Poet, playwright and theatre director Federico (del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús) García Lorca (1898-1936) is widely considered one of the most important figures of Spanish literature in the 20th century due to his importance, influence and popularity.
His last play, The House of Bernarda Alba (La casa de Bernarda Alba), was first performed on March 8th, 1945 at the Teatro Avenida in Buenos Aires with Margarita Xirgu (1888-1969), a Spanish stage actress and personal friend of him, as the chief character.
Described by Lorca in its subtitle as a drama of women in the villages of Spain, it was completed on June 19th, 1936, almost two months before Lorca’s violent death on August 18th, most likely related to bitter family quarreling, exactly one month after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).
The action takes place during a long period of mourning at a house in Andalusia, in which domineering matriarch Bernarda Alba wields total control over her five adult daughters, whom she has prohibited from any form of relationship. Although no male characters are part of the cast, the obvious influence of one particular man brings tragedy to the family.
While The House of Bernarda Alba had its premiere in Spain in 1950 at the Teatro La Catátula, it has also been adapted to an Iranian, Indian and Australian background.
Besides a ballet, an opera and a musical of the same name, there’s a 1987 movie adaptation by Spanish director Mario Camus with Irene Gutierrez Caba as the main protagonist. It was screened the same year at the 40th Cannes Film Festival and the 15th Moscow International Film Festival.
Many years ago, while I was living in Taipei, I had the pleasure to watch an adapted version of this somber work, performed by graduates of the Spanish department of Fu Jen Catholic University,a well-known Catholic institution of higher education in Taiwan. It was a truly unforgettable experience!