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Friday, March 30, 2018

Don Quixote from the radio

Por sumily

The radio production of Don Quixote in 1947 was quite an event. The BBC studios coincided with actors, musicians, technicians, Hispanists, scholars, journalists and visitors of all kinds, according to the chronicle of J. Ugidos from Ritmo magazine.

The BBC organized a reception in which he presented the work to the press and the Spanish and Latin American colonies. There were speeches about Cervantes and his influence on English literature, which includes a lost play by Shakespeare based on an episode of Don Quixote.

The company also exhibited a presentation publication to accompany the broadcasts and included the details of the historic production in its 1948 yearbook. Of the 27 episodes that included the radio adaptation of Cervantes' novel, only two survive in the archives of the BBC.

In the summer of 1947, a group of Spanish-speaking actors and speakers, including exiles from Latin America and Spain in the United Kingdom, gathered at the BBC studios in London to start a royal production, the first version in radio drama worldwide of Don Quixote de la Mancha. It was the most ambitious aspiration that has ever been carried out by the so-called Latin American Service of the BBC.

There were 27 episodes of half an hour each, based on the main chapters of the novel, which would be broadcasted to all Spanish-speaking corners. The series was created in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the birth of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and began to be broadcast in October, month in which the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the American continent is remembered.

The radio creation not only preponderated the common bonds of the Spanish-speaking peoples and the universality of Quixote but also served as an emblem of hope for artists and expatriate intellectuals after the Spanish Civil War and who identified with the values of the ingenious nobleman.

Such was the success of the series that, years later, the BBC decided to produce its own English version of Don Quixote de la Mancha to transmit it to the rest of the world. The plan to arrange and transmit a radio version of Don Quixote that would do justice to the original, befitting the demanding technical and artistic quality of the BBC and having a global impact was not only ambitious but also presented several obstacles that had to be resolved.

Established in 1938, the Latin American Service of the BBC had scarcely 9 years transmitting in Spanish and Portuguese to the American continent. In principle, they were only news and news that, in the postwar period, were extended to entertainment and radio theater programs. The idea of doing radio theater was of an exiled Spanish Civil War then nationalized Venezuelan, Angel Ara, who gradually began to write scripts of greater relevance and quality. But the project to dramatize Don Quixote de la Mancha was a huge qualitative and quantitative leap in the field of radio plays.

According to Enrique Moreno Báez, professor at the University of London, the radio adaptation presented linguistic and literary problems of delicate complexity, which Ara recruited to collaborate on the scripts.