The show continues with Núria Espert, the inexhaustible performer | Culture

Núria Espert at the SGAE headquarters, on March 6.Alvaro Garcia

She is the great lady of the scene, a title that is even granted to her by some veteran and octogenarian actresses who continue to give war on stage and who, like her, have no intention of retiring. Núria Espert turned 89 on June 11, and her eyes still shine when she talks about projects. Now she only allows herself those that are exciting, and the next ones will be as a performer, although during a period of her life she was a great director of operas on the most important stages in the world. Between projects she reaps important fruits of her work, which she has no intention of abandoning. Although there were rumors of her retirement, they were just that: rumors. For now, after the tour with The island of airby Alejandro Palomas and directed by Mario Gas, will board with the latter in December all birdsby Wajdi Mouawad, a playwright who fascinates him.

A woman of the left, and always committed to the times in which she has lived, she is aware that the conflict experienced less than five years ago in her native Catalonia is now not so critical. “To this day I know that the soufflé has gone down, but I am still angry, because the pacts have been very painful… for everyone,” she says.

He has nearly 200 decorations, among them the most important in the performing arts world, and not just nationally. In March he was unanimously granted by the council a honoris causa at the Royal Central, School of Speech and Drama, University of London, for his contribution to theater over 70 years. She will also be awarded the Max de Honor on July 1, an award given for excellence in a career.

The island of air
Vicky Peña and Núria Espert in a scene from the play ‘La isla del aire’, Teatre Romea.DAVID RUANO

Núria Espert still has other important differences with her colleagues by profession and age. The actress, born in L’Hospitalet (Barcelona) in 1935, has always been inclined towards very dramatic texts and tragedies, although with Georges Lavaudant she did a vaudeville. “I laughed a lot, but the texts that remain over time are rarely comedies. Those that cross the centuries are 99% dramatic and tragedies,” she says.

And there it is. She suffers that she suffers from you, since she was 13 years old when she first got on stage. It may also be because she was marked by her first and great triumph: Medea. No less than at the Romea theater in Barcelona, ​​at the age of 18 and replacing Elvira Noriega. It was her first foray into the work of Euripides, which she has performed throughout her life on eight occasions, between the ages of 16 and 75. “I pursued the other great texts, the Strindbergs, Ibsen, and Chekhov from a very young age. Maybe my ambition was unleashed with Medea”, he maintains.

And there is another and even more important trait that distinguishes her from her colleagues in the profession. Espert has been, like no one else, a sleuth with a keen sense of smell: “I went out to look for directors who were young, risk-taking, innovative professionals… who made me dizzy.” To which we must add that, apart from the many and established directors to whose orders she has submitted, she looked for those who were barely emerging or who were even totally unknown. Her career as a gem seeker began more than half a century ago, allowing herself to be directed by young hands, with an almost reckless confidence unimaginable in a renowned actress like her. “She wanted a different feel and that they didn’t carry the great weight of the civil war and Francoism in their backpack,” says Espert.

Núria Espert and Alfredo Alcón in 'Making Lorca', with texts by Federico García Lorca and direction by Lluís Pasqual, in 1996.
Núria Espert and Alfredo Alcón in ‘Making Lorca’, with texts by Federico García Lorca and direction by Lluís Pasqual, in 1996.Rodriguez Aparicio

In 1969, with the Argentine Víctor García, he toured half the world with works such as Barren, divine words and The Maids. “They were our greatest successes, for Víctor and me, in our lives,” he says. In 1978 she was the twenty-year-old Lluís Pasqual, to whom she has been attached ever since. Also Jorge Lavelli, a young and brilliant Franco-Argentine who discovered the Spanish theater in 1980. He later worked with a then unknown director, Mario Gas, who starred in that brave Salome by Terenci Moix in 1985. In recent years she has been closer to him than ever thanks to Wajdi Mouawad and the current production on tour. And the almost alternative at that time, in 2010, Miguel del Arco, who directed it with a firm hand in the shakespearian Rape of Lucretiawhere she played seven different characters of complex depth as a septuagenarian.

But her entire career, including her risky and talented leap into opera, she consulted everything with Armando Moreno, poet, screenwriter, journalist, actor and director whom she married at the age of 20, who ended up becoming the director of some of her productions. , producer and manager of many, father of his two daughters and companion on a journey through life. Even though she died in 1994, Espert did not give up continuing to consult everything with him. It’s not that he makes ouijas, or has a connection with the afterlife. She just asks herself: “What would Armando think about this?” He accepts her response as if he had given it to her body and soul. But they knew each other so well, and the complicity in that couple was such, that it is highly probable that she is right.

“Without Armando’s presence, my life, my career, would have been radically different, and very minor,” he maintains. He ended up putting aside many of her activities to focus on her career. “I have never felt guilty about it, and I have been very aware of what he did. My ambition to interpret great texts existed and I passed it on to him, who told me clearly that no one was going to come looking for us to put them up. “We had to go out and look for it.” So she directed all her energy to achieve it. First they stood up Gigi, by Colette: “With four pesetas, but with great professionals. It was a success tremendous and the beginning of our great journey. From there we launched, without forgetting that there were also mistakes and we were wrong, but people don’t want to remember what went wrong for me. Nor do I forget that I did many food jobs that gave little money to support ourselves,” he comments. Among them, some films, but he did not insist on cinema: “It’s not that I didn’t like the medium, it’s that I didn’t like myself, living the life that you have to lead if you dedicate yourself to cinema or television.”

José Luis Gómez, Mario Gas, Lluís Pasqual, Núria Espert and Josep Maria Flotats, in Almagro in 2019.
José Luis Gómez, Mario Gas, Lluís Pasqual, Núria Espert and Josep Maria Flotats, in Almagro in 2019.GUILLERMO CASAS

He has spent many months on tour with The island of air, a work by Alejandro Palomas directed by Gas in which he shares a cast with Vicky Peña, Teresa Vallicrosa, Candela Serrat and Claudia Benito. A piece in which, without being a comedy, Espert stars in hilarious moments, transformed into a grandmother rare, with bad temper and sometimes hilarious. The curious thing is that with the sense of humor that she has and that she likes to laugh, she has only worked in one comedy: You have to purge to Toto, by Feydeau. “This work has overtones of comedy; because this grandmother that I make is a real son of a bitch, who makes people laugh. In fact, to myself I have decided that this granny, when she is tender and loving, in reality she is pretending because she is bad, bad.” And he exemplifies: “She subjects her favorite granddaughter to a terrible third degree, she manages to sink her, and her grandmother calms her down when she sees her destroyed, but at the moment she is betraying her in front of her mother and sisters.” ”.

There are several projects, but he does not talk about them: “I can’t say anything. But in the world of theater it is very difficult to keep secrets. The first thing you will address will be the staging of all birds (Ed, La Uña Rota), considered Wajdi Mouawad’s most important work since the tetralogy The blood of promisesmade of Coast, Fires (which he already starred in), Forests and Heavens. A work that has received praise for its beauty and for treating with deep humanity the current wound that we all have open, such as the conflict in the Middle East.

Núria Espert, in her adaptation of Medea from 2001.
Núria Espert, in her adaptation of Medea from 2001.

His second mouawad, again under the direction of Mario Gas. He is eager to get to it, and allow himself to be abducted again by a character: “Almost everyone abducts me and vice versa; it is unavoidable. I realized for the first time doing Anna Christie by O’Neill. She left the stage touched, and my way of being changed. She was locked inside myself, in my room…. I make different lives depending on what I interpret. It happens to almost all actors.”

Her husband pushed her towards her operatic stage: “I was in London directing Bernarda Alba’s houseand someone must have thought ‘if he directs Glenda Jackson, he can direct opera’ and they offered me Butterfly and from there other fundamental titles.” They were all great successes, but riding Rigoletto A strong depression appeared: “It was because of the pressure I had on me, although I couldn’t explain it to myself at the time. It came very suddenly, one day when I was going to get up I couldn’t move, something very similar to what people who suffer from this terrible disease suffer,” and he adds, “it hasn’t been repeated to me, but I get really scared when I notice that I can’t I am in my normal mood, which is quite high; If suddenly I don’t feel like reading or going out and my body asks me for naps… My alarms go off, and I have sometimes wanted to find out what happened, but my psychiatrist told me that it was a drawer full of cockroaches and better not open it.”

Nuria Espert is preparing to perform 'La Celestina' in 2004.
Nuria Espert is preparing to perform ‘La Celestina’ in 2004.SERGIO PARRA

At a time when there is talk of abuse, gender and sex, in the world of entertainment he comments that he has seen many abuses, although not sexual. “Normally about gender, about power, but, for example, the actress who accused Lluís Pasqual of abuse and mistreatment a few years ago, which I did not see at any time and which occurred in my presence, that was abusing Pasqual. Over time everyone he has wanted, he has known why he said what he said and did what he did. “Now we know who the instigator was.”

His last Medea was directed by Michael Cacoyannis, and it was then that there was a joke among seasoned spectators and satellites of the performing profession. He said like this: “The curtain rises and you see Núria Espert performing Medea in the Roman theater of Mérida. The curtain comes down. What work is she? “Greek is superfluous.” Núria Espert, to whom no one dared to tell the joke, bursts out laughing. “I didn’t know him. “Poor little Cacoyannis.” She keeps a few seconds of silence. “Yes, the Greek was unnecessary, he was not that creator who made Electra either The Trojans”, he adds, making it clear that he was aware of the popular management errors.

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