El Grec discovers the figure of Xavier Cugat through tropical rhythms

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The Greek Festival of Barcelona pays tribute to the musician Xavier Cugat (Girona, 1900 – Barcelona, ​​1990), considered one of the most universal Catalans, with the musical theater show I sing a song about bananas (a tropical night with Xavier Cugat), which can be seen next Tuesday, July 28 at the Greek Theater in Barcelona.

Directed by Ester Nadal, playwright Helena Tornero has investigated the musician’s multifaceted career and showman to build a show beyond the image of “superficiality” and “lightness” typical of Hollywood that has come down to our days on the figure of Cugat. In addition to the diffuser side of Latin and Afro-Cuban music in the United States, the play focuses on the women who accompanied his career, female voices starring actress Anna Moliner.

Actor Xavier Ruano plays Xavier Cugat himself, and Ferran Vilajosana, a third role from a politically incorrect point of view. “I fell in love with Xavier Cugat. Behind this sly smile and going to look for that slight superficiality, there was a person who came to Cuba at the age of four, was a great violinist but not the best, and went to New York, where he came to sleep. in Central Park, ”said the show’s director, Ester Nadal, during a presentation held yesterday.

The title of the work I sing a song about banana refers to a song that popularized Cugat and was originally an advertisement to introduce bananas to the United States, at a time when they were not yet consumed.

The show goes beyond glamor, friendships with Salvador Dalí and Frank Sinatra, and the character “behind the women who pass by, and who uses them, like them to him.” Anna Moliner puts herself in the shoes of women like Rita Montaner, Carmen Miranda or Rita Hayworth, “women who in themselves deserved to tell a story,” Tornero said. “The role of women was important because there is always a female voice when we think of Xavier Cugat’s orchestras,” she said.

Exporter of Latin rhythms

According to the director of El Grec, Cesc Casadesús, this year’s festival, dedicated to the bridge with Latin America, could not fail to pay tribute to those who were exporters of tropical rhythms to the Anglo-Saxon world and also to Catalonia. The festival has been produced in conjunction with the Taller de Músics, which brings the Original Jazz Orchestra conducted by David Pastor to stage these rhythms.

The orchestra is made up of alumni or talents who have gone through the workshop, and has a desire to drive young talent. There will be 19 musicians, including three choristers, Saphie Wells, Eva del Canto and Antonio Navarro. With his orchestras, Cugat performed songs such as Chiquita Banana The The Banana Boat Song, and always “knew how to sell very well,” said playwright Helena Tornero. One of his most memorable phrases comes from this virtue: “I prefer to play Chiquita Banana and to have a swimming pool, to play Bach and to starve to death ».

The most international from Girona in history made his career in the United States. “Americans weren’t used to Latin rhythms and he got used to them,” said Tornero, who discovered details such as Cugat being quoted in the work of Tennessee Williams. The work discovers the biography of the Catalan violinist, arranger, caricaturist, cartoonist and conductor “camouflaged” in his music.

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