A study of Jesús Guridi's lyric drama 'Amaya' (1910-1920)

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Requejo Ansó, Alberto Ángel

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In this dissertation I study the literary sources of Jesús Guridi’s lyric drama Amaya, the historical background and the events that led to its composition and performance, its reception, and its musical and dramatic structure. Jesús Guridi Bidaola (1886-1961) wrote the lyric drama Amaya during the years 1910-1920 on a libretto written in Castilian by José María Arroita-Jauregui and translated into Basque by Friar José de Arrue. The drama was based on the novel Amaya o los vascos en el siglo VIII published in 1879 by Francisco Navarro Villoslada. The novel by Villoslada itself had two main sources. The first was the narration, in a book published in 1774 by Friar Thomas de Burgui, of a medieval legend of an involuntary parricide. The second was the work of the scholar of Oriental languages and visionary Joseph Augustin de Chaho whose article Aïtor, Légende cantabre, published in 1843, became the foundation of Villoslada’s Romantic epic novel. Both Chaho’s and Villoslada’s writings became cornerstones of the fuerista movement that followed the defeat of the Carlists in Bilbao in 1876 and that prompted the creation of the Basque nationalist movement. Guridi, who had been a student of Vincent D’Indy at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, bases some of the musical themes in the lyric drama on Basque popular songs that he knew or that had been collected by authors such as Charles Bordes, J. D. J. Sallaberry, or Resurrección M. de Azkue. He uses these and other themes of his own invention as musical leading motives that would be transformed to originate new themes and that would provide the musical foundation of the drama. The use of popular melodies responds to a strict aesthetic ideal that Guridi followed throughout his musical production and which he formulates in his speech of acceptance of a place at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in 1947. Amaya was performed on 22nd May 1920 at the Coliseo Albia in Bilbao and subsequently in Madrid, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, San Sebastián, and Prague. Its reception varied according to the places of performance and, despite its magnitude within the composer’s output, this work had a much more limited performance history than his other more popular works. In 1952 Guridi wrote an adaptation of Amaya for a film directed by Luis Marquina.