The life of Julián Gayarre has been taken to the big screen three times. "El canto del ruiseñor" (1932), "Gayarre" (1959), and "Romanza final" (1986) are three films that have taken the Navarran tenors life to the big screen with more or less accuracy.
El Canto del Ruiseñor
In 1932, the Barcelona production company Orphea Film took the Roncal-born tenors life to the big screen. The film was directed by Colombian actor Carlos San Martín. Filming of this first film about Gayarre ended on 7 January 1934 and it premiered in Madrid on 21 April of the same year. Along with Charito Leonís and Hilda Moreno, the cast included the great actor José Romeu, Antonio Palacios, María Espinalt, Valeriano R. París, Carlos Baena and Pablo Álvarez Rubio, among others. The music, composed by José Rizo Navarro, was interpreted by the Pamplona Choir. The film, which was produced by the cinematography company CIFESA, had an initial budget that was quickly exceeded. It went ahead thanks to the financial support of Joan Pich i Pont. It seemed to be a success at the time despite the fact that critics said it was a Spanish flop after the film was announced as a major intensely Spanish musical super-production.
This film was the first dedicated to Gayarre and even more merit is due considering that he was directed by a Colombian actor who was able to see enough of a story in the Roncal-born tenors biography to bring it to life on the screen in addition to being able to convince producers at the time.
From the time the first film on Julián Gayarre premiered, only thirteen years passed until production began on a second film about the Roncal-born tenor. We want to do something dignified and serious; were going to go all out, said the producers of this new film in Pamplona. To film it, they included no less than forty-five leading figures in film and to top it all off, Gayarre was played by the great tenor Alfredo Kraus who was already considered a huge star.
Participating in the scriptwriting, which was based on the biographic book by Julio Enciso Memorias de Julián Gayarre, Madrid 1891, were Enrique Fernández Sintes, Ignacio Aldecoa and José Luis Madrid. Without taking anything from the script, the truth is the music by Salvador Ruiz de Luna shined much more than the narrative. Despite all the excellent opera performances, is there really anyone who doesnt get all emotional upon hearing the Basque zortzico song Vasco navarro soy, del Valle de Roncal... in the film? One must note, in fact, that this zortzico was composed specially for this film although some have erroneously believed it had been interpreted by the Roncal-born tenor during his life. And the lively jota Kraus sang while working at the blacksmiths was also composed for the film... Y a nadie le ha de extrañar / mi corazón tiene frío / y a nadie le ha de extrañar / que al compararlo a la fragua / tiene el fuego de un volcán. / Mi corazón tiene frío / de tanto amar. Ruiz de Luna was the composer of the jota and the zortzico and both compositions won him the Premio Nacional del Sindicato del Espectáculo (Spanish National Show Business Award) in 1959.
Filming began in 1957 and ended a year later with the Roncal Valley, Pamplona, Zaragoza and the production companys studios in Madrid as the main settings. At the latter site, exact reproductions of Milans La Scala, the Opera of Paris and Madrids Royal Theatre, among other stages, had to be assembled. All this assembly work, led by Antonio Cortés, the hiring of the actors and extras and the great interest shown by the director and producers in reflecting the reality of the tenors world as accurately as possible raised the final film budget very much above ten million pesetas.
The film cast included Alfredo Kraus, Luz Márquez, Manuel Arbó, José Vidal, Félix Dafauce, Aníbal Vela, José Sepúlveda, Luis Rivera, Luis Roses, Teófilo Palau, Fernando Cebrián, Silvana Pampanini, Antonio Riquelme and Pamplona soprano Lina Huarte Mendicoa.
The film premiered at the Gayarre Theatre in Pamplona on 6 January 1959, and it was shown for sixteen consecutive days to great success. It premiered in Madrid on 2 March. Perfectly comfortable in character, Alfredo Kraus received the Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos (Film Writers Circle) award for his acting in this film.
As part of the commemorative events of the fortieth anniversary of the film organised by the Julián Gayarre Foundation in Pamplona and Roncal, tenor Alfredo Kraus came to these two Navarran towns on 6 December 1998 to participate in a screening of the film in Pamplona and to visit the mausoleum - where he laid some flowers - and Historic House Museum in Roncal.
The film Romanza Final premiered in Pamplona in April 1986. It was a new take on the life of Julián Gayarre, directed by well-known director José Maria Forqué and starring tenor José Carreras, Sydne Rome, Alberto Closas Jr, Aitana Sánchez Gijón, Mario Pardo, Susana Campos, Monserrat Caballé, Aitor Merino and Antonio Ferrandis, among many others. It was filmed at Roncal, Señorío de Bertiz, the Monastery of Iranzu, Pamplona and Catalonia with a budget of 300 million and substantial participation by the Government of Navarre. Of the three films made about Gayarre, most critics say Romanza Final is the one that is least faithful to the biographic reality of the Roncal-born tenor.