Flamenco purists often swear that flamenco is best heard without amplification—just the natural powers of the voice and guitar cutting through the air of a small room filled with aficionados. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to witness a spectacle like this if you are not deeply involved in the world of flamenco. And it is nearly impossible to see the famous flamenco artists of today perform in such a capacity. That is why we are very fortunate to have the “Sala García Lorca,” part of the famous flamenco venue Casa Patas in Madrid. This intimate room is located above Casa Patas’ restaurant and main flamenco performance venue. Unlike Casa Patas’ established downstairs tablao, the upstairs Sala is only in its third season of concerts.
Recently I was fortunate to see two world-class performances in this small room with a capacity of 90 people, designed specifically for flamenco singing. There are many places to see flamenco performances in Madrid and this venue is perhaps the best when one combines the intimate setting with the quality of artists who perform. One need look no further than around the room at the members of the audience to glean that these concerts are coveted—many of the attendees are either flamenco writers, serious aficionados or famous contemporary flamenco artists. This is a far cry from your typical tourist-oriented flamenco tablao. There is no dinner upstairs and there is no talking during the performance, though a smattering of olés might be heard from the audience.
The concerts I saw were guitar duo José María Gallardo and Miguel Ángel Cortés and singer Duquende with Chicuelo as the guitarist. Both concerts were outstanding. Gallardo and Cortés are both top tier guitarists (classical and flamenco, respectively) and as a duo they seamlessly blend the two genres, both playing intricate melodies that somehow manage to improve rather than diminish the individual parts. They sound like no other duo I have heard and together break down the long-standing barrier between flamenco and classical guitarists. They have just released an album titled Lo Cortés no quita lo Gallardo that demonstrates their unique sound and it is a work that has the power to reach anyone who takes the time to listen to it.
Duquende is a highly respected flamenco artist who has toured with, among others, the great Paco de Lucía. His preferred guitarist now is Chicuelo, and rightly so. Chicuelo is a monster player and excels both as an accompanist and a soloist. To hear them together, un-amplified in a small room is a wonderful experience and something one is not likely to witness many times. These are artists who fill large concert halls, and yet they love the art enough to perform for less than one-hundred people and make a fraction of what they normally make. You see, tickets for this series of concerts are only twenty-five euros. That price seems ridiculous when I think about how much a nosebleed ticket costs to see famous American artists.
And yet flamenco, a music with unsurpassable feeling and talent, remains largely an outsider in its country of origin and, apart from small groups of aficionados in other countries, is surprisingly unknown or unappreciated. Within Spain curious tourists make up a large percentage of flamenco’s patrons—and it is mainly to them I am talking to right now, because at least they seem to want to witness this great art. If you want to see a true flamenco show in Madrid, Sala García Lorca is the place to do it. Just remember, the room upstairs is separate from the restaurant below and the shows are different. To see if a show is programed while you are in town, check out their website here: (http://www.casapatas.com/garcia_lorca.asp).