Recently I have been writing about a first trip to Spain my husband and I took in late May. I have already written posts about Madrid and am now writing about our second stop: Seville. After a first day of wandering the city on our own and finding it very user-friendly, we were given a tour of the city on our second morning. This included a stop at one of Spain’s most famous bullrings. Never a fan of bullfighting, I wasn’t sure I was very interested in actually visiting a bullring, but once there, I found it fascinating.
The Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla is a 12,000-capacity bullring in Seville, Spain. During the annual Seville Fair in Seville, it is the site of one of the most well-known bullfighting festivals in the world. Wikipedia
As our guide explained, the Plaza de Toros in Seville is especially known and beloved for the unique Moorish architectural style of its building. Painted in bold ochre and deep red colors on a background of white stucco, the building is very picturesque. Once inside the actual bullring, I was surprised by its dimensions. Although it is said to hold 12000 spectators, it felt much more intimate. I was shocked to see how close the front section of seats are to the actual bullring, separated only by a narrow circular passageway through which the bull and matadors pass on their way into and out of the ring. It felt as though you could almost reach out and touch the bulls passing through. I thought how intense the experience must be for those witnessing a bullfight at such a close distance. The outer corridor of the building through which the bulls pass on their way into the ring held an intense animal smell. When asked about it, the guide reported that a bulllfight had, indeed, been held only a few days earlier, but the odor of the bulls still permeated the building. The experience was becoming more and more visceral to me, and I knew then for sure that I would never be able to witness an actual bullfight; it was much too up close and personal an experience for me.
Although my curiosity about bullfighting had gotten me inside the building, and although I found the actual arena a compelling sight, I knew it was not an experience I ever wanted to have. At the end of the tour I did enjoy the small museum featuring photos of the history of bullfighting and many of the famous matodors, as well as samples of their costumes which were impressive.
But as for actually attending a bullfight, I already knew from watching it part of one on tv in Madrid that I could not bear to see the bull being tortured, much less witness its death.
We had a much more pleasant experience when, later that day, we attended a flamenco performance in a small, well-regarded tablao in the Arenal, the same neighborhood that housed the bullring.
Tablao El Arenal
Situated in an ideal location between the cathedral and Guadalquivir River, Tablao El Arenal is a historic 17th-century Andalusian building and is one of the only venues in Seville to be run by a former flamenco dancer, the great Curro Vélez.
The club itself was very unassuming in its appearance as we approached it from the street.
Inside it was narrow and dark, but just as we entered a very tall, slim guy with very long legs, dressed completely in black, descended a nearby staircase. He clearly looked like a performer and had smiles for everyone on line. Already excited, I became even more so.
The room in which the performance was held was quite intimate so we were very close to the stage.
The performers entered the stage. The lead singer, the guitarist and two other men sat in chairs very close to each other. The singer began in that haunting way that flamenco singers do, accompanied by the guitarist. The two other men soon joined in, clapping and stamping their feet in unison with the guitarist and singer. After one or two songs, a female dancer suddenly appeared and commanded the stage.
The pace immediately picked up as did the intensity of the guitar playing, singing and clapping. There is such an amazing symbiosis and intensity between flamenco dancers and their musicians; as the performance continues they merge into one very powerful entity. It is obvious that they love what they do and are very supportive of each other as artists. Their power and chemistry is irresistible. After about five or six amazing solo dancers, including two men, the performance ended with all the performers on the very small stage swirling, stomping, clapping, singing, dancing and strumming, uplifting the audience with the power of their passion.
That such beauty and intensity can emerge from such a simplistic setup is a testimony to the art form and their talent.
We returned to our hotel, fully satisfied by the day’s events and eagerly looking forward to our final day in Seville and our last stop: the Alcazar Gardens. Stay tuned.