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Dec 2022 /Jan 2023


Dec 2022 /Jan 2023

ROMANCES INCIERTOS, UN AUTRE ORLANDO by François Chaignaud & Nino Laisné


Romances inciertos, un autre Orlando is the perfect reflection of the multifaceted talent of François Chaignaud: choreographer, dancer, but also writer, historian and singer, authentic master of crossdressing, over the years Chaignaud has been able to give life to a unique character and mix expertly high culture and pop culture, tradition and innovation, challenging genres and categories.


Romances inciertos, un autre Orlando is both a concert and a recital in three acts: the Doncella Guerrera appears in succession, taking us back in time, on the trail of a young woman who left for war pretending to be a man; the San Miguel by Garcia Lorca, voluptuous archangel and object of devotion, carried on the shoulders during the ritual processions of the Semana Santa; Tarara, an Andalusian gypsy who, as a result of a disappointment of love, oscillates between mysticism and seduction, hiding her secret androgyny.


The work, interpreted by Chaignaud together with four early music soloists (bandonéon, viol, percussion, theorbo) and co-directed by Nino Laisné, stages the incessant transformations of the characters and musical motifs, immersing the audience in a exhilarating journey through unstoppable mutations.


Romances inciertos represents an estuary, a delta: an area difficult to locate on maps, at the confluence of traditional Spanish music and epics where heroines play roles that are not their own. Every culture and every era have regained appropriation of these poems, updating the adventures of the protagonists from time to time: from the art of romance, from the Sephardic singing tradition or from the jota (traditional folkloric dance widespread in most of Spain) Baroque music, in Andalusian flamenco and again in the cabaret en travesti of the Spanish Movida.


The scene, surrounded by tapestries whose plot brings together multiple historical representations of nature, opens a landscape around the five performers. Dance emerges, mends and disturbs: at the same time sister and emulator of music, it imposes itself as the art of the impure and puts the body to the test of the present. At times, it seems to see the unexpected silhouette of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando sparkle in this rainbow delta: as in the novel, we are here in the presence of an eclipse character, who suddenly disappears to be reborn with the features of a woman, elsewhere, in space and time, venturing through song and dance, in a sort of infinite epos, whose incessant metamorphosis never satisfies the search for an ideal.



Orlando – declination of Rolando – is a mythical name that appears in stories since Middle Ages. It reminds us of both Chanson de Roland and his lyrical alter-ego Orlando Furioso and that is enough to evoke a multiplicity of eras and geographers, housed in the heart of the European imagination.


In Romances Inciertos, Orlando refers to his supernatural namesake described by Virginia Woolf (1882-1941). He appears at the beginning of the novel as a young lord English, idealistic and passionate, in search of the perfect poetry. In a succession for decades of deep sleep intervals, he reincarnates as a woman and adopts multiple identities, in various contexts and eras. This extraordinary destiny, which makes him travel from the English countryside to the shores of the Bosphorus, it is above all a poetic stratagem by the author: the evolution of the historical and geographic contexts in which Orlando appears, as well as its changes of gender, question the notions of work and identity, at the same time they give them intense idealism and surprising relativism. On stage, Orlando is a character who disappears, whose absences facilitate jumps of centuries and between the different Spanish provinces. The care with which Virginia Woolf describes societies, their evolutions and their impact on the aesthetic research of its protagonist, invited us to consider the history of the arts and popular figures as a vast stream, whose currents are observed, isolated and mixed.


Over the course of his three metamorphoses, this other Orlando seems to question the contemporary concept of gender. However, the antiquity of the theme denies this notion any privilege of actuality. Doncella Guerrera, the first incarnation of the show, takes up the archetype of the girl disguised as a soldier, present in many mythologies around the world. This vocation to transvestism intrigues for its audacity and its recurrence in the sources. Here, the character refuses to accept marriage to the young prince and prefers to drown rather than face a world unable to accept her military predisposition. In the second act, in addition to manifesting a shocking androgyny, the character of San Miguel interprets an excerpt from a baroque zarzuela by José de Nebra (1702-1768). Unlike the Italian castrati who often presented themselves in disguise, the composer entrusted all the roles of soloists to women. Thus, the mythological heroes find themselves strangely embodied by soprano voices. The tune ¡Ay Amor! it is part of these melodies, in which the delicacy of the vocalizations contrasts with the virile destiny of the role. Finally, some sources portray Tarara, the last to appear in the show, as an androgynous being, perhaps intersex, marginalized both for his/her excessive pity and for his/her complex and sulphurous identity. The only certainty of these characters seems to be their determination to shape reality according to their desire.


Romances inciertos moves between different stories and choreographic styles: contemporary dance, cabaret, classical ballet and court and Spanish dances. The latter are characterized by a profusion of vernacular expressions, often adopted by the ruling classes, for the entertainment of the court. Through Orlando’s body, we could compose a triple story of these Spanish dances: the forms themselves (jota, bolero, flamenco …) would form the first chapter. Indissociable from this history, imitations, syncretisms and appropriations would constitute the second; both vertically – as for classical court dance which appropriates popular expressions – and horizontally – in the way in which flamenco art has aggregated forms from different communities, often marginalized. A third level of this history of Spanish dances could be linked to the way in which France perceived them, through a both folkloric and exotic prism, which led to the invention of a typically French style: the espagnolade. Romances inciertos stands at the confluence of this triple story, which confronts the forms of choreographic modernity.


Jota is typical of this history of Spanish choreography. Originally it designated a popular music and dance of various and often local themes, performed by the whole community. Dance of hops with a pronounced footwork, it is characterized by the rotations of the pelvis and the support of the toe and heel of the foot. The jota has been stylized and refined, extending to theatrical scenes, while the flamenco culture absorbed some elements. In Romances inciertos, the character of San Miguel travels to the north-west of Spain allowing himself to be permeated by local rhythms. Here we find elements of the jota de los laos, a dance of the city of Zamora traditionally accompanied by bagpipes, or even the corri-corri of Cabrales, probably one of the oldest courtship dances in Asturias.As for flamenco, it is so popular and well known that it has almost become a synonym for Spain. However, it is a singular culture, deeply marked by the history of the diasporas that took place in Andalusia, in relation to the central Spanish power. Reminiscences of flamenco emerge in Romances inciertos, mainly in the third scene, dedicated to Tarara.


Orlando’s last reincarnation is in the guise of this Andalusian gypsy. A familiar figure that recalls the archetype of the gypsy in cinema, embodied by the divas of every era such as Estrellita Castro, Lola Flores or Sara Montiel. He appears for the first time in the curses of the abandoned lover before incarnating the provocative figure of Tarara on stage. Over the centuries, this insane young woman has found a privileged place in Gypsy mythology, but she has also sneaked into licentious operettas and songs.


Facing the character of Orlando, Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) is a poet whose presence seems essential to us. Eternal researcher, he collects popular characters, prolonging their life with his delicate words, quickly becoming the voice of the gypsy communities, which still offer it on international stages today. Its Tarara or Nana de Sevilla is part of the Spanish classics. His San Miguel, dazzling icon of the Romancero Gitano, is impregnated with eroticism and indolence, becoming the subject of controversy at its publication. In Romances inciertos, he appears as the central character of the second act, bringing together motifs inspired by the religious processions of northern and southern Spain.


Although the dance de los zancos (dance on stilts) is probably prior, we find the first traces of it in 1603 in Anguiano, in Rioja, a province of northern Spain. On the occasion of the festivities dedicated to Mary Magdalene, saint patron of the town, eight young people escort the statue of the saint by speeding down the steepest road in the town spinning on themselves. Mounting on oblong stilts and wearing yellow-orange skirts, they dance in a continuous circular motion until they lift their skirts. Believing that, by throwing themselves into these turns with energy, they encourage the rotation of the sun around the earth and thus guarantee good harvests. Manifestation of sensual devotion, these celebratory processions are also an initiatory rite of maturity and a dance for fertility.


Semana Santa processions – far more painful, especially in Seville – commemorate the Passion of Christ, celebrating his suffering and Calvary in a collective communion. The men of each brotherhood carry their icons on their shoulders to the cathedral – the final station of their penance – before returning to the starting point in their parish. Amidst the swirls of incense and thousands of flickering candles, these biblical figures waver every time you take your step, making the bearers groan. They advance through the crowd, at the sound of marchas and saetas played by the brotherhood bands.


These processions keep the memory of numerous influences, reminiscent of the most ancient times. This especially in the case of Rosario, a work composed by the Jiménez Cabeza brothers in 2013 and written in the ostinato low register, typical of Renaissance passacaglie. Usually interpreted by a hundred brass, here it is proposed in a version that highlights the Baroque language of which it is the heir. This waning bass pattern is used in many musical genres. Thus, we find him at the beginning of the show Tristeza de un doble A by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), which came to him probably through his interest in jazz.


As an echo of Orlando’s multiple mutations, this repertoire reveals itself to us here in a new light, cloaked in an unusual instrumentarium. This is also the case with Sonata 16 and Vertigo, both originally composed for harpsichord. Father Gallès’s sonata reveals an incredible affinity with the Spanish fandango, while Vertigo, adapted for the bandoneon, leads the instrument to its limits, following the rhythm of the dance, until it takes its breath away.


To intersperse the three paintings, instrumental interludes outline fluctuating and fantastic moments, which evolve in opposite movements. Orlando himself falls into a heavy sleep accompanied by the sound of a traditional Andalusian lullaby, and wakes up to the sweet melody of an alborada (literally ‘dawn’) from Asturias. The latter were hummed by lovers in the middle of the night to wake their beloved and enjoy the last hours of darkness beside her. These dream passages are mixed with the brilliant Follies of Spain, themes overflowing with multiple variations, which we also find in a more recent form, the folía of the Canaries.


No soy yo quien veis vivir, at the end of the first act, is a villancico of the 16th century, originally written for three voices in dialogue. Here, the dialogue becomes a solo, in a progressive passage from head voice to the chest voice. An anatomical translation that echoes the sung text, almost metaphysical, to evoke the disincarnation of a body, its change of state, its rebirth. This splitting evokes Orlando’s occult sleep.





Romances Inciertos © Jose Caldeira



Romances Inciertos © Christophe Raynaud De Lage



Romances Inciertos © Christophe Raynaud De Lage



Romances Inciertos © Jose Caldeira



Romances Inciertos © Nino Laisné


Romances Inciertos © Nino Laisné



Romances Inciertos © Nino Laisné



Romances Inciertos © Jose Caldeira



Romances Inciertos © Nino Laisné






Romances inciertos, un autre Orlando


28th – 29th May, 2021


Triennale Milano Teatro, Milan


Premiere: Théâtre Saint-Gervais, Geneva




Conception, stage direction and musical direction: Nino Laisné
Conception and choreography: François Chaignaud
Performance and singing: François Chaignaud
Theorbo and baroque guitar: Pablo Zapico
Bandoneon: Jean-Baptiste Henry
Violas de gamba: François Joubert-Caillet
Historical and traditional percussions: Pere Olivé
Lighting design and technical direction: Anthony Merlaud
Sound technician: Charles-Alexandre Englebert
Costumes design: Carmen Anaya, Kevin Auger, Séverine Besson, María Ángel Buesa Pueyo, Caroline Dumoutiers, Pedro García, Carmen Granell, Manuel Guzmán, Isabel López, María Martinez, Tania Morillo Fernández, Helena Petit, Elena Santiago
Painter in chief: Marie Maresca
Painter: Fanny Gautreau
Photo retouching: Remy Moulin, Marie B. Schneider
Carpenters: Christophe Charamond, Emanuel Coelho
Administration — production: Barbara Coffy, Jeanne Lefèvre, Céline Peychet, Clémentine Rougier
Executive production : Vlovajob Pru & Chambre 415