Tablao de Flamenco at Casa de España, San José, Costa Rica – Feb. 2023
I am in San José, Costa Rica, and when traveling, I am always on the lookout for quality entertainment. Flamenco is popular all over the world. Most countries have Tablaos or small intimate concert halls, and performance spaces, for flamenco artists to put on shows, experiment, get together with visiting artists, and perform for the patrons of Flamenco.
I quickly searched online and found a show in San Jose happening the following evening at a mixed-use facility, Casa de España in the Sabana North district of San José. It is connected to a Spanish restaurant, Iberick. The advertisement indicated Tapas would be available, made by the award-winning Chef, Jordi Cañameras. Tapas, the delicious Spanish small portion of food served as an accompaniment to a drink. They had sangría, the perfect pairing of food and drink.
Tapas, sangría and authentic flamenco, what else could you ask for. The flamenco group put on a wonderful show an exciting and captivating performance. The Tablao de Flamenco included many styles of flamenco, including alegrías, tangos, soleá, bulerías, guajiras, soleá por bulerías, sevillanas and fandangos.
The show started with two performers, a singer, and a guitarist. A fog machine released some ambiance, simulating a smoky bar, a tablao in Barcelona, Seville or Madrid. The backdrop of Spain adds to the flavor. The guitarist, Álvaro Madrigal, starts with an Alegrías. The singer, José Carlos Fernández, glides in, his voice reminiscent of the master, Camarón de la Isla, a deep and soulful sound, conveying pure raw emotion.
The show flowed, and from that opening number, the audience was captivated, seemingly held spellbound by the artist’s intensity. The audience, perhaps one hundred people, seated at small tables with mixed numbers of guests. My table for two, front row and to the right of the stage. Just perfect for getting the feeling of being with the performers.
The second number began with two dancers joining the group, Fabiana Yanuzzi and Rachel Escalona. The dancers arrived in style, dressed in traje de flamenca (“flamenco outfit”). They seat themselves and add palmas and yells of encouragement to the guitarist and singer. The energy, and the passion stir, and one dancer stands and moves with grace to center stage. Rachel Escalona dances with skill and technical proficiency. She is very flexible and has that classical ballet look. She performs a solo that builds to a crescendo; she flies across the stage, landing in a double knee slide and back bend.
The next dancer up is profound; she reminds me of the dancers I have seen at Tablao, where flamenco would seem to be life and death. Technically solid, she conveys a passion for the art; she has that flamenco fire that runs deep. I am moved to shout, “Ole.”
The second set opened with a solo from guitarist, Álvaro Madrigal. An accomplished guitarist, technically flawless, perhaps classically trained. His runs are smooth, his interpretations flow, and his ideas are beautifully rendered.
The room is cavernous, with an extremely high ceiling. The echo chamber of the room enhanced the singing, foot stomping, and palmas, but a warmer sound for the guitar would have been more to my liking. Still, a wonderful display of Flamenco guitar playing.
The last set was even more exciting than the first set; The dancers made a costume change. The costumes are more casual and colorful. The dancers’ movements are dynamic and sharp. Both dancers display an intense passion for the art form. The singer Jose Carlos Fernández spurs the dancers on; he is a powerhouse of energy, and passion, that spirited flamenco fire and a contagious vitality that lights up the theatre. The show ends with a rousing number; all the group members are up, and all possess the Duende, that quality of passion and intensity. The audience is clapping along with shouts of “Ole”.
Photos by Paul J. Youngman