Xavier Smith.

Madrid, September 23 (EFE) .- Juan Sebastián Elcano arrived in Spain on September 6, 1522 at the head of 17 men and a barely floating ship to become the first sailor to complete the circumnavigation of the globe, but his feat remained “silenced” and poorly paid, “a historic injustice” that 500 years later music is trying to right.

It is one of the engines of the “Cantata Juan Sebastián Elcano”, composed by Gabriel Loidi and with libretto and narration by Martín Llade, which will stop next Thursday at the National Auditorium in a special concert with the participation of the titular Orchestra and the Chorus of the Teatro Real, under the direction of Miguel Pérez-Sierra.

Its celebration is part of the acts of the fifth centenary of the first circumnavigation of the Earth in history, which began in 1519 with an expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan consisting of five ships and more than 200 men with the aim of find a passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

After thousands of vicissitudes, including the death of the captain, the few survivors chose Elcano as the leader of the return trip and he decided to sail west through the Indian Ocean and around Africa aboard only one boat that had to be refloated. constantly so as not to sink.

“Hardly anyone outside of Spain remembers it. I am surprised that so much is being said about Magellan, which has not been around the world, neither the desire nor the intention, ”protests Llade in statements to Efe when asked about the origin of this piece: “If Elcano had not returned to Sanlúcar, no one would have known Magellan”, adds Loidi.

The two authors, who had already collaborated in the past on a cantata on Basque whalers, agreed during a relaxed walk that the greatest marine act ever performed by one of their compatriots had been this one, but that his voice “was still suffocated 500 years later”, dismantled historical accounts like that of Pigafetta, one of the surviving expeditionaries and friend of the Portuguese.

“It was a historical injustice that had to be repaired as far as possible”, they thought as they immersed themselves in the creation of this cantata which, through his friend and confidant Andrés de Urdaneta, recounts this incredible journey to his death in 1526 in another expedition, “heavily in debt” because the pension that Carlos I had promised him never reached his hands.

For Loidi, the mission of music in this case is to “invigorate and clarify the emotions that the text arouses” and, with this objective, convinced that “the real protagonist is the whole expedition”, he asked himself how to give body to the emotions of these sailors, “little expressive, not very talkative, tough and very stoic”.

“In my town, in Orio (Guipúzcoa), very close to Elcano’s birthplace, emotions were channeled through the choir, where people were singing and very well,” he says of why the Chorus of the Royal Theater will play such an important role in this cantata which, in reality, “is halfway to the opera, because there are small semi-stage parts through certain solo voices”.

For him, this “Shakespearian” story had everything: the attacks of the indigenous populations, the persecution of the Portuguese fleet, the mutinies and all the bad weather and the wonders of nature, like the fire of San Telmo, an electrical phenomenon that the sailors were unaware. until then and interpreted as a divine sign.

“The whole orchestra will be at the service of these circumstances: a storm, the death of rebel captains, hunger, the sea and death when there is no turning back”, Loidi underlines about the main difference with the previous premiere of this cantata, which took place in 2018, then with the RTVE Choir and in the form of a quintet for winds and percussion.

As on this occasion, when he shaved his head to better represent the role of the monk Urdaneta, it will be Llade himself who will play the role of narrator. “But this time, without tonsure,” he says, laughing.

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