Don Juan Tenorio in Alcalá is a famous dramatization of José Zorrilla’s performed since 1984. The work represents par excellence the character of a seductive and womanizer man worldwide known.
The work performed today into the historical city center, was in the old days placed in several corners around the city. The bishop’s vegetable garden, inside Archbishop’s Palace, holds now the event—labeled as Fiesta de Interés Turístico Regional [Festivity considered to be of regional tourist interest] by the Community of Madrid—where more than 40000 persons attend.
However, since some time ago, Don Juan Tenorio in Alcalá are actually two. On the one hand, you may attend to the play into bishop’s vegetable garden, on October 31th and November 1st, held into the walled enclosure of Archbishop’s Palace, where always notable actors on a national scale take part.
On the other hand, you can also attend to the traveling Don Juan dramatization —as it was typical in the early stages in 1984—in several squares and backyards of the most emblematic buildings of seventeenth-century Alcalá, all weekends of November, with a ticket modestly priced that includes discounts in bars, hotels and restaurants.
Don Juan in All Saints’ Day
Don Juan in Alcalá, an adaptation of “Don Juan Tenorio”—novel of the Romantic author José Zorrilla performed in the city—, has become a tradition of Spanish and Latin American theater since more than a century ago.
The religious festivity of All Saints’, on November 1st, is when the work is represented, the day in which families used to visit cemeteries where deceased relatives are remembered and their memory is honored by leaving flowers on their graves.
Precisely, spectators can see during the play ghosts, cemeteries and the issue of soul redemption—in this case thanks to love—, as well as the figure of death.
During extensive periods, the tradition of that day was to hear Mass of the Dead , go to the cemetery carrying flowers to offer to buried relatives and then attend to Don Juan, everything without forget carrying all sweets always have gastronomically marked that date: famous Saints’ bones and wind fritters.
Three Decades of Don Juan and Doña Inés
In 1984, Don Juan in Alcalá de Henares representations started with the curious peculiarity of making the most of the wonderful natural stages the historical city center offered—mainly from seventeenth century, period in which the work is set. Besides, each scene was offered in a different square or corner constantly changing, so public moved from place to place following the actors.
Few years later, faced with the increasing number of spectators, the set was fixed in the The bishop’s vegetable garden, into the enclosure of the Archbishop’s Palace, sometimes just in one stage and other times in several of its corners—such as, for instance, the terrace at the back of the turret with the same name, Tenorio, in this case due to an archbishop.
The first traveling Tenorio was directed by Antonio Guirau, and since then, the best and most famous theater directors have directed the performance, as well as main characters, don Juan and doña Inés—and in more than one occasion also supporting actors—have always been played by the most renowned and acclaimed actors and actresses.
The figure of Don Juan—created during seventeenth century by Tirso de Molina in “The Trickster of Seville” and recreated by José Zorrilla over nineteenth century in “Don Juan Tenorio”—is not only a traditional character of Hispanic theater, but has also been one of the most well-known contributions from Spanish literature to European culture, and has played the lead in, for example, the opera “Don Giovanni” by Mozart, the symphonic poem by Richard Strauss, and Don Juan by Molière or by Lord Byron.
From Juan Diego to Gracita Morales
Just to mention some of the actors who have recited that passage so many Spanish know by heart Oh! My angel of love, do you see… : Maribel Verdú, Rafaela Aparicio, Tony Isbert, Alfonso del Real, Mª José Goyanes, Manuel Gallardo, Fernando Guillén, Juan Diego, Amparo Larrañaga, or none other than Gracita Morales—so famous in her comedy profile—, in Brígida’s role.
In more than one occasion, the same actor or actress who played once don Juan or doña Inés reappeared after impersonating other character as the knight commander or doña Brígida. They have always acted together with the cast of actors and actresses from Alcalá de Henares such as the great Antxon Jiménez—who so many times played the role of knight commander—, Isabel de Antonio or more recently members of Academia del Verso.
Enjoying Small Groups
After two nights of crowded representations of Don Juan within the Archbishop’s Palace, you still having another opportunity. During November weekends, you may enjoy the play another time, in a closer way and within small groups, living it with the intensity of being witnesses of the play a few meters from actresses and actors, with the added pleasure of real historical sets being, at the same time, a wonderful way of knowing the historical city of Alcalá at night.