This article previously appeared in Kentucky Opera’s OperaBill for Carmen, 2019

Article by Diana Dinicola, co-director, Flamenco Louisville

When presented with the literary and operatic versions of Carmen, it is no suprrise to me that Merimee and Bizet were captivated by the city of Sevilla and its inhabitants. A serious dedication to flamenco took me there the first time almost 14 years ago. The city and the people I’ve met through flamenco have kept me going back annually ever since! Many of these friends and mentors are proud Gitanos with deep family roots in the neighborhood of Triana* – just as Carmen is depicted.

Today, Trianeros live scattered throughout the metro Seville area due to the forced evictions of the 1950s/60s, and the gentrification of the neighborhood in the 1970s. For those not derailed by the multitude of modern urban threats that can take root when intact, interdependent communities are unraveled, the cultural memory of the Trianero way of life is still strong.

For those not derailed by the multitude of modern urban threats that can take root when intact, interdependent communities are unraveled, the cultural memory of the Trianero way of life is still strong. The memories of living in (and being forced out of) patios de vecinos where a central courtyard provided a common living space for multiple poor but tight-knit families are still very personal and painful for the elders of these families.

Though no longer living in the locale, family food traditions and religious rituals keep the spirit of collectivism across wide familial lines alive. Celebration of and mourning for the old neighborhood are woven into the letras—snippets of poetry sung as verses—in flamenco music.

And it is proudly, explicitly recounted by the proponents of the form who are actively performing, teaching and still living la vida flamenca today. It has been my honor to be mentored by some of these Trianeros (most notably, Carmen Ledesma) who have shared their very personal perspectives on what it means to be Gitanos y Trianeros y Flamencos in 21st century Spain. And in turn, an honor to share with Kentucky Opera audiences for this production of Carmen.

* The Gitanos of Spain are a distinct subgroup of the Roma diaspora in Europe and the Trianeros a further subgrouping.