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Raquel García-Tomás, composer: "In an opera there can be no egos, feminism is also worked from listening"


National Music Award 2020, she is the second woman to premiere her work at the Liceu with 'Alexina B.', a contemporary opera to destigmatize intersex people

It usually happens if your last name does not have a blue link on Wikipedia.

When there is no mattress or economic inheritance to ensure your artistic career, the tenacity of a teacher who discovers you and validates your talent is what will change your life.

That of the composer and National Music Award 2020, Raquel García-Tomás (Barcelona, ​​39 years old), is called Lys Vilà and was the teacher who taught her to play the piano at the age of 10.

His was one of the hugs that she most expected on Saturday night after premiering

Alexina B.

and becoming the second woman (and the first Catalan) to present an opera in the 175 years of existence of the Liceu in Barcelona.

After the multi-award-winning

Je suis narcissiste

(2019), García-Tomás presents a contemporary opera for which he has combined the harp, piano and winds with electronic music and with a female creative alliance: Marta Pazos is in charge of the stage direction and the Libretto is by Irène Gayraud.

The play, which can be seen today and tomorrow at the Barcelona theater after selling out tickets for under-35s on Monday, is also the first to present and destigmatize the story of an intersex main character —who is born with genital ambiguity clinically, erroneously described as a hermaphrodite—drawing inspiration from Herculine Barbin's memoirs.

More information

Alexina B. and all the sexuality we have left to enjoy


How does one become an opera composer?



As a child she was already very creative, one of those who spend all the time with paper and pencil, drawing.

I would spend hours with the Casio keyboard trying to play songs from cartoon series, like

Bola de Drac


If I became a professional, it was thanks to the teacher at my school, Lys Vilà, who set up extracurricular music classes in Selva de Mar. There we were mainly girls from a neighborhood of working-class families where today there are not many cultural facilities either. : our main attraction is the Diagonal Mar shopping center.


What did that teacher do to convince you that this was your path?


Until I met her, I didn't know that you could study piano.

It did not fall within my immediate imagination and I had not thought of asking my parents for it either because of the financial and logistical effort involved in moving to another neighborhood.

She was the one who encouraged me to take the tests at the ESMUC (School of Music of Catalonia).

I did them after suffering from tendonitis, so I couldn't get into piano because she still hadn't recovered, but I did manage to compose.

"I have many lesbian friends who are looking forward to seeing themselves represented at the Liceu", says Raquel García-Tomás, composer who has premiered 'Alexina B.'

at the Liceu.Carles Ribas


Is it difficult to become a professional in this field?


Yes, I had to go through an adaptation process.

It is not the same to create at home than to dedicate yourself to it.

Concert music is a very abstract discipline: sound is something that does not exist, it only materializes when it is performed.

As you write it down on paper, it's like you're writing code.

And although I later did my master's and doctorate at Royal College London and followed my own path, I set three things for myself: to pass everything as quickly as possible, to find joy in composing the same as when I was drawing in Fine Arts (the degree I left to become a professional in music) and that it is very important to remember my origins so that I don't get too pissed off.


She is an interdisciplinary artist, in this opera she also includes her own video creations.


In my works that are not staged, in the video I can give free rein to my imagination.

But in

Alexina B.

I am at the service of the stage creation of Marta Pazos.

Here I have had two functions: that of a composer who makes all the decisions, creates a score and a whole world of sound that inspires the part of Marta;

and then I, following her scenic proposal, have created a very clear video on her painted backdrops.


The way you tell it, it seems like a very communal creation, back and forth.


It has to be like that.

We have to play in favor of work.

In an opera there can be no egos.

Both Marta [Pazos] and the librettist [Irène Gayraud] and I base our work on respecting each other, listening to each other, seeing what one needs and what we can contribute to the other.

Work, why not, from the doubt.

Feminism is also that.

The composer and musical director Raquel García-Tomas (right), the stage director Marta Pazos (left) and the singer Lidia Vinyes-Curtis (center), pose during the presentation of the newly created opera 'Alexina B.'.Enric Fontcuberta (EFE)


That breaks with the imaginary of the classical genius and the tyrannical, imposing author.


Yes, it still happens, it depends on who you work with.

There are people who come with a more old-fashioned paradigm, like they have to keep up the appearances of having everything very clear, when in reality it shows that they don't have it at all.

There it is much better to think: ask for help, let's talk together and find a solution.


Do you feel that yours is a paradigm shift?


Yes. There is also something very revolutionary in being the composer and making a tailor-made suit for the performer.

Many times composers do not take them into account.

If you come across a genius in quotes, they will probably say: "I have my work and you have to manage, show me that you can do it."

I don't see it that way, I like to work on the vocal instrument of each of my singers, I think it's something great.



La Vinatea

, the opera by Matilde Salvador from Valencia, you are the second composer to present an opera at the Liceu.

Did you know that work?


I have not been able to see his opera, but his name did sound familiar to me.

It is also important to highlight the story of a frustrated premiere at the theater of the composer Lluïsa Casagemas in 1893 due to an anarchist attack and which was never rescheduled.

So I am the first Catalan composer after that premiere that could never be.

Lidia Vinyes Curtis, at a time in 'Alexina B.'. Antoni Bofill


Why tell the story of an intersex person?


After winning the National Prize for Culture, I contacted Irène Gayraud.

I wanted to do something from the 19th century, in French and with a gender perspective.

She told me about the diaries of Herculine Barbin, an intersex person who was rescued in her day by Michel Foucault.

She fascinated me.

On the one hand, we had a topic that needed to be talked about;

on the other, a highly operatic story.


How was it documented?


In three years the visibility of intersex people has changed a lot, but in 2020, when we started working on the work, almost all the books we found were medical volumes talking about types of intersex.

We were looking for an approach from a social perspective, from the psychology of the character.

From the beginning we knew that we wanted to make a historical repair with a work that would stop associating its condition with the bizarre and that would work from the sensory perspective, framed in beauty.

But Irène and I, at the same time, raised many doubts when facing it.

Was it lawful for us to talk about this issue from our perspective?

We weren't appropriating it?

We also spent a stage looking for intersex lyrical singers.


Are there?


Sure it is, because the UN says that 1.7% of the population is, but there we realized how ignored their condition is.

We have discovered that they are people who live in silence, most of them, due to the information that society and the medical system have received, pretending to be endosex, which is what the rest of us are.


And how did you get out of that silence?


After watching a TV3 program with the intersex activist Yolanda Melero, putting on the table all the taboos and stigmas that intersex people face, I was able to get in touch with other activists.

There I met Jordi Suárez or Mer Gómez.

Everyone has been tremendously generous from the beginning, inviting us to conferences, talks or interdisciplinary workshops.

Their help was one more motivation to carry out the project.

We know that what we are doing is obviously not going to change the world.

We cannot be pretentious, but it is a necessary topic and it is perfect that it be done at the Liceu because we will have a media speaker.

The wardrobe of 'Alexina B.'

is in charge of Silvia Delagneau.Antoni Bofill


It is not a story that is usually seen precisely in that setting.


Visibility is crucial.

We have a work of great artistic quality that not only vindicates intersex people, but also shows a lesbian relationship.

I have many lesbian friends who are looking forward to seeing themselves represented at the Liceu.


Sexual desire is crucial in the plot.


In addition to this desire to achieve aesthetic beauty in the sexual encounter between the characters, which is the longest scene in the play, we discarded the idea that Herculine represented the masculine role in the relationship.

Also around that time I heard the intersex actress Laura Vila Kremer in a presentation and she claimed something that is not usually verbalized: the right to be able to have desirable bodies as they are, without surgical intervention.

That is what we are looking for here.


Does a National Culture Award change life?


In some way, it has made me more legitimate to be a member of composition juries or give more talks.

With this, I am delighted.

If that allows me to be part of the decision-making system, such as competition juries, it means that I can help make it more fair, diverse and interdisciplinary.

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Source: elparis

All life articles on 2023-03-21

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