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In the original score of La Bella Otero a great diversity of aesthetics co-exists, from Galician folklore to flamenco, a re-reading of the Belle Époque styles and others with avant-garde aspirations. The person in charge of stringing together this music to make a symphonic fabric that includes guitar and flamenco percussion in addition to freestyle folk, is the composer and conductor Manuel Busto. The result of the collaboration between him, Agustín Diassera, Alejandro Cruz Benavides, Rarefolk, Diego Losada, Enrique Bermúdez, Víctor Márquez and Pau Vallet is “unprejudiced music in its conception that does not renounce anything”.

What is the music you have created like?

When talking about the music of La Bella Otero I’d highlight on the one hand, the great diversity of aesthetics that make up the score, which is nonetheless conceived with great compositional unity, in which Galician folklore and aesthetics with experimental or avant-garde aspirations co-exist, including flamenco or current re-readings of styles and forms that were used in the Belle Époque.

On the other hand, the decision to develop a rich and different colour regarding the instrumental and orchestration conception is important as we have conceived an orchestra in which guitarists and flamenco percussion fit in naturally in an orchestra that is in itself rich with colours and timbres, thanks to the development of instrumental techniques of the late 20th and the 21st centuries, drawing away from the classical orchestra but heir to it. In short, it is an unprejudiced music in its conception that does not renounce anything.

 What was your inspiration to compose it?

La Belle Otero’s life is in itself a huge source of inspiration and a creative suggestion which has forced us to squeeze our imagination in order to bring in many different styles gradually brought together by technique and experience in order to give unity to the work.

 Is there any difference when it comes to creating a musical work for dance?

For me, music is music, regardless of its purpose. It is true, though, that when composing for dance, like for opera, there is a spatial dimension with a life of its own that must be taken into account when writing the score. Through music we can, and must, suggest or invite the choreography to choose one path or another at a given time. In my case, when I write for dance, I can’t help picturing body movements in my head. They help me to develop the score in one way or another.

Did Rubén Olmo give you total freedom?

In a collective work there’s no such thing as total freedom. It must always follow a plural view, that is its essence. The truth is that Rubén knows how to strike a balance between the starting global idea, in this case present in Gregor Acuña-Pohl’s libretto, and making the artist feel that they can give their creative personality a free hand. In the composition process there must be interaction once we have a solid sound draft, so modifications are always required in order to boost the final message, not just choreographically, but as a whole. He always works with and bears in mind all the dimensions a show can be read in, something crucial for a composer, so we understand one another perfectly at all levels.

This is not the first time you compose for the Ballet Nacional de España, but it is your first narrative ballet. Has this changed the way your work?

Somehow, there is always an idea seeking to be captured in a choreography, even if there is no plot, there is always a theme. The main additional peculiarity and complexity here is having to properly insert in the score themes which are not naturally part of it. We’re talking about authors who have done a precious work and use other styles, like Agustín Diassera or Alejandro Cruz. So, my challenge when making the arrangements and orchestrations is for the original not to lose one bit of their freshness and originality while at the same time making sure they fit naturally in the whole. This I have solved by inserting compositive material of my own in these themes or by using part of that theme material in fragments of my own.

Did you follow any specific music reference, composer, or other Ballet Nacional de España shows to write this score?

Although not deliberately, there is no doubt that a lot of the music that has been written for the Ballet Nacional de España, or that they have performed, is part of me as an artist as I have studied them or admire them and their composers. It is true that what marked me most is what was missing, which is precisely the communion between the instruments that make up the company and the orchestra in the repertoire of the BNE, a company that’s unique in the world because of the instruments that make it up. In the 21st century there is a major development in writing techniques to be able to conceive and reflect this union between flamenco and classical musicians without overlooking dialogue and their own individual prominence. This multiplies its potential and gives it a unique personality.

Is this a path you have long wanted to follow or are you aiming somewhere else?

Well, I’d like to go on along my path: a path with no barriers where I’m lucky enough to be able to undertake two careers I’m passionate about and currently very busy with: conducting and composing. They’re both very versatile, spanning from symphonies to operas but that look at dance in a special way, much more so at flamenco, Spanish dance, or contemporary dance, as they all have a huge emotional quality and because, somehow, they’re present in my most sincere and personal music, in my truest self.

Due to the pandemic, it was necessary to cut down the number of orchestra musicians who are going to play live. What is it like to compose and conduct in the time of coronavirus?

As in any collective work, it is complex and above all, unpredictable, and it involves having to make major sacrifices. When it comes to writing a new piece in the Covid era, I have considerably reduced the instrumental conception of the works I’m currently working in. It is true that La Bella Otero score was composed before the lockdown so we could not take it into account when it was conceived. However, even though the orchestra will be reduced, we have managed to include all the timbres, although their density would not be what we’d like it to be. The technical means for a work that was created with the idea of it being amplified will avoid hindering the music a great deal, so La Bella Otero will be able to shine in its premiere.