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Press Release: Flamenco homage to Lorca, 80yrs since his death - 12-16 July, Sadler's Wells

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Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company

Tuesday 12 - Saturday 16 July
Performances: Tue - Sat at 7.30pm, Sat at 2.30pm
Tickets: £12 - £38 
Ticket Office: 020 7863 8000 or www.sadlerswells.com

To mark the 80th anniversary of the tragic death of Spain’s literary hero Federico García Lorca at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Paco Peña Dance Company returns to Sadler’s Wells on Tuesday 12 - Saturday 16 July with the deeply personal new work Patrias – an exploration of the emotional and cultural impact on Spain of the three-year conflict and the death of one of its most prominent victims.

Featuring choreography by Fernando Romero and performances by Angel Muñoz and Mayte Bajo, Patrias is a multi-layered and impressionistic piece of theatre combining flamenco with spoken word, audio effects and video projections. The production includes original recordings of music performed by Lorca on the piano. Poetry by Pablo Neruda, Antonio Machado and Vicente Aleixandre also feature, as well as Pablo Picasso’s monumental protest painting Guernica.


The celebrated Andalusian poet, artist, playwright and musician Federico García Lorca was executed by Franco’s nationalist troops in August 1936, at the start of the Spanish Civil War which saw an estimated total of 500,000 deaths. Lorca is often described as the greatest Spanish writer of the 20th century and while his death will forever link him with the war his work represents a constant source of nourishment for flamenco and Andalusian folklore. 

The Spanish word ‘patria’, meaning motherland, is today fraught with ambiguity as a consequence of the rhetoric of the Civil War. With the use of the plural, Peña suggests that Spain was divided into two countries during the conflict, acknowledging both the positive significance of the word and the tragic burden of its history. 

Legendary London-based flamenco guitarist Paco Peña was himself born in Córdoba in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and grew up in the repressive environment of Francoist Spain, before moving to the UK in 1966, exactly 50 years ago. 

He said: “Life, as I grew up, was very much affected by the consequences of the Civil War; the many lives lost and many more destroyed were ominous reminders of the extreme polarity of ideas that had prevailed. By bringing home the harsh reality of what Spanish people lived through at that time, I hope this humble look at a great artist and the tragic circumstances that took his life help to remind us that Lorca is and will remain essential.”  

Lorca is known to have said: “I am a brother to all men, and vehemently reject the person who sacrifices himself for an abstract, nationalist ideal because he loves his country with a blindfold over his eyes. I express Spain in my work and feel her in the very marrow of my bones; but before that I am cosmopolitan, and a brother to all.

He also said about his native Granada: “I believe that being from Granada gives me a sympathetic understanding of those who are persecuted – of the Gypsy, the Negro, the Jew, and of the Moor which all Granadinos carry inside them.”

Free post-show flamenco class for same day ticket holders: Wednesday 13 July


About Paco Peña
Paco Peña is a flamenco guitarist from the Andalusian city of Córdoba, he moved to London in 1966 and started off by playing in a Spanish restaurant in Covent Garden. With his virtuosity and artistry, he soon made a name for himself as a solo guitarist in a city that was gripped by Jimi Hendrix mania. 

Just four years later, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank, Peña presented his first show with his own flamenco company. Since then he has taken flamenco around the world, giving solo concerts as a guitarist, conceiving and presenting a series of artistically ambitious shows, composing a flamenco mass and a requiem, and founding a centre for flamenco in Córdoba, where he still spends part of each year. His dance company has for many years now performed regularly at Sadler’s Wells, London. 

While always remaining true to the tradition and essence of flamenco Peña has expanded its horizons and frame of reference. As a guitarist, composer, dramatist, producer and artistic mentor, never distorting flamenco with flamboyance, he has preserved its authenticity, yet also renewed it through innovation. In so doing, he has been part of phenomenon that has transformed perceptions of this archetypal Spanish art form, around the world and even in Spain itself.

About Federico García Lorca
Federico Garcia Lorca, born in Andalusia, is often considered the most important Spanish poet and playwright of the 20th century. He was also a talented musician (a pianist, composer and guitarist) and graphic artist. In a lively career that spanned just 19 years, he revitalised the essence of Spanish poetry and theatre. He is credited with helping to inaugurate a second Golden Age of the Spanish theatre in the early 1930s.

Lorca’s Andalusian origins were fundamental to his artistic personality. He is known above all for his specifically Andalusian works, including the poetry collections Romancero gitano (Gypsy Ballads) and Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (Lament for a Bullfighter), and, among his plays, for three tragedies: Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding),Yerma and La casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba). 

He became a prominent artistic figure in Spain and spent periods in New York and Cuba (1929/30) and in Argentina (1933/34), where he became friendly with the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.He had a close and passionate friendship with the painter Salvador Dalì.

Shortly after the start of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), when Andalusia became the first region to fall to Franco’s Nationalists, Lorca was executed near Granada by a Nationalist firing squad. It is likely that Lorca was condemned for both his homosexuality and his libertarian views. He was among the 30,000 citizens of Granada who died in the conflict.

About the Spanish Civil War
In the 1930s, Spain was divided between the right-wing Nationalists and the left-wing Republicans. Broadly speaking, the Nationalist party comprised monarchists, landowners, businesspeople, the Roman Catholic Church and the army, while the Republican party comprised urban workers, the trade unions, agricultural workers, socialists and liberal intellectuals.

An economic crisis had contributed to the fall in early 1930 of the military government – led by General Primo de Rivera and supported by King Alfonso XIII – that had been in place since 1923. Elections took place, the Republicans came to power and the King left the country (he died in exile in Rome in 1941). A succession of governmental changes and crises culminated in elections in February 1936 which resulted in a leftist Republican government. This was followed in July by a well-planned military uprising against the Republicans which marked the start of the Civil War. General Francisco Franco assumed leadership of the Nationalists, who rapidly gained control of a substantial proportion of Spain, and he took charge of a parallel government based in Burgos while the Republican government remained in Madrid.

Over the course of the Civil War, in which up to 500,000 people are thought to have died, the Nationalists received support from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany (whose airforces undertook the notorious bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in 1937), while the Republicans received aid from the Soviet Union, and from the International Brigades, which comprised volunteers from the rest of Europe and from the United States. Famously, the volunteers included such figures as the writers Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell.

The Civil War came to an end in March 1938 when the Republican government took exile in France, its armies surrendered and disbanded, and Nationalist forces entered Madrid. General Franco remained Spain’s head of state for 37 years, until his death in 1975. Just three years later, with the signing of a new Spanish Constitution in December 1978, Spain had made the transition from a dictatorship to a democratic constitutional monarchy under Franco’s chosen successor, King Juan Carlos I (the grandson of King Alfonso XIII).

About Sadler’s Wells 
Sadler's Wells is a world-leading dance house, committed to producing, commissioning and presenting new works and to bringing the best international and UK dance to London and worldwide audiences. Under the Artistic Directorship of Alistair Spalding, the theatre’s acclaimed year-round programme spans dance of every kind, from contemporary to flamenco, Bollywood to ballet, salsa to street dance and tango to tap.

Since 2005, it has helped to bring over 100 new dance works to the stage and its award-winning commissions and collaborative productions regularly tour internationally. Sadler’s Wells supports 16 Associate Artists, three Resident Companies, an Associate Company and two International Associate Companies. It also nurtures the next generation of talent through research and development, running the National Youth Dance Company and a range of programmes including Wild Card, New Wave Associates, Open Art Surgery and Summer University.

Located in Islington, north London, the current theatre is the sixth to have stood on the site since it was first built by Richard Sadler in 1683. The venue has played an illustrious role in the history of theatre ever since, with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Opera all having started at Sadler’s Wells. Sadler’s Wells is an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation and currently receives approximately 10% of its revenue from Arts Council England.

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