Friday, December 11, 2009

Olentzero Reloaded

This note about the Olentzero was published by EITb:

'Olentzero badator', Basque myth gets modern makeover


Beñat Amorena (born in Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry, Iparralde) is the creator of Olentzero badator (Olentzero is coming), a piece of modern street theatre due to perform on 20th December on the streets on Bayonne. A total of 50 actors interpret the show, a contemporary take on the pagan mythological tale of Olentzero, the coal man who, according to Basque tradition, hands out gifts to children at Christmas.

The composer

Born in a mill in Baigorry fifty-nine years ago, at the age of 20 Amorena moved to Paris to study music. Five years later he returned to the Basque Country where he joined the group Errobi in 1975, together with Anje Duhalde, Mixel Ducau and Michel Halty. He now teaches percussion at the conservatory of music in Les Landes, southern France.

Creator of shows

Though he has written and performed music all his life, Amorena only began composing whole shows a while ago; Olenztero Badator is his third, following Jotakurri in 2002, which he created for the Errobi de Itsasu festival, and Ufaka Zanpaka for the festival of Hartzaro de Uztaritz, together with the Burrunka and Izartxo companies. For his latest show he has once again joined up with Burrunka as well as choreographer Mizel Theret. Six professional dancers are also involved.

'Olentzero Badator'; mythology-based street theatre

Amorena's version of the mythological character starts with an ancient idea that Olentzero would come back to announce the sun-rise. From this, Amorena invented a story in which the Sun abandons the Earth, leaving the people in cold and darkness. To save the planet, Olentzero travels to the galaxies in search of the Sun.

Fifty people take part in the show, playing a mixture of earthlings, extraterrestrials and fantastic and medieval characters, all of whom parade along the streets of Bayonne. Amorena and his team have spent a whole year preparing the show, battling with light and darkness. Since September he has been accompanied by a painter, ironmonger, - very importantly - lighting and sound technicians as well as 15 percussionists from Burrunka and nine pipers directed by Pierre Haira, not to mention the six dancers under the direction of Mizel Theret.

On 20th December from 6pm onwards, Olentzero Badator will take to the streets of Bayonne, parading in four different areas (Cinq-Cantons square, Orbe karrika, Liberté Square y Megadenda) all ending up in the market place where they will perform a final mark of respect to the Sun.

(NB: In case of bad weather, the show will be put back to 21st December).

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