The Retablo in the collective imagination

Escenografía de Miquel Barceló para la representación en París, 1990. Fotografía: Jean Marie del Moral.

After Falla’s death, the characters of El retablo de maese Pedro continued to travel round the world, daring musicians and artists to put on new and ever-surprising productions. Set de-signers and artistic directors have used drawings, projections, shadows and other animation methods that force Don Quixote to transcend its reality. Miquel Barceló presented a ghostly gentleman in a space filled with pigeon droppings, with oversize insects in lieu of puppets; Antonio Saura used non-figurative characters set inside borders that recall the ephemeral structures of Baroque architecture; Javier Mariscal used his drawings to give the Retablo a comic-book aesthetic; and Enrique Lanz proposed a grandiose vision of the work, with an eight-metre-tall Don Quixote moved by towlines, as if unfurling the sails of a monumental show.

It has often been said that, with his Retablo, Falla gave Don Quixote a second lease on immor-tality, and there is certainly truth in this; as María Zambrano once said, the work “is not a present that evokes the past; it is a past that runs ahead to the present”. That same “magical operation” has allowed many artists to reinvent the visual imagery of Don Quixote, using Manuel de Falla’s music as a springboard.

6. The Retablo comes to life: Performances between 1923 and 1946