Corpus Barga, the cinematographic decoration | Jorge Gorostiza

 Corpus Barga en Lima. [Archivo Beatriz Suárez]
Corpus Barga in Lima | Beatriz Suárez Archive

Looking for a news in the press, I have found in El Sol  a chronicle written by his correspondent in Paris, Corpus Barga, in January, 1925, published in the section «Theatres» and titled «The cinematographic decoration».

It was not hoping that this notable writer, today unfortunately rather forgotten, went to contribute anything new to the debates on the scenery, but I was wrong and I think that it costs a sorrow to reproduce his text entirely:

No esperaba que este notable escritor, hoy desgraciadamente un tanto olvidado, fuese a aportar algo nuevo a los debates sobre la escenografía, pero me equivoqué y creo que vale la pena reproducir su texto íntegramente:

«PARÍS AND IN JANUARY. (Of our editor – correspondent.)—

In a zarzuelón that has had the premiere in the Opera, of Paris: “The tour of feu”, lyric drama in three acts, of Mr Sylvio Lazzard [sic], suits and decorations according to the sketches of Mr Máxime Dethomas, executed the decorations for Mr. G. Mouveau, there has been a curious innovation. “The tour of feu”, the tower of fire, it is, clear it is, a beacon. It is a beacon of Brittany that the tower-guard inflames in the last act, during a stormy night.

You do not ask why. The thing cannot be more natural. The innovation of the work is not in the decision that meets obliged to take the tower-guard after seeing his wife to throw itself of head to the waves, determined to follow in another world the Portuguese gentleman don Jacinto, sunk when it was coming to kidnap her. The innovation is neither in the dramatic decisions nor in the lyric tribulations of the prominent figures. Neither it is in the theatrical decorations of the acquaintance painter gentleman Dethomas. The innovation is in the cinematographic decoration of the tempest of the last act.

In the middle of the scene the beacon gets up, party of below above, I happen beacon, so that one finds at sight within and externally To both sides of the beacon two cinematographs they project movies of tempest. The clouds happen over the beacon, the waves flog in the base, a light to the bottom suffocates in the fog. The first illusion is successful. One sees the interior sheltered of the beacon, the fire, the furniture indeed, in the middle of a real night tempest.

One has found really an unreal point of view. Only the drama of the prominent figures turns out to be false. It is not interested, extends, and the attention prolonged on the mixed decoration, finishes for detaching the practicable bundle, the beacon, of the cinematographic screen. If it looks at the screen, the beacon of wood and paper breaks the captivation: it is of a rude reality. If it looks at the beacon, the captivation breaks the cinematographic reality of the clouds and the waves.

Theatre and cinematograph are two unrealities, unmistakable the one with other one. But any unreality is not the opposite of any reality, is not pure and without mixture?».

Before continuing I think that it is necessary to give a few information, La tour de feu is a lyric drama of three acts, with music and Sylvio Lazzari‘s text, released in 1925. Three years after it was seen By Corpus Barga, it was mounted in the Opera of Paris by sets of the architect Pierre Chareau. The painter and set designer Maxime Dethomas was an art director of the Opera of Paris between 1915 and 1929, it knew Toulouse-Lautrec, which portrayed it of backs seeing a spectacle, and in addition he was very a friend and then brother-in-law of Ignacio Zuloaga.

Ultimately I add photographies of the model of work that Dethomas did for The tour of feu, that is in France’s Bibliothèque nationale, department Bibliothèque-musée of l’opéra, photographs that, together with other eleven from different points of view, it is in the indispensable Gallica.

As for the most important thing, to the chronicle, beside leaving witness of the incorporation of cinematographic images in the theatre, something that already had been realized in several occasions as resource escenográfico, there is interesting the image of the beacon cut in the middle of his stormy environment, nevertheless, Corpus Barga has reason great in what he writes with regard to the difficult interaction between the royal set – though «of wood and paper» according to him – and the images in movement of the storm, and his last paragraph is notable:

«Any unreality is not the opposite of any reality, is not pure and without mixture?».

Maqueta de trabajo de Dethomas para La tour de feu.
Model of Dethomas’s work for La tour de feu.

Jorge Gorostiza, PhD architect.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, august 2016
Author of the blog Arquitectura+Cine+Ciudad

Jorge Gorostiza

Doctor arquitecto, proyecta y construye edificios y desarrolla trabajos de urbanismo. Desde 1990, publica numerosos artículos sobre cine y arquitectura en medios de su localidad, revistas como Nosferatu, Nickleodeon, Academia, Lateral, Cahiers du Cinema… y en varios volúmenes colectivos. Entre el 2000 y el 2005 dirige la Filmoteca Canaria. Imparte conferencias sobre arquitectura y cine en instituciones como el CAAM en Gran Canaria, la UIMP, el CENDEAC en Murcia, INCUNA en Gijón, Fundación Telefónica, la ETS de Arquitectura y el CCCB de Barcelona, las ETS de Arquitectura de La Coruña, Sevilla, Valencia y SEU madrileña, La Ciudad de la Luz en Alicante, la UNED en Pamplona, en varios colegios de arquitectos, así como en las universidades del País Vasco, Gerona, Valladolid, Málaga, Granada, SEK en Segovia y CEES de Madrid. Jurado en varios festivales cinematográficos, como los de Alcalá de Henares (2001), San Sebastián (2002), Sitges (2003), Las Palmas (2005) y Documentamadrid (2005), y comisario de las exposiciones Constructores de quimeras. (Centro Conde Duque, Madrid, 1999) y La arquitectura de los sueños (Capilla del Oidor, Alcalá de Henares, 2001).

He publicado bastantes libros y muchos artículos, he impartido conferencias, he sido comisario de exposiciones y jurado en muchísmos festivales. Si quieren saber más no duden en consultar mi blog ARQUITECTURA + CINE + CIUDAD.

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