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El Palacio Imaginado , chamber opera in three acts by Hilda Paredes. Libretto
by Adriana Diaz Enciso, based on a story by Isabel Allende.
SYNOPSIS BY CARLOS WAGNER
The story takes place somewhere in Latin America where the native Indians had
been living for several thousand years.
These Indians were an ancient tribe, so poor that no one had bothered to extract
taxes from them, and so meek that they had never been recruited for war. Gradually,
the Indians who did not die in slavery or as a result of tortures, or as victims
of unknown illnesses, scattered deep into the jungle. Always in hiding, they
survived for centuries. They came to be so skilful in the art of dissimulation
that history did not record them. No one has seen them, but the peasants who
live in the region where our story takes place, say they have heard them in
The dictator of the nation who calls
himself “The Benefactor,” holds
a speech for the inauguration of his newly erected “Summer Palace.” In
his speech we recognize the ubiquitous elements of the South American dilemma.
On one hand, the suppression (or even extinction) of the native indigenous
population, and on the other, the conflict between the search for a unique
identity and the inability to shake off the colonial forces as a constant model
and point of reference.
As the celebrations die out, the Palace gradually gets inhabited by shadows
that communicate through whispers in an intelligible language. They are the
symbol of the suppressed indigenous population. No one can see them, but their
fascinating and eerie presence can be felt everywhere.
Mr. and Mrs. Liebermann, ambassadors
from a first-world country, are received with pomp and circumstance. Mr.
Liebermann suffers from the tropical heat and
the mosquitoes. He complains to his beloved lapdogs how he regrets not having
been sent to a more civilized country. A reception follows. From the dialogues
we can conclude that here everyone betrays everyone. On one hand “The
Benefactor” is exploited in a oil-business deal with the ambassador Liebermann,
while the self same “Benefactor” plans to abduct his beautiful
wife Marcia, with whom (much against his nature) he has fallen in love. The
following day Marcia is taken prisoner with typical military brutality, and
the “Benefactor” abducts her to his “Summer Palace.”
After an unsuccessful attempt to win his wife back, the intimidated Liebermann
returns to his homeland, seeking comfort with his favourite lapdog.
Meanwhile, Marcia has to endure
the Benefactor’s brutality. He rapes
her repeatedly without being able to reach sexual satisfaction. Scenes of self-degradation
and helpless violence ensue, showing us the repulsive private side of the seemingly
all-powerful dictator. Marcia becomes aware of the shadows around her. At the
climax of the opera, in a scene of true magic realism, Marcia slides from the
violent embrace of the Benefactor and becomes a shadow herself. With this masterstroke
the piece connects the fate of the oppressed Indio population with that of
women in a calculating, power-obsessed chauvinistic society.
Again years pass. The “Benefactor” has
died. The Summer Palace has been engulfed by the jungle. Democracy has taken
the place of dictatorship.
Money that has been allotted to the arts must be spent. The minister for culture
decides to create a cultural center.
Location: The Summer Palace. A frantic
search in the jungle ensues, but without success. The Summer Palace can’t
be found. The search is abandoned, and at this moment, the Palace, like a
fantastical mirage, rises above the jungle
and disappears again.