. Scenic cantata in one Prologue and 3 Parts. Text in Catalan by M.J. Verdaguer (adapted by Manuel de Falla). Posthumous work completed by Ernesto Halffter. Italian rhythmic version by Eugenio Montale.
WP staged version: Milan, Teatro alla Scala, June 18, 1962 - conductor Thomas Schippers
WP concert version (according to a new revision by Ernesto Halffter) - versione “Lucerna”: Luzern, September 9, 1976 - conductor Jesús López Cobos
WP (with 20’ in addition to the versione “Lucerna”) - versione “Madrid”: Madrid, Teatro Real, May 20, 1977 - conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
IL CORIFEO, bar. - PIRENE, c. - GERIONE, 2 t. and 1 bar. - LA REGINA ISABELLA, s. - Il ragazzo, children voice - Ercole (Alcide), mime - Le sette Pleiadi: Maia, s. - Aretusa, s. - Caleno, s. - Eriteia, ms. - Elettra, ms. - Esperetusa, c. - Alcione, c. - Una dama di corte, c. - Il gigante, bar. - Il capo degli Atlantidi, t. - L'Arcangelo, t. and c. - Cristoforo Colombo, mime - Un paggio, children voice
Chorus: males, women, boys and spoken chorus
Instrumentation: 3 (III also picc.).3 (III cor.i.).3 (III bcl.).3 (III also dbn.) / 184.108.40.206 (2 ttu and btu.). / timp. rag. cast. trg. tmb.no tmb. cr. frst. gui. eolifono 3 bongos t.-t. cym. b.d glock. xyl. vibr. bells. cel. 2 harp. 2 piano / strings
Instruments on stage: 2 cor. T-t. timp.
Full score (versione “Lucerna”)
Vocal score by E. Halffter (versione “Lucerna”)
Full score (versione “Madrid”)
“Madrid” version is different from the “Lucerna” version. The former was modified and expanded in the central part.
Preface to the “Lucerne version”
The so-called “Lucerne version” fills an important gap and also closes a long discussion over the definitive version of Manuel de Falla’s posthumous work, which for a long time has oscillated between the operatic and symphonic genres, appearing in a variety of concert versions.
My first experience of Atlántida
as a conductor goes back to 1975 when Cologne Radio expressed its desire to organise a concert version of the work.
At the time I was aware that the publishers Ricordi, Ernesto Halffter and de Falla’s heirs had been planning since 1972 a new version of Atlántida
that would give the work a definite structure. The result was to be an oratorio rather than a staged cantata, as the latter solution did not seem to open up the possibilities that the work’s musical qualities deserved.
The initiative of Cologne Radio and the plan to present the work at the Festival of Lucerne in 1976 made me turn to Ernesto Halffter, with whom I remained in close contact throughout 1975 and 1976. During that time I not only got to know and love Atlántida, but also understood the numerous problems it posed. The difficulties are purely due to the fragmentary state in which de Falla left the work that was to crown his achievement as a composer. De Falla’s fastidiousness in matters of composition is well known to all, and there is no doubt that the man who took two years to write the accompaniment to his Siete canciones populares españolas
would have needed a number of years to complete Atlántida
. But the precarious state of his health in his last years did not permit him to live long enough, so the work remained unfinished.
From the very first I was convinced that the definitive version must get as close as possible to what De Falla had actually left. In this respect, Ernesto Halffter’s task was enormous. It was not just a matter of reordering sketches or completing the orchestration of pieces composed only in part. For we know that de Falla’s original plan had been extremely broad. In his first staged version Halffter aimed at achieving precisely this breadth, which meant that entire scenes had to be created. The decision taken in 1975, however, was to rework this first version and present an Atlántida
that as far as possible approximated the manuscript left by de Falla at his death, without either distorting the substance of the poem or losing the thread of the narrative.
The central section (which after 1976 was called Part Two) is the part that was left most incomplete: it consists merely of scattered notes and sketches. The Prologue, on the other hand, was almost completely orchestrated; and Parts One and Three were also at an advanced stage of completion at the composer’s death (they were also partly orchestrated, or had at least a modicum of instrumentation). Inclusion of the Prologue, Part One and Part Three in the Lucerne version was thus an obvious choice. As regards Part Two, on the other hand, we note that the 1976 version includes seven numbers, as compared to the seventeen of the version staged at La Scala in 1962 or the twelve of the 1977 version of Madrid (The Madrid version also expandes four of the numbers used in the Lucerne version.). The Lucerne version is therefore the one that most closely adheres to what de Falla left at an advanced stage of completion. The seven numbers of Part Two serve also to ensure a continuity of narrative which would certainly be lacking had the whole Part ben omitted.
In contrast with his previous policy (that adopted in the 1962 version), Halffter here resolved to harmonise the instrumentation of Parts One, Two and Three with that of the Prologue; the results, from the instrumental point of view, were completely successful.
It is understandable that Halffter, absorbed as he was in his mission to complete Atlántida
, should wish to bring his teacher’s ambitious plan to the uttermost state of completion. But having examined the various versions, I am utterly convinced that the 1978 version is the one most likely to bring out the essence of the work and make the “sunken” Atlántida
rise to the surface again. The musical interest alone justify every effort to make it know in this definitive version.
Jesús López Cobos
Lausanne, November 1993