A Musical in 3 acts by Michael John LaChuisa. Based on the play The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca.
Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, Lincoln Centre, New York - 6th March, 2006
Setting: A rural village in the south of Spain, early 1930s.
Bernarda Alba is the matriarch of a family of five daughters as well as her elderly, senile mother, Maria Josepha. Her husband, the handsome and philandering Antonio, has died suddenly and Bernarda has inherited the responsibilities of maintaining her husband's land and stables. This is no easy task given the environment she and her daughters live in: this is a man's world and women are subordinate. Bernarda accuses her dead husband of leaving her to face this predicament alone.
To protect her daughters from the greedy and unscrupulous eyes of the men in town whom she thinks are beneath their class, Bernarda is determined to keep them locked behind the doors of her house and under her watchful eye.
Bernarda's eldest daughter, Angustias, is being courted by a local man, Pepe el Romano; a relationship that Bernarda is against, in spite of the advice of her long-time servant and confidante, Poncia. Angustias' sisters, Magdalena, Amelia, Martirio and Adela are all attracted to Pepe. A game of imitating Pepe turns darker when the daughters hear him singing outside their house. Angustias longs to run out to meet her suitor, but Bernarda refuses to let her go. Bernarda's mother, Maria Josepha suddenly appears having escaped from her confinement. She begs to be let free to marry but Bernarda ruthlessly confines her again as the household begins to seethe with longing.
Weeks later, the iron rule of Bernarda has taken its toll on the women. While the daughters sew and prepare a trousseau for Angustias and her forthcoming marriage to Pepe, Magdalena sings a folk song. As the conversation, sometimes teasing, sometimes taunting, turns to Angustias' wedding, each daughter turns inward: Angustias senses that her betrothed is not being true and that when he comes to call, singing his song, she cannot hear him in her heart. Amelia describes her encounter with a boy near the river; Martirio, born with a physical deformity and known as the "ugly" sister, jealously describes how men and boys treat her, in spite of her deserving love. When Adela, the youngest daughter, enters to join her sisters, tensions rise. Allusions and suspicions are raised about Adela and her recent late-night walks. Adela, longing for freedom from this house, describes how she will be with the man who loves her, regardless of the consequences.
Poncio confronts Adela privately and it is revealed that Adela and Pepe have been seeing each other late
at night. Poncio warns her of the danger - and to let Angustias marry the man - but Adela refuses to
listen. The sexual energy that is waiting to explode is momentarily relieved when the field hands going
back to work are heard outside the house and the daughters and Poncio joyously join in. But the mood is broken when Angustias accuses her sisters of stealing a picture of her betrothed. It is discovered that Martirio has taken the picture and Bernarda beats her. This leads to an explosion of jealousy from all the daughters toward Angustias. Poncia tries to convince Bernarda that something very serious is happening in the household and that maintaining such rigid restrictions on her daughters will only lead to disaster. Bernarda rebuffs Poncia's advice, yet again, and reminds her that she is only a servant. Poncia realises the futility of trying to save the house of Bernarda Alba from its inevitable collapse. Outside the house, a riot is heard - a neighbour's girl has been accused of giving birth to an illegitimate child and she is being stoned. Bernarda leads in the calling for the girl's death, as a horrifying warning to all women who sin.
In a private moment, as her servants prepare her bath, Bernarda reflects on her life and what she must do to survive.
A week later, Bernarda hosts a dinner for a neighbour, Prudencia. In the nearby stable, a mare is bucking in heat, disturbing the meal. After Prudencia leaves, Angustias goes to her mother for advice about her troubles with Pepe, but Bernarda coldly advises her to not ask too many questions. Poncia runs in to tell Bernarda that the mare has escaped from the stable and is mating with the stallion; the daughters watch from the window. Bernarda returns and sends all to bed. She is supremely confident that all is well within her house. She is on guard. Nothing will happen and all of Poncia's warnings are of nothing. She goes off to bed. The dogs are heard barking outside. Someone has entered the yard.
Bernarda's mother, Maria Josepha appears, once again escaped from her confinement. She sings a lullaby to an imaginary baby and encounters Adela, who is secretly going to her lover, Pepe, outside. As the rest of the household sleeps fitfully, Adela meets and makes love to Pepe. Martirio discovers her sister who is now no longer a virgin. Adela realises that Martirio loves Pepe, too, and begs her sister to forgive her, that she is not to blame: she cannot repress her need or desire, none of them can or should be forced to. Martirio betrays Adela and screams for their mother. The household wakes and Bernarda faces down Adela, who rebels against her mother's tyranny. When it is discovered that Pepe el Romano is still in the yard, Bernarda runs out, calling for her gun. Martirio follows. A gunshot is heard. Bernarda and Martirio re-enter. "May Pepe el Romano rest in peace," declares Martirio. Adela, in sorrow, exits to her room.
But Pepe is not dead. Martirio has said this to punish Adela. A sound is heard from Adela's room. The women rush to her door but it's locked. They pound on it, breaking it down, discovering that Adela has hanged herself. The women cry in grief. Bernarda calls for silence, insisting that they tell the world her daughter died a virgin. In silence, the house of Bernarda Alba folds in on its shadows.
- Bernarda Alba
- Her daughters: Angustias, Magdalena, Amelia, Martirio, Adela
- Her mother: Maria Josepha
- Her household:
Poncia, Young Maid, Servant
Her neighbour: Prudencia
- Prologue - Poncia, Women
- The Funeral - Bernarda, Women
- On the Day That I Marry - Young Maid, Bernarda, Poncia, Servant
- Bernarda's Prayer - Bernarda
- Love, Let Me Sing You - Amelia, Martirio, Magdalena, Adela, Servant
- Let Me Go To the Sea - Maria Josepha, Women
- Magdalena - Magdalena
- Angustias - Angustias, Women
- Amelia - Amelia, Young Maid, Servant
- Martirio - Martirio
- Adela - Adela, Daughters
- I Will Dream of What I Saw - Women
- Poncia - Poncia
- Limbrada's Daughter - Bernarda, Women
- One Moorish Girl - Young Maid, Servant, Poncia
- The Smallest Stream - Bernarda
- The Mare and the Stallion - Daughters
- Lullaby - Maria Josepha
- Open the Door - Adela, Women
- Finale - Bernarda
Bass, Cello I, Cello II, Guitar, Harp, Percussion, Reed, Viola