The opera

The story is based on Emilia Pardo Bazán's groundbreaking novel La Tribuna, the first in Spanish literature to take on the naturalist movement of other countries. It takes place in late 19th century La Coruña, which in the story is called Marineda. It is about the emerging working class (namely the tobacco factory workers) and their struggle to attain social and economic rights, led by the female hero Amparo, one of the cigar makers, who is paid by her fellow workers to entertain them by reading revolutionary newspapers aloud (a well-documented practice at that time). Ironically, she falls in love with Baltasar, an upper class officer, which very much changes the course of her struggles. After he breaks his relationship with her and leaves her behind, alone and pregnant, she increases her efforts to keep up her struggle for freedom and dignity. 

Although the story is fictional, the places, political events, social customs and celebrations reflect real conditions of Spain and La Coruña at that time. The characters described represent a true social portrait of the time, full of psychological insight.

The cast

Amparo ......................

Ana .............................

Rosendo ....................

Chinto .........................

Baltasar ......................

Borrel ..........................

Presidente .................

4 Operarias ...............

Obrero ........................

Sra. García e hijas ...

Sacerdote ..................

Pastor I / II ..................

Capataz ......................

Cigarreras I / II / III ...

Partera ........................

Mixed double choir

Children

Orchestra:

  • Triple woodwinds

  • 4 horns

  • 3 trombones and tuba

  • Timpani / percussion

  • Harp and celesta

  • Strings

Mezzo-soprano / Dramatic Soprano

Lyric Soprano

Bass

Baritone

Tenor

Bass

Baritone

Mezzo- soprano / Soprano

Baritone

spoken roles

Baritone

Tenor or Baritone / Baritone or Bass

Tenor

Mezzo-soprano / Soprano

Contralto

The plot

Act I

Chinto, who works as a street seller for Rosendo, Amparo’s father, is selling wafers (“barquillo”) on the street. He is deeply in love with Amparo, who was recently accepted as cigar maker at the tobacco factory, and who despises him openly. Baltasar and Borrel, two fellow upper-class officers, are watching Amparo and her workmates coming out of the factory. Borrel, always keen on connecting couples, tells Baltasar to have an eye on Amparo. In fact, when their eyes meet, they fall in love at first sight, despite Chinto's efforts to interfere.

Inside the tobacco factory, Amparo acts as the leader of the workers' revolutionary struggles, being the only one who can read the news from the revolutionary publications. Ana, Amparo's best friend, warns her not to engage with Baltasar, because their relation would be unrealistic, but her warning is strongly rejected by Amparo. A group of male workers bursts into the scene, cheerfully announcing the imminent arrival of the Cantabria Delegates, a group of political revolutionary activists who come to seal the Northern Union.

During the tumultuous revolutionary meeting, among big social turmoil, Amparo and her fellow workers appear to express their utmost support to the activists. Amparo, as their clear leader, gives an emotional speech, laying out her dreams and wishes. The delegates' president is astonished by Amparo's determination, and names her La Tribuna, among general acclamation of the public.

 

Act II

 

It is celebration day of the Candelaria Virgin, a well-documented local festivity, and the cigar workers are decorating a local street bar, while a religious procession passes by. Baltasar and Borrel are watching from some distance, and at the first opportunity, they approach Amparo and Ana and start picnicking together. Borrel takes care of Ana, in order to leave Baltasar and Amparo by themselves. Baltasar declares his love to Amparo, and although she expresses many objections, she willingly ends up giving in, but only under one condition: he has to swear and promise her their future matrimony.

Three months later, the cigar workers are meeting again at the same place, casually eating and dancing, when two protestant clergymen show up, trying to win over more believers to their confession. Due to their very bad reputation among the locals, they are violently rejected and ridiculized. Everybody leaves, except Ana and Amparo, who asks her friend about her affair with Baltasar. Amparo lays out her dream of a future without social classes and confesses that she is pregnant from Baltasar, without him knowing it yet. Baltasar enters with his look and gestures portending the worst, whereupon Ana leaves the couple alone. Baltasar announces to Amparo that, because of his public obligations, they will have to stop meeting, . Amparo, perplexed, doesn't give up easily, asking him to fulfill his promise to marry her. Baltasar reacts rather sarcastically, causing her to burst into a rage, cursing him and threatening him to death, spitting at his feet, then leaving him alone.

Act III

 

Amparo, in a visibly advanced state of pregnancy, is standing in front of the tobacco factory. She sings a melancholic lullaby to her unborn baby, wishing it a better future. Her fellow workers gather around her, forming a barricade at the factory entrance to claim their long overdue salary payments. Amparo is chosen to set forth their claims to the factory management. Her announcement that she could barely negotiate a half month of salary payment triggers a general revolt, with everybody starting to build a barricade in front of the factory. Nonetheless, at the first signs of the royal guard, everybody flees instantly, leaving Amparo behind, in spite of her pleas to stay together. Amparo, completely alone, faces Baltasar as the forerunner of the guard. Fearless, she confronts, and once more spits at his feet.

 

Some time later, Amparo is resting at home, under very modest circumstances. In spite of her commencing labour pains, she is still reading propaganda pamphlets that announce the imminent political revolution. Ana and Chinto enter, noticing the imminent birth. Ana leaves to call for the midwife, leaving Chinto and Amparo by themselves. Chinto once more proclaims his love for Amparo, offering her to step in as the child’s father, but is once again wildly rejected by Amparo. The midwife enters and gives Chinto hasty instructions, when Amparo screams at him to go see Baltasar to announce the birth of his baby boy. When Chinto eventually returns, he announces that Baltasar left for Madrid to settle his marriage with the daughter of a wealthy family. Finally, after a tortuous process, the midwife announces the birth of a newborn girl. Ana lifts her up delightedly, while Amparo collects all her power to sit up and once again curse Baltasar and the political establishment and claim for justice for the people, before collapsing in her bed.