Falla – Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor Brujo

by Max Derrickson

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician)

The exotic Danza ritual delfuego (Ritual Fire Dance) from Manuel de Falla’s well-known suite for orchestra and mezzo-soprano, El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician), crosses the divide between life and death. Heavily imbued with folk-like melodies and Spanish flavor, the suite tells the story of the widowed gypsy, Candela, who is hectored by the ghost of her jealous late husband. Anxious to move on to a new lover, Candela arranges for her friend Lucia to distract the haunting spirit by flirting with it. At long last, Candela must resort to sorcery to free herself. After a brief interlude called “Midnight – Witchcraft” comes the Ritual Fire Dance, in which Candela has to dance around open flames to ward off the evil spirits plaguing her.

[. . .]   The first program book for El Amor Brujo claimed, “Every song is of [de Falla’s] own invention, and it is his particular glory that he has succeeded in making it almost impossible to believe that they are not actual popular material.” Notwithstanding the feeling that this statement is introducing a bullfight or puppet show, the ability to sound convincingly authentic to a culture without using actual folk songs is much more difficult than it appears.

In any case, the Ritual Fire Dance is a favorite in the concert hall, capturing the exotic sight of a middle-aged gypsy dancing furiously around a campfire in the dead of night as she conjures and shuns disquieted spirits that should have been dancing in triumph on the other side.