancer
Segundo Falcon - Singer
Spanish Radio Chorus
BBC Philharmonic
Juanjo Mena - Conductor

Visit the programme page for La Vida Breve synopsis

Elgar: Serenade for strings
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner (conductor)

Novak: Eternal Longing
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Jiri Belohlavek (conductor)

Musgrave: Songs for a Winter Evening
Lisa Milne (soprano)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vanska (conductor)

Beethoven: Symphony no.6 'Pastoral'
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sakari Oramo (conductor)

3 hours

Music Played

  • Edward Elgar

    Serenade in E Minor for Strings Op.20

    Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Edward Gardner. Ensemble: Doric String Quartet.
  • Vítezslav Novák

    Eternal Longing

    Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Jiří Bělohlávek.
  • Thea Musgrave

    Songs for a Winter Evening

    Singer: Lisa Milne. Orchestra: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Osmo Vänskä.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony No.6 in F, Op. 98

    Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Sakari Oramo.
  • Henry Balfour Gardiner

    A Berkshire Idyll

    Orchestra: BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Conductor: Rumon Gamba.
    • CHANDOS.

La Vida Breve synopsis

The plot of  La vida breve  is set against the  colourful backdrop of the city of Granada, in southern Spain.


Tableau 1

The first tableau takes place in the Albaicín, the Gypsy quarter of Granada, in the courtyard of the house where Salud lives, with her grandmother and uncle, beside a forge in a narrow street.The curtain rises as Salud’s grandmother is fussing over some birdcages hanging over the door to the house. he hammering of the blacksmiths can be heard as they sing of their destiny, fated to toil all their lives: ‘Wretched is he born to be an anvil rather than a hammer!’ The grandmother is troubled by a sickly bird: like Salud, she must be suffering the pangs of love. In contrast to the resignation and sadness inside, the world around is full of light and gaiety. It is a beautiful day, and groups of street sellers pass by hawking their wares, the girls laughing merrily as they go. The grandmother remarks on the transitory nature of happiness.At this point, Salud enters, worried that her lover Paco has not yet arrived. Her grandmother tries to reassure her, but Salud refuses to smile until Paco comes. She picks up the thread of her grandmother’s musings on the contrast between those who laugh and those who weep, and sings a seguidillas she learnt from her mother about the little bird who died of love.


Just then, the grandmother calls that she can see Paco coming, and Salud is filled with happiness. She tells him of how she waited for him so anxiously, and is now filled with joy; he responds with tender and reassuring words, swearing undying love.Salud’s grandmother is enraptured to

witness the scene, but the spell is broken by the return of her brother Sarvaor, who threatens to kill Paco. He has discovered that Paco is getting married that very Sunday, to a rich girl in the town. The grandmother, horrified, begs him not to tell Salud.The first tableau ends with the young couple exchanging vows of undying love, but a distant voice intoning the blacksmiths’ menacing refrain reinforces the threat to Salud’s happiness.

IntermezzoThe second tableau is a panoramic view of Granada, as seen from the Holy Mountain overlooking the city. A wordless chorus evokes the vibrant, colourful town, with its underlying passions and sorrows.Gradually the daylight fades and night falls.



Tableau 1The second act opens in a small street in Granada outside the house of Manuel and his sister Carmela, Paco’s new bride. The wedding party is in full swing, and the guests are shouting encouragements to Pepe, the flamenco singer. He toasts the bride and groom with a traditional song and the excitement spills over into a fiery dance.As the dance is ending, Salud enters the street and, looking through the window, catches sight of Paco inside. Her worst fears are realised: he has betrayed her. She laments her fate, so like that of the little bird which was condemned to die.Her soliloquy is interrupted by the flamenco singer, who celebrates the union of the bride and groom. Pierced to the heart by Paco’s cruelty, Salud determines to speak with himHer grandmother and uncle arrive; hearing the celebrations in progress and seeing Salud’s distress, they try to console her.

Sarvaor curses Paco for his betrayal, and the grandmother joins in. Salud hears Paco’s voice above the din and determines to confront him. Sarvaor goes with her, but her grandmother refuses to accompany them.Salud sings through every window of the house until Paco hears her voice. He cannot

disguise his shock, and his bride notices his pale face and distracted eyes. Salud’s grandmother begs her not to go in, but to no avail.


Tableau 2

The act’s second tableau is set inside Manuel and Carmela’s house. There are flowers everywhere and the stylish, brightly coloured clothes of the wedding guests enhance the gaiety of the dancing.Paco has recovered a little from the shock of hearing Salud’s song, and Manuel is just in the midst of congratulating him and his sister on their marriage, when there is a disturbance at the door.Sarvaor enters, leading Salud by the hand.Trembling with anguish, she confronts Paco, asking him to end her misery since he was the cause of it. She accuses him of betraying her. Carmela, Manuel and the guests are dumbfounded when Paco lets slip her name, and it is in vain that he accuses her of lying and orders her to be thrown out of the house.

Tenderly, Salud calls out his name one last time, then falls down and dies. As the guests cry out in horror, the grandmother arrives to join Sarvaor in hurling curses at the faithless Paco.

Synopsis © Tess Knighton


  • Thu 14 Feb 2019 14:00