Zuloaga and the Money of the Poor

Manuel de Falla got the record company Odeon to record the singers who came to the Alhambra with the Deep Song Contest, although he had to fight tooth and nail. Diego El Tenazas, with the prize money, stayed for several months in a guesthouse in Tablas street waiting to be paid the recording rights. Manuel Ángeles Ortiz recalls that one afternoon he told him: “I have left the Guesthouse… and I have rented a room in the Realejo… because I am living with a woman […]. Don’t think badly, no, no. It’s not that I’m pouting”.

Zuloaga’s solo exhibition at the Carmen de los Mártires was widely celebrated and remained a milestone in the biography of a painter so reluctant to exhibit in Spain.

If the contest had ended on June 14, the great final controversy, the apotheosis, had not yet begun. On July 11, Falla wrote in alarm to Zuloaga: “The difficulties of the Deep song are not over yet. Just imagine -and be amazed- that certain members of the [Centro Artístico] Center say that they do not have to return to the organizing committee the liquid profit from the tickets (which seems to be about 8,000 pesetas, which we were counting on as a basis for the support of the School).  It is clear that these unconcerned people, not to call them anything else, do not count among many friends, who maintain how terrible they are; but it is certain that the matter is getting quite ugly […]. Would you have any inconvenience, if necessary, in sending us a telegram of protest?”. Falla, so modest and cautious, begins to lose his patience because he fears that “because of these frescoes” neither the singing school nor the phonographic archive could be set up.

Zuloaga and Rusiñol, by Bagaría (21-6-22)
Zuloaga and Rusiñol, by Bagaría (21-6-1922)

José Vallejo has collected the priceless exchange of correspondence between the two artists and how the consequences that Falla feared most came to pass. Zuloaga was going through difficult times: the deaths of his brother-in-law and mother-in-law and the illness of a brother. But the lack of understanding with the Centro Artístico continued. In November, Falla announced to the painter that he was “relinquishing my moral rights over the Deep song”. “We have decided to settle the matter by proposing [to the Centro Artístico] that the proceeds of the contest (about nine thousand pesetas) be given entirely to the poor. But after this solution was accepted, they have gone back to their old ways, pretending to use this sum to found a library”.

Falla considered the proposal unacceptable. Zuloaga, recently arrived from London, tries to intervene in the localist dispute: that the money be divided into two halves, one for the poor and the other to buy books for the library. “Art must always be our consolation… and our suffering,” Zuloaga ends his letter.

Bagaría, in El Sol (22.6.22)
Bagaría, in El Sol (22.6.1922)

The letter of the rupture between Falla and the Centro Artístico is dated November 30, 1922: “In view of this obstinate misunderstanding and all that is fatally linked to it, I am obliged to give up my moral rights on the matter, which I share with you to avoid you the trouble of coming to your house if it has to be to deal with this question”.

The dispute still had one last flare-up. Juan de Loxa quotes the paragraph of a letter dated 1926 from Fernando de los Ríos to the engineer Juan José Santa Cruz regarding an eventual collaboration of the composer with the Centro Artístico: “Our dear friend Mr. Falla does not want to collaborate with the Centro Artístico as long as it does not give to the poor what belongs to them.  That ill-fated affair of the Deep Song was carried out with so little success that I don’t miss these derivations”.