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The House of Bernarda Alba

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The House of Bernarda Alba
Written byFederico García Lorca
CharactersBernarda Alba (60)
María Josefa (80s)
Angustias (39)
Magdalena (30)
Amelia (27)
Martirio (24)
Adela (20)
Maid (50)
Poncia (60)
Criada (50)
Prudencia (50)
Beggar woman
Little girl
Women mourners
First woman
Second woman
Third woman
Fourth woman
Date premiered8 March 1945
Place premieredAvenida Theatre
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Original languageSpanish

The House of Bernarda Alba (Spanish: La casa de Bernarda Alba) is a play by the Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca. Commentators have often grouped it with Blood Wedding and Yerma as a "rural trilogy". Garcia Lorca did not include it in his plan for a "trilogy of the Spanish land" (which remained unfinished at the time of his murder).[1]

Garcia Lorca described the play in its subtitle as a drama of women in the villages of Spain. The House of Bernarda Alba was Garcia Lorca's last play, completed on 19 June 1936, two months before his assassination during the Spanish Civil War. The play was first performed on 8 March 1945 at the Avenida Theatre in Buenos Aires.[2][3] The play centers on the events of a house in Andalusia during a period of mourning, in which Bernarda Alba (aged 60) wields total control over her five daughters Angustias (39 years old), Magdalena (30), Amelia (27), Martirio (24), and Adela (20). The housekeeper (La Poncia) and Bernarda's elderly mother (María Josefa) also live there.

The deliberate exclusion of any male character from the action helps build up the high level of sexual tension that is present throughout the play. Pepe "el Romano", the love interest of Bernarda's daughters and suitor of Angustias, never appears on stage. The play explores themes of repression, passion, and conformity, and inspects the effects of men upon women.

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Plot summary

Upon her second husband's death, domineering matriarch Bernarda Alba imposes an eight-year mourning period on her household in accordance with her family tradition. Bernarda has five daughters, aged between 20 and 39, whom she has rigidly controlled and prohibited from any form of relationship. The mourning period further isolates them and tension mounts within the household.

After a mourning ritual at the family home, eldest daughter Angustias enters, having been absent while the guests were there. Bernarda fumes, assuming she had been listening to the men's conversation on the patio. Angustias inherited a large sum of money from Bernarda's first husband, while Bernarda's second husband has left only small sums to his four daughters. Angustias' wealth attracts a young, attractive suitor from the village, Pepe el Romano. Her sisters are jealous, believing it unfair that plain, sickly Angustias should receive both the majority of the inheritance and the freedom to marry and escape their suffocating home.

Minerva Mena in La casa de Bernarda Alba

Youngest sister Adela, stricken with sudden spirit and jubilation after her father's funeral, defies her mother's orders and dons a green dress instead of remaining in mourning black. Her brief taste of youthful joy shatters when she discovers that Angustias will be marrying Pepe. Poncia, Bernarda's maid, advises Adela to bide her time: Angustias will probably die delivering her first child. Distressed, Adela threatens to run into the streets in her green dress, but her sisters manage to stop her. Suddenly they see Pepe coming down the street. Adela stays behind while her sisters rush to get a look, until a maid hints that she could get a better look from her bedroom window.

As Poncia and Bernarda discuss the daughters' inheritances upstairs, Bernarda sees Angustias wearing makeup. Appalled that Angustias would defy her orders to remain in a state of mourning, Bernarda violently scrubs the makeup off her face. The other daughters enter, followed by Bernarda's elderly mother, Maria Josefa, who is usually locked away in her room. Maria Josefa announces that she wants to get married; she also warns Bernarda that she'll turn her daughters' hearts to dust if they cannot be free. Bernarda forces her back into her room.

It is revealed that Adela and Pepe are having a secret affair. Adela becomes increasingly volatile, defying her mother and quarreling with her sisters, particularly Martirio, who reveals her own feelings for Pepe. Adela shows the most horror when the family hears the latest gossip about how the townspeople recently tortured a young woman who had delivered and killed an illegitimate baby.

Tension explodes as family members confront one another, leading to Bernarda pursuing Pepe with a gun. A gunshot is heard outside the home. Martirio and Bernarda return and imply that Pepe has been killed. Adela flees into another room. With Adela out of earshot, Martirio tells everyone else that Pepe actually fled on his pony. Bernarda remarks that as a woman she can't be blamed for poor aim. A loud noise is heard; Bernarda immediately calls for Adela, who has locked herself into a room. When she doesn't respond, Bernarda and Poncia force the door open. Poncia's shriek is heard. She returns with her hands clasped around her neck and warns the family not to enter the room. Adela, not knowing that Pepe survived, has hanged herself.

The House of Bernarda Alba by the senior generation of Hamazkayin “Arek” Theatre.[4]

The closing lines of the play show Bernarda characteristically preoccupied with the family's reputation, not registering that Adela and Pepe had an affair due to her moral code. She insists that Adela has died a virgin and demands that this be made known to the whole town. Bernarda forbids her daughters to cry.


Film and television adaptations include:

In 1967, choreographer Eleo Pomare adapted the play into his ballet, Las Desenamoradas,[9] featuring music by John Coltrane.

British playwright Tom Stoppard wrote a new English adaptation of the play, which was first performed on March 21, 1973 at the Greenwich Theatre, London, directed by Robin Phillips.

The play was adapted as an opera, Bernarda Albas Haus, by Aribert Reimann; it premiered in 2000.[10]

Steven Dykes wrote a production named 'Homestead' for the American Theatre Arts (ATA) students in 2004 which was revived in 2013 (The Barn Theatre). The original production went on to perform at The Courtyard in Covent Garden, with members of an ATA graduate company Shady Dolls.

In 2004 the play was adapted for a ballet staged by Ballet Nouveau Colorado with music composed by John Heins and choreography by Randall Newsom. Originally scored for solo piano, the composer performed live with the piano on stage as part of the set. The score has since been orchestrated.

In 2006, the play was adapted into musical form by Michael John LaChiusa. Under the title Bernarda Alba, it opened at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater on March 6, 2006, starring Phylicia Rashad in the title role, with a cast that also included Daphne Rubin-Vega.[11]

In 2012, Emily Mann adapted Federico García Lorca's original, shifting the location from 1930s Andalusia, Spain, to contemporary Iran. Her adaptation opened at the Almeida Theatre under the director Bijan Sheibani, starring Shohreh Aghdashloo as the title character and Hara Yannas as Adela.[12]

In 2012 also, Ulises Cala adapted the play into a monologue theatrical production with title Las Hijas (the daughters) under the direction of Yoshvani Medina, starring veteran Venezuelan actress Sonya Smith[13][14] The theatre play opened in ArtSpoken Performing Arts Center in Miami, Florida.

In August 2012, Hyderabad, India based theatre group Sutradhar staged Birjees Qadar Ka Kunba, an Urdu/Hindustani adaptation of The House of Bernarda Alba.[15] Directed by Vinay Varma and scripted by Dr. Raghuvir Sahay, the play adapted Lorca's original to a more Indian matriarch family setup. The play boasted of a cast of more than 10 women actors with Vaishali Bisht as Birjees Qadar (Bernard Alba) and Deepti Girotra as Hasan baandi (La Poncia).[16]

In 2018, dramatist Patricia Cornelius adapted The House of Bernarda Alba for Melbourne Theatre Company, retelling the story as a family drama set in a mining town in contemporary Western Australia.[17] The adaptation was staged at the Fairfax Studio, and featured Candy Bowers as Martirio (renamed "Marti"), Peta Brady as Angustias (renamed "Angela"), Julie Forsyth as Poncia (renamed "Penelope"), Bessie Holland as Magdalena (renamed "Magda"), Sue Jones as Maria Josefa, Melita Jurisic as Bernarda Alba (renamed "Bernadette"), and Emily Milledge as Adela (renamed "Adele").[18][19]

In 2019, Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas staged Lorca's "La Casa de Bernarda Alba" for its 44th theatre season under the direction of Alexander Cortez. 'The House of Bernarda Alba | Ang Tahanan ni Bernarda Alba' was translated by Daisy Lopez to English and translated by Alexander Cortez himself to Filipino.

In 2023, the Royal National Theatre staged a performance of The House of Bernarda Alba, adapted by Alice Birch. It starred Harriet Walter as Bernarda Alba, with Isis Hainsworth as Adela, Pearl Chanda as Magdalena, Lizzie Annis as Martirio, Eliot Salt as Amelia, and Rosalind Eleazar as Angustias, with Thusitha Jayasundera as Poncia and Bryony Hannah as the maid.[20]


  1. ^ Maurer, Christopher. (1992). Introduction. Three Plays. By Federico García Lorca. Trans. Michael Dewell and Carmen Zapata. London: Penguin. p. ix ISBN 0-14-018383-3.
  2. ^ Styan, J. L. (1981). Modern Drama in Theory and Practice: Volume 2, Symbolism, Surrealism and the Absurd. Cambridge University Press. p. 90. ISBN 052123-0683.
  3. ^ Londré, Felicia Hardison (1984). Federico García Lorca. Frederick Ungar Publishing Company. pp. 33. ISBN 080442540X.
  4. ^ ""The House of Bernarda Alba" Performed (Lebanon)". 22 February 2016.
  5. ^ The House of Bernarda Alba – BBC Radio Times
  6. ^ Smith, Paul Julian (1996). Vision Machines: Cinema, Literature, and Sexuality in Spain and Cuba, 1983–1993. Verso. p. 20. ISBN 1-85984-079-5. JSTOR 24487859.
  7. ^ "The House of Bernarda Alba (TV Movie 1991) - IMDb". IMDb.
  8. ^ Hood, John W. (2000). The Essential Mystery: The Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema. Orient Longman. pp. 459. ISBN 81-250-1870-0.
  9. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna (16 February 1981). "Dance: Pomare's "Las Desenamoradas"". The New York Times. p. 17. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  10. ^ Latham, Alison (2004). "Bernarda Albas Haus ('The House of Bernarda Alba')". The Oxford Dictionary of Musical Works. Oxford University Press. p. 17. ISBN 0198610203. Opera in three acts by Aribert Reimann to a libretto by the composer after Enrique Beck's German translation of Federico Garcıa Lorca's play La casa de Bernarda Alba (1936) (Munich, ...
  11. ^ Brantley, Ben (7 March 2006). "Sex and a Monster Mother Seething in Sunny Spain". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  12. ^ "The House of Bernarda Alba". Almeida Theatre. Arts Council England. 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  13. ^ PROMO 1 - Las Hijas in YouTube
  14. ^ Sonya Smith: Vivir para siempre. Estreno.
  15. ^ Madhira, Harini (30 August 2012). "Curtain Call: Women steal the show". The New Indian Express. Archived from the original on March 3, 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  16. ^ Borah, Prabalika (26 August 2012). "Women on top". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  17. ^ Woodhead, Cameron (4 June 2018). "Mother smothers, but daughters are lost in MTC House of Bernarda Alba". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  18. ^ Byrne, Tim (2 June 2018). "The House of Bernarda Alba". Time Out. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  19. ^ Croggon, Alison (6 June 2018). "The silence of atrocity: The House of Bernarda Alba". Witness Performance. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  20. ^


  • Lima, Robert. The Theatre of Garcia Lorca. New York: Las Americas Publishing Co., 1963.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 February 2024, at 23:31
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