Esperanza Fernández with guests Marina Heredia & Ana Morales
De lo Jondo y Verdadero
London, Sadler’s Wells
28 February 2016
Gallery of pictures by Foteini Christofilopoulou
Esperanza Fernández at Flamenco Agency
Flamenco singer Esperanza Fernández is the real deal, brought up in a family of flamenco artists in Seville’s famous Triana neighbourhood. Her voice is extraordinary – clear, clean, full of drama but free of theatrical embellishment – and her vision for flamenco music is wide-reaching: she has collaborated with artists as diverse as Yehudi Menuhin and Miriam Makeba.
De lo Jondo y Verdadero (The Profound and Truthful) is, however, a show dedicated to celebrating the pure roots of flamenco, by reviving songs by some of the great cantaores which have fallen out of use. It seemed appropriate, and she certainly seemed pleased, that this, her first Sadler’s Wells performance, should fall on Andalucia Day.
The eight cantes and one guitar solo chosen encompass a wide range of styles, from soleá and martinete to alegría and bulería. She started, accompanied by guest singer Marina Heredia, with the petenera Las Calles de Judea; a song of deep, yearning sadness that makes you think of García Lorca poetry, something heightened by dancer Ana Morales in her white bata de cola dress, looking like a defiant, tragic bride as she stamped her mark on the stage.
Sadly, that was the only sighting of Morales and her clean-lined dance skills until the end of the show. Fernández opted for spare, simple accompaniment (one superb guitarist, Miguel Ángel Cortés, and three percussionists). In fairness, her scorching voice didn’t need any ornamentation, although she did add some sinuous movement of her own, with large fan in hand, for the ‘milonga y guajira’ En el 57.
Morales appeared again, this time in waistcoat and trousers, for the penultimate song, the martinete, Una Partia, but just as she was working her way into that unrelenting, harsh martinete rhythm, she was rather unexpectedly upstaged by Fernández’s brother José, who leapt up from the table where he had been one of the percussionists to take centre stage and start dancing what looked very much like adept but improvised flamenco inspired by the moment. The fact that Morales looked momentarily startled added to the feeling this was unplanned. She rallied, though, and danced with him as well as retrieving some of her own solo performance, a powerful, almost masculine response to the music – and it added a frisson to the climax of the show: after all, there are precious few unscripted moments in modern flamenco.