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La Cubana oder Ein Leben für die Kunst

Fernsehoper (Vaudeville) in fünf Bildern von Hans Magnus Enzensberger
nach Motiven aus dem Roman "Canción de Rachel" von Miguel Barnet
Edition: Performance material

Product Details


Two levels of time and two forms of theatre are interlocked in the plot of La Cubana: a general spoken plot consisting of a prologue, an epilogue and four intermezzos is interspersed with five sung tableaux. The action takes place on 1 January 1959, the day of Fidel Castro’s accession to power in Cuba. The ageing Vaudeville artist Rachel is recalling the stages of her earlier life to her maid Ofelia. The five musical tableaux illustrate these memories and introduce figures who have accompanied Rachel through different phases of her life: these persons comment on her behaviour as witnesses. Each phase is linked to love affairs with changing partners and is at the same time associated with concrete political and social upheaval and radical changes taking place in Cuba. The 1st tableau, in which Rachel’s romance with Eusebio, the son of a manufacturing family, culminates in Eusebio’s suicide, is set in 1906 – the year of the second US intervention in Cuba which continued until 1909, precipitating social unrest and led to the formation of the first proletarian mass party in Cuba, the Independent Party of Color (Partido Independiente de Color). The 2nd tableau depicts Rachel’s relationship to the Cuban pimp Yarini and his murder during the armed conflict between rival Cuban and French bands of pimps which unsettled Cuba in 1910. The 3rd tableau is set in 1912 – Enzensberger dates these episodes two years later – and interlinks Rachel’s experiences in a third-class travelling circus with the armed conflict by the coloured people under the leadership of the "Cimarrón" in protest of the oppression and arbitrary rule by the US occupation forces: defeat was ultimately sealed in the third US intervention. The 4th tableau depicts Rachel as the star of the Teatro Alhambra in Havana in 1927 and her relationship with the leftist student Federico whose arrest she cannot prevent. The background is provided by the birth of the revolutionary movement and resistance by the Communist Party of Cuba which was established in 1925 to counter Gerardo Machado, the president appointed by the USA. The closure of the Teatro Alhambra in 1934 and the end of Rachel’s stage career in the culmination of the 5th tableau which marks the end of Rachel’s artistic phase is closely interlinked with the events surrounding the rise of Fulgencio Batista who was appointed as the new president of Cuba in the installation of a military dictatorship under his regime which was later deposed by Fidel Castro. Rachel is unmoved by the permanent political and social unrest and changes and does not register these events although her private life is constantly interlinked with them. Her response to the “filthy brew of politics” is the paradisiacal utopia of love, music and art. Her answer to American repression is the sham world of glittering leotards, spotlights and the entertainment of variety theatre. 

"Essentially, my intention was to invent and conceive a new form of music theatre. It soon however became clear that the material – the memoirs of Amalia Vorg, the old Cuban queen of Vaudeville, which a Cuban ethnologist, Miguel Barnet, had recorded, put on tape and transformed into a book two years later – possessed enormous potential far in excess of mere entertaining vaudeville. It not only provides information on Cuban history during the last forty or fifty years prior to the liberation by Fidel Castro but also reflects the underdevelopment of a country. A further facet is the view through the looking glass or the filter of the mentality of a vaudeville star – a cabaret artist who is convinced she is a great artist – which reveals the relationship between art and effect. We are provided with a discussion of the essence of art. We ask ourselves: what is art, how is it valued by society and what status does it possess? What are artists? What is their moral disposition and what is the nature of their social responsibility? To what degree has the bourgeois ideology of the last few centuries demanded that the artist should display anti-social behaviour or take up an alienated stance within society? All these facets are brought to discussion within the framework of a humorous, gaudy and multifaceted form of theatre." (Hans Werner Henze)

Orchestral Cast

(aufgeteilt in verschiedene Ensembles): 2 (auch Picc.) · 2 · 2 Es-Klar. · 2 (2. auch Es-Klar. u. Bassklar.) · Altsax. · Tenorsax. · 0 - 0 · Korn. · 2 · 2 · 2 · Tenortb. (od. 2 Ophikleïden) · 2 Bombardons (od. 2 Basstb.) - S. (Glsp. · Marimbula [od. Xyl. im Holzkasten] · Woodoo-drum · 3 Holztr. [mit Fell] · Waldteufel · Metallpeitsche · Chocollo · Tramboline · Pandeira · Pedal Marimba · Cabaça · Reibetr. · Bambusbündel · Metalleffekte [5 verschiedene Ambosse oder hg. Stahlplatten] · Trinidad Steel Drum [od. Vibr.] · gr. Tr. mit Beck.) (4 Spieler) - Bambusfl. · Okarina · Mundharm. · 3 Maultrommeln · Mand. · Tenorbanjo (Viersaiter) · Git. · Pianola · 2 Klav. (1. präp., 2. alt u. verstimmt) · Org. ad lib. · Akk. · Harm. - Str. (3 · 0 · 0 · 1 · 1) -
Nebeninstrumente für die 6 Bettelmusikanten: Pfeife · Deckel · Autohupe · Kamm · Papiertrichter (Tüte) · Ratsche · Rassel


Personen der Bühnenhandlung: Rachel, eine karibische Schönheit · Sopran - Lucile, eine junge Hure · Mezzosopran - Ofelia, Rachels Dienstmädchen · Sprechrolle - Eusebio, ein junger Mann aus reichem Haus · Tenor - Yarini, ein Zuhälter · Sprechrolle - Don Alfonso, Zirkusprinzipal · Bariton - Paco, ein Artist (kann von Eusebio dargestellt werden) - Der Cimarrón, ein Schwarzer · Sprechgesang (Bass-Bariton-Lage) - Federico, ein Student (kann von Eusebio dargestellt werden) - Theaterdirektor (kann von Don Alfonso dargestellt werden) - Fernrohrvermieter · Sprechgesang (Baritonlage) - Ein Stelzenläufer, auch Zeuge (vom Fernrohrvermieter dargestellt) - Senator / der Präsident der Republik / Gangsterboss (1 Darsteller) - Lotot, ein Zuhälter / Sloppy Joe, Leibwächter und Gangster (1 Darsteller) - 6 Bettler, auch Zeugen im Epilog · Schauspieler oder Sänger - Rezensent - Putzfrau - Ballettmeister - Pianistin - Schuhputzer - Kulissenschieber - Erzbischof - Bauernjunge - Lebemänner - Gecken - Tanzgirls - US-Marines - Neugierige - Trauergäste - Zuhälter - Polizisten - Zirkuspublikum - Bühnenarbeiter - Artisten - Kinder - Schwarze - Maskierte - Caféhausgäste - Bettler - Bauern - Demonstranten -
Personen des Stückes im Stück (4. Tableau): Teodoro, ein Dandy (= Magdalena de Maupin) (wird von Rachel dargestellt) - Alberto, ein Gentleman (wird von Eusebio dargestellt) - Rosita, seine Frau (wird von Lucile dargestellt) - Maskierte (Ballett ad lib.) -
Personen der Rahmenhandlung (Prolog, Intermezzi, Epilog): Rachel, eine alte Dame - Ofelia, ihr Dienstmädchen - Ein alter Rezensent - Lucile, eine alte Hure - Ein alter Kulissenschieber (mit Ausnahme von Rachel und Ofelia sollten diese Darsteller mit den entsprechenden der Haupthandlung identisch sein) - Zeugen (sämtlich Singstimmen, Schauspieler oder Sänger): Ein altes Kabarett-Girl, Ein alter Rezensent, Ein alter Kulissenschieber, Ein alter Schuhputzer, Eine alte Putzfrau, Eine alte Pianistin, Ein Stelzenläufer, Zwei Zirkusartistinnen, Eine Komparsin aus dem Alhambra, Ein alter Lehrer (ehemals Student), Ein Notenschreiber, Drei Campesinos, Ein Kellner, Einige Bettler

More Information

La Cubana oder Ein Leben für die Kunst
Fernsehoper (Vaudeville) in fünf Bildern von Hans Magnus Enzensberger
nach Motiven aus dem Roman "Canción de Rachel" von Miguel Barnet
Performance material
Schott Music
Year of composition:
90 ′
World Premiere:
March 4, 1974 (USA)
Channel 13; WNET Opera Theatre, New York
Conductor: Hans Werner Henze
Original staging: Kirk Browning · Costumes: Rouben Ter-Arutunian · Set design: Rouben Ter-Arutunian (first broadcast of the TV production)

May 28, 1975 · München (D)
Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz
Conductor: Peter Falk · Choir director: Wilfried Koch
Original staging: Imo Moszkovicz · Costumes: Jürgen Henze · Set design: Jürgen Henze
World Premiere (Revision) (scenic world première)

Technical Details

Product number:
LS 2107-01

Preview/Media Contents



Set Ascending Direction
  • La Cubana oder Ein Leben für die Kunst
    Conductor: Clark Rundell
    March 16, 2011 | Liverpool (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , The Cornerstone
    19.30 h
  • La Cubana oder Ein Leben für die Kunst
    Conductor: Gerd Puls
    October 25, 1981 | Rostock (Germany) , Volkstheater Rostock — National Premiere
  • La Cubana oder Ein Leben für die Kunst
    Conductor: Steuart Bedford & Nicholas Kraemer
    October 19, 1978 | London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , English Music Theatre at Sadler’s Wells Theatre — National Premiere
  • La Cubana oder Ein Leben für die Kunst
    Conductor: Peter Falk
    May 28, 1975 | München (Germany) , Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz — World Premiere (Revision) (szenische Uraufführung)
  • La Cubana oder Ein Leben für die Kunst
    Conductor: Hans Werner Henze
    March 4, 1974 | (United States of America) , Channel 13; WNET Opera Theatre, New York — World Premiere (Ursendung der Fernsehproduktion)
  • Set Ascending Direction

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