The Flamenco Festival, now a biennial event, was supposed to take a breather this year. Nonetheless, the 19-member Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía, directed by Rubén Olmo and headlined by guests Pastora Galván and Rocio Molina, took the stage Sunday evening at Lisner Auditorium with the festival’s imprimatur. The concert had two parts: “Suite Flamenca,” classic puro propelled by five excellent musicians; and “Metáfora,” a bland series of works to canned music. According to the program, the entire production was conceived as a tribute to the diverse traditions and interpreters that have shaped contemporary flamenco.
The first such reference was a glorious “Cantiñas de Coral” in joyful homage to Matilde Coral, matriarch of the Seville School. Beautifully structured by her daughter, Rocio, it filled the stage with five women in a swirl of embroidered shawls and gossamer ruffles. Soloist Patricia Guerrero glided through the aquamarine ripples wielding, yes, a coral shawl, her lovely line eloquent testament to a master craftswoman. Guerrero later returned, almost unrecognizable, to replace a sidelined Galván in that diva’s earthy, pulsating “De Los Reyes.” Another standout, the darkly poignant “En Sueño,” paired Eduardo Leal and Ana Agras in a lyrically passionate narrative. A spirited tangos finale showcased the entire company.
“Metáfora” has met with some tough criticism. Olmo is technically brilliant, but the infusions of classical ballet in his solo came off as sadly contrived as the surrounding artificial haze. In the ensemble numbers, references to the bolero school lacked charm and piquancy; out of context and watered down, steps from Spain’s magnificent folk repertoire lost their vigor. There were worthwhile moments: Molina’s mesmerizing solo and the superb dueling bulerías performed a capella by Carlos Cardoso and Alvaro Paños. Overall, however, it was the likable young cast’s undeniable talent, steadfast commitment and skillful delivery that carried “Metáfora,” and, judging by the enthusiastic ovation, convinced the audience.
According to director Miguel Marín, the Flamenco Festival will return in 2014 with the week-long program Washington has come to expect.