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Sketches of Spain

May 28, 2021

This year, Meany Center was fortunate to have the Tourist Office of Spain in Los Angeles offer to sponsor our 2021 virtual gala All the World’s A Stage. We were thrilled to say yes, of course — especially since one of the premier Flamenco dance companies in the world, Noche Flamenca, performed that night. But we were also curious about why the Spanish Consul of Tourism was interested in supporting an American arts organization.

So we asked him.

“The arts are universal,” Javier Rodgriguez replied. “And we were especially pleased that the Meany Gala was presenting a flamenco performance — an artform indigenous to Spain.” He went on to explain that his job is to support Spanish arts and culture wherever they are being experienced, whether at a Tablao in Seville— or via livestream at Meany Center.

These days, flamenco is performed all over the world — including on the Meany stage! But where would Mr. Rodriguez recommend you go if you wanted to experience it in the land where it originated? And what other cultural and artistic experiences could you seek out while you were there?

He laughs. “There are so many choices! Where to begin?” He mentions opera, which occurs year round — “Teatro Real in Madrid is one of the top Opera houses in Europe,” he says. But there’s also the Gran Liceu in Barcelona, the Cordoba Grand Theatre, the Arriaga Theater in Bilbao and dozens more, large and small, across the country. There is dance, theater — even a Techno-Pop festival, Sónar, held in Barcelona in June — and of course, food, wine, museums, visual arts and more.

So much to choose from, in fact, that we asked Mr. Rodriguez to narrow it down by sharing his own favorite arts and cultural experiences for every season. Here’s what he suggested:

If you are visiting Spain during the first week of May, Los Patios de Cordoba (the Courtyards of Cordoba) is a sense sensation. For one week, Cordobans open the beautiful courtyards of their homes to the public, giving everyone the opportunity to marvel at the city’s architectural treasures abloom with trees, flowers, and fountains and host to traditional singing, flamenco guitar playing and dancing. Cordobans believe theirs are the most beautiful courtyards in Spain — and UNESCO seems to agree. In 2012, the Cordoba Patios were added to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity.

Summertime is the season of open-air flamenco. Starting in June and going through the summer, Andalucía hosts numerous festivals in cities across the region. The Feria de Malaga is particularly charming as it is held in the oldest part of town. Be warned, however: festivities generally don’t even start until 10 pm. and continue into the early hours of the morning!

But Javier Rodriguez’s personal recommendation is to visit Flamenco on Fire in Pamplona, the last week of August.

Best known for the July Festival of San Fermin — a.k.a. the Running of the Bulls — Pamplona is also the birthplace of one of flamenco’s greatest practitioners, Maestro Sabicas. Flamenco on Fire launched in 2014; ticketed and free performances are held throughout the city — in historic buildings, in open spaces, and even from the balconies of buildings lining the streets and plazas, and everywhere there’s food, wine and music.

Autumn is a great time to visit Madrid where you’ll find some of Spain’s most prestigious museums, theaters and performing arts companies, managed by the Ministry of Culture. But Mr. Rodriguez suggests that if you want to experience something truly unique, come to Spain at Christmas and be sure to spend some time in Andalucía where all across the province people gather in bars to sing carols accompanied by the Zambomba — a “friction drum” that can be made from anything from a clay pot to a wooden bucket covered with a skin and then rubbed with a rod or rope inserted through the center.

These are just a handful of suggestions, of course — there’s so much more to see and do, and the Tourist Office of Spain in Los Angeles is happy to help you plan your trip.

Whatever season you choose to visit, Javier Rodriguez would like you to know that Spain is waiting to welcome you whenever you are ready to come back!