Emilia Pardo Bazán, ‘inevitable’ also as a playwright

<span class ="caption"> Portrait of Emilia Pardo Bazán published in the Spanish magazine Actualidades on May 21, 1908. </span> <span class ="attribution"> <a class= Wikimedia Commons ” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTUyNg–/–~B/aD03ODk7dz0xNDQwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/″ data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTUyNg–/–~B/aD03ODk7dz0xNDQwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/″/>Portrait of Emilia Pardo Bazán published in the Spanish magazine Actualidades on May 21, 1908. Wikimedia Commons

Zorrilla coins a cliché when he refers to Doña Emilia Pardo Bazán as the inevitable. The evident bias of such an appreciation reveals the reluctance that in the cultural society of the late nineteenth century arouses the extraordinary literary activity of a writer at the height of the best writers of her time.

Aware of this and without any intellectual complex, Pardo Bazán does not save himself from manifesting himself in all areas of creation and teaching that he considers appropriate.

Criticism, oratory, teaching, journalism … occupy her life in parallel to the writing of novels and stories for which she is known today for the most part. However, her concerns also lead her to other aspects in which she does not miss the opportunity to show her mettle. One of them is dramaturgy.

The passion for the theater

The performing arts attract the writer, a regular at the theater and an opera lover, from a young age. Over the years, he maintains a fruitful friendship with relevant names on the scene, such as the Guerrero-Mendoza couple, and is interested in the field of representation, which he critically analyzes in reviews and in which he even participates, at least behind the scenes.

His first approaches to dramatic writing, around 1870 (Marshal Pedro Pardo; Losing and winning; Winter storm), refer to the theater in verse heir to the last romanticism.

It addresses the translation in Adriana Lecouvreur, from the homonym of Scribe, and in La Canonesa, adaptation of La patrie en Danger, by E. Goncourt.

He experimented with the puppet theater in La muerte de la Chimera, which was eventually not performed and became part of the novel La Chimera.

Six unrealized projects

He conceives at least six works of which, to this day, we only know some fragments or the plan in which he designs their plots: bourgeois and factory conflicts, the time of Cortés and La Malinche … even a crime in a court of Provence for which penance must be done on the way to Santiago de Compostela.

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Neither does he publish or premiere Un drama, perhaps written for María Guerrero, and which remains incomplete, nor two others (Nada and Finafrol) of which we only have evidence from the author’s correspondence or by references in the press of the time.

As if all this were not enough, the National Library of Spain guards The Sacrifice, a manuscript that was reported in 1985 and that has been attributed to both Galdós and Pardo Bazán, without ever having been able to prove reliably neither one nor other authorship.

Rediscovering the playwright

With the exception of this last title, until twenty-five years ago only the seven dramas that Dona Emilia compiled in volume 35 of her Complete Works (1909) were known.

Four manage to arrive on the scene while the author is alive: the monologue starring a dressmaker who leads a double life (The Wedding Dress, 1898); a short dramatic dialogue that places before the spectators the tragedy of a humble aureana del Sil (Luck, 1904); the four-act drama of Anita, married to her sister’s murderer (Truth, 1906); and a dramatic comedy in five about the decline of the old nobility at the end of the century (Downhill, 1906).

Despite his efforts, Pardo Bazán was unable to have El calf de metal performed, starring María de Leyva and her family of Jewish merchants; nor Youth, which represents the conflict between two incompatible mentalities; ni The roots and its dramatization of social hypocrisy, love disloyalty and the feeling of guilt.

His works were received unevenly, although some of his dramatic approaches were clearly modern, in line with the new European theatrical avenues. They were applauded and reviewed with more or less enthusiasm, but an important sector of critics harshly attacked his foray into the theater, his daring desire to project himself from the stage and become a “Lope with skirts” (Pérez de Ayala dixit).

Only since the 80s of the last century and, significantly, from the critical approach of Francisco Nieva, the pardobazaniano theater is resized in the literary and spectacular context of its author and of her time:

“No contemporary critic or colleague had to appreciate this astonishing dramatic ability of the writer, which begins by not doing what was logically asked of her, a high comedy, but something disproportionate and somber with a moral openness towards the complexity of men ”.

Francisco Nieva, “A look at the theater of Emilia Pardo Bazán”, in Studies on Los Pazos de Ulloa, Madrid, Cátedra, 1989, p. 200).

A hundred years later, and without prejudice, it is true that Doña Emilia is also an inevitable reference in theater writing. Fortunately.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.

Montserrat Ribao Pereira does not receive a salary, nor does it work as a consultant, nor does it own shares, nor does it receive financing from any company or organization that can benefit from this article, and has declared that it lacks relevant links beyond the academic position cited.

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